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Shared Platforms: Future Way or Future Troubles?

Welcome to 21st Century badge engineering, and a sure-fire way to spread defects across the entire global line-up.

by on Feb.19, 2010

Sharing reduces costs while expanding the model lineup. But, there's a downside.

Perhaps one of the most shocking facts about Toyota’s raging safety crisis is the way a problem with a seemingly minor part, such as an accelerator pedal, can create havoc across the maker’s entire line-up.

Initially, the maker said 2.3 million vehicles would have to undergo repairs due to a sticky accelerator.  But since then, Toyota has expended that number to more than 4 million, as it as added vehicles sold in other parts of the world.

That, says analyst Joe Phillippi, of AutoTrends Consulting, is one of the risks of using common parts in a wide range of products.  The trade-off is that when things go right, this not only slashes the cost of engineering a component but yields potentially huge economies of scale as volumes rise from hundreds of thousands into the millions.

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And it’s not only individual parts that makers are sharing but entire product platforms.  Take the 2011 Ford Focus, which the automaker unveiled at last month’s Detroit Auto Show.  In years past, Ford developed one version of the compact model for the U.S. and another in Europe.  But the ’11 Focus will be sold, with only minor modifications, around the world, with 80% of the parts in the U.S. version shared with the European Focus, says Derrick Kuzak, Ford’s director of global product development. (more…)