A car platform is a shared set of common design, engineering, and
production efforts, as well as major components over a number of
outwardly distinct models and even types of cars, often from
different, but related marques. It is practiced in the automotive
industry to reduce the costs associated with the development of
products by basing those products on a smaller number of platforms.
This further allows companies to create distinct models from a design
perspective on similar underpinnings.
1 Definition and benefits
5 Top Hat
6 See also
8 External links
Definition and benefits
Platform sharing is a product development method where different
products and the brand attached share the same components. The
purpose with platform sharing is to reduce the cost and have a more
efficient product development process. The companies gain on
reduced procurement cost by taking advantage of the commonality of the
components. However, this also limits their ability to differentiate
the products and imposes a risk of losing the tangible uniqueness of
the product. The companies have to make a trade-off between reducing
their development costs and the degree of differentiation of the
One of the first car companies to use this product development
General Motors in 1908.
A basic definition of a platform in cars, from a technical point of
view, includes: underbody and suspensions (with axles) — where the
underbody is made of front floor, underfloor, engine compartment and
frame (reinforcement of underbody). Key mechanical components that
define an automobile platform include:
The floorpan, which serves as a foundation for the chassis and other
structural and mechanical components
Front and rear axles and the distance between them - wheelbase
Steering mechanism and type of power steering
Type of front and rear suspensions
Placement and choice of engine and other powertrain components
Examples of cars sharing the Fiat Mini platform
Vehicle platform-sharing combined with advanced and
flexible-manufacturing technology enables automakers to sharply reduce
product development and changeover times, while modular design and
assembly allow building a greater variety of vehicles from one basic
set of engineered components. Many vendors refer to this as product
or vehicle architecture. The concept of product architecture is the
scheme by which the function of a product is allocated to physical
The use of a platform strategy provides several benefits:
Greater flexibility between plants (the possibility of transferring
production from one plant to another due to standardization),
Cost reduction achieved through using resources on a global scale,
Increased use of plants (higher productivity due to the reduction in
the number of differences), and
Reduction of the number of platforms as a result of their localization
on a worldwide basis.
The car platform strategy has become important in new product
development and in the innovation process. The finished products
have to be responsive to market needs and to demonstrate
distinctiveness while — at the same time — they must be developed
and produced at low cost. Adopting such a strategy affects the
development process and also has an important impact on an automaker's
organizational structure. A platform strategy also offers
advantages for the globalization process of automobile firms.
Because the majority of time and money by an automaker is spent on the
development of platforms, platform sharing affords manufacturers the
ability to cut costs on research and development by spreading the cost
of the R&D over several product lines. Manufacturers are then able
to offer products at a lower cost to consumers. Additionally,
economies of scale are increased, as is return on investment.
Originally, a "platform" was a literally shared chassis from a
previously-engineered vehicle, as in the case for the Citroën 2CV
platform chassis used by the
Citroën Ami and Citroën Dyane, and
Volkswagen Beetle frame under the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. Platform
sharing has been a common practice since the 1960s when GM used the
same platform in the development of the Pontiac LeMans, the Buick
Skylark, the Chevrolet Chevelle, and the Oldsmobile Cutlass.
In the 1980s, Chrysler's K-cars all wore a badge with the letter "K"
to indicate their shared platform. In later stages, the "K" platform
was extended in wheelbase, as well as use for several of the
Corporation's different models.
Opel Vectra C
GM used similar strategies with its "J" platform that debuted in
mid-1981 in four of GM's divisions. Subsequent to that, GM introduced
its "A" bodies for the same four divisions using the same tread
width/wheelbase of the "X" body platform, but with larger body work to
make the cars seem larger, and with larger trunk compartments. They
were popular through the 1980s, primarily. Even Cadillac started
offering a "J" body model called the Cimarron, a much gussied up
version of the other four brands' platform siblings. A similar
strategy applied to what is known as the N-J-L platform, arguably the
most prolific of GM's efforts on one platform. Once more, GM's four
lower level divisions all offered various models on this platform
throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s.
Opel Ascona C
1988 Pontiac Sunbird
1988 Cadillac Cimarron
Japanese carmakers have followed the platform sharing practice with
Acura line, Nissan's
Infiniti brand, and Toyota's Lexus
marque, as the entry-level luxury models are based on their mainstream
lineup. For example, the
Lexus ES is essentially an upgraded and
Toyota Camry. After
Chrysler engineers used several M-B platforms for new models
including the Crossfire which was based on the M-B SLK roadster.
Other models that share platforms are the European Ford Focus, Mazda 3
and the Volvo S40.
Differences between shared models typically involve styling, including
headlights, tail lights, and front and rear fascias. Examples also
involve differing engines and drivetrains. In some cases such as the
Lexus ES that is a
Toyota Camry, "same car, same blueprints, same
skeleton off the same assembly line in the same factory", but the
Lexus is marketed with premium coffee in the dealership's showroom and
reduced greens fees at
Pebble Beach Golf Links
Pebble Beach Golf Links as part of the
Platform sharing may be less noticeable now; however, it is still very
apparent. Vehicle architectures primarily consist of "under the skin"
components, and shared platforms can show up in unusual places, like
Nissan FM platform-mates
Nissan 350Z sports car and
SUV. Volkswagen A platform-mates like the
Audi TT and Volkswagen Golf
also share much of their mechanical components but seem visually
Volkswagen Group and
Toyota have both had much
success building many well differentiated vehicles from many marques,
from the same platforms. One of the least conspicuous recent examples
Chevy Trailblazer and Chevy SSR; both use the GMT-360 platform.
