Automakers going modular

A new study by consulting firm Frost & Sullivan finds that by 2020, the 12 major global automotive OEM groups are expected to reduce the number of vehicle platforms from which they construct car and light truck models to 154 from the 223 used in production just last year

A new study by consulting firm Frost & Sullivan finds that by 2020, the 12 major global automotive OEM groups are expected to reduce the number of vehicle platforms from which they construct car and light truck models to 154 from the 223 used in production just last year.

Sarwant Singh, a partner and automotive practice director for Frost & Sullivan, noted that this 30% reduction in total vehicle platforms is the result of model standardization efforts and what he calls a “modular strategy” to help auto OEMs cut costs.

“The top ten platforms will result in a growth from nearly 17 million vehicles in 2010 to more than 33 million by 2020 in the global passenger car and light truck production figures, featuring a staggering increase of 94%,” he said. “Consequently, by 2020 the key 12 OEM groups are expected to account for an almost 74% share in the same segment.”

Overall, the average vehicle production per platform is expected to increase at least three-fold by 2020 from current levels of more than 0.24 million units in 2010. And, nine out of the top ten platforms are expected to have volumes in excess of two million units annually by 2020 as against three out of the top ten in 2010.

“Emerging Asian economies will certainly be driving platform standardization and modular approach over Europe and North America,” noted Vishwas Shankar, an industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan.

“India and China are major drivers themselves for OEMs to strongly adopt platform standardization strategy,” he said. “Approximately 160 of the 800 discrete models to be manufactured and sold globally by top 12 OEM groups between 2010 and 2020 are expected to be manufactured – and also ideally sold – in China, in comparison to 140 discrete models for the U.S.”

Also, more than 24 of those 800 discrete models, or approximately 3% of the total, will be considered “global vehicle models” that are expected to be manufactured and ideally sold in both China and the U.S., he added. “This clearly shows the focus on emerging economies as key to growth,” Shankar said.

Singh highlighted Germany’s Volkswagen and Daimler AG to illustrate the impact of platform reduction on vehicle model production plans.

“With more than 95% of its total vehicle production by 2020 targeted from just three platforms each, Volkswagen group in the volume segment and Daimler group in the luxury segment globally are expected to have the highest degree of platform standardization and widest range of vehicle models on a single platform,” he explained. “The German carmakers will produce increased numbers of models and their respective volumes per platform, while efficiently integrating new and innovative technologies.”

By 2020, Daimler, Volkswagen and the Fiat-Chrysler groups respectively, are expected to reduce 60-65% of their platforms, Singh added. As a result, their average production volume per platform is expected to increase more than four-fold by 2020 compared to 2010.

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