Easier inventory management/smaller number of parts
Platform sharing allows for fewer parts for different models of
vehicles and therefore the task of inventorying those parts is greatly
Lower development costs
Platform sharing allows manufacturers to cover many different market
segments when a platform sharing strategy is implemented. This is
exemplified by Ford Motor Co. in the case of the Ford Explorer,
Mercury Mountaineer and Lincoln Aviator. They are essentially the same
only they are considered mass-market, near luxury and luxury
Increased quality and innovation
Platform sharing allows manufacturers to design parts with fewer
variation. A byproduct of this is increased quality, which results in
lower defect rates.
Platform sharing allows manufacturers to design flexible platforms
that can be tailored to a country's specific needs without
compromising quality. It also allows for manufacturing standardization
and improved logistics.
Greater product variety
Platform sharing allows manufacturers to build/design differentiated
products faster and cheaper. This is possible because the development
and cost of the original platform have already been paid for.
Manufacturers that practice platform sharing have the ability to
create several models based on the same design, but with different
names. This leads to the public looking over certain models and
cannibalized sales from competing divisions with essentially the same
product. This was prevalent among U.S. domestic manufactures from the
1970s onward, e.g., the Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, Buick
Rainier, Saab 9-7X, Oldsmobile Bravada, and Isuzu Ascender.
Incompatible changes to platforms
The two elements of platforms are constant and non-constant. If the
non-constant elements are not designed to be easily integrated into
the constant elements of the platform, extensive and expensive changes
will have to be made in order to make the elements compatible again.
Failure to do so negates the purpose of platform sharing in that it
increases costs as opposed to reducing them.
Platform sharing has the ability to be used in too many different
models. However, in the mind of the consumers, the products may be too
similar and more expensive products may be perceived to be cheaper.
For example, the perceived value of a "luxury" brand may be not as
desirable if it is too similar to a mass-market version of the same
platform. Conversely, platform sharing may increase the price of the
economic models. Examples of luxury vehicles that suffered from
being based on economy platforms include the Cadillac Cimarron, the
Chrysler TC by Maserati, the
Maybach 57 and 62
Maybach 57 and 62 and the Jaguar X-Type.
Risk concentration/higher recall rate
The propensity for a higher number of recall is greatly increased with
platform sharing. If a defect is found in one model and that model
shares its platform with ten other models, the recall would be
magnified by ten thus costing the manufacturer more time and money to
fix. An example of problems spreading across platforms and
numerous versions of models are the 2009–11
Toyota vehicle recalls.
In automotive design, the top hat is one or more vehicle upper body
structures that can share a common platform. The upper body could vary
from crossover to a sedan or coupe thereby creating economies of scale
and product differentiation.
List of Fiat platforms
List of Ford platforms
List of GM platforms
List of Hyundai-Kia platforms
List of Mazda platforms
List of Mitsubishi platforms
Volkswagen Group platforms
^ Edmonston, Phil (2003). Lemon-Aid Used Cars and Minivans 2004.
Penguin Group. p. 294. ISBN 978-0-670-04375-0. Retrieved 6
November 2010. Used luxury cars can be great buys, if you ignore all
the hype, know how to separate symbol from substance, and are smart
enough to know that most of the high-end models don't give you much
more than their lower-priced entry-level versions. For example, the
Lexus ES 300 is a
Toyota Camry with a higher price.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Brylawski, Michael (27–29 September 1999).
"Uncommon Knowledge: Automobile Platform Sharing's Potential Impact on
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Conference". International Society for the Advancement of Material and
Process Engineering. Archived from the original on 28 November 2010.
Retrieved 6 November 2010
^ a b Olson, Erik L (2008). "Implication of platformsharing on brand
value". Journal of product and brand management. 17.
^ Robertson, David; Ulrich Karl (1998). "Planning for product
platforms". Sloan management. 39.
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^ Schlie, Erik; Yip, George (August 2000). "Regional follows global:
strategy mixes in the world automotive industry". European Management
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^ Ulrich, Karl (1995). "The role of product architecture in the
manufacturing firm". Research Policy. 24 (3): 419–441.
^ Muffatto, Moreno (1999). "Platform strategies in international new
product development". International Journal of Operations &
Production Management. 19 (5/6): 449–460.
doi:10.1108/01443579910260766. Retrieved 6 November 2010
^ Wilhelm, B. (1997). "Platform and modular concept at Volkswagen –
their effect on the assembly process". In K. Shimokawa, U. Jürgens,
and T. Fujimoto. Transforming Auto Assembly. Springer.
pp. 146–156. CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
^ a b c d Balu, Deepak (30 June 2004). "Automotive Platform Sharing:
an Overview". Frost & Sullivan. Retrieved 6 November 2010.
^ Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc (June 1992). "Rebate time and the
cars are cheaper". Kiplinger's Personal Finance. 46 (6): 98. Retrieved
6 November 2010. The most upscale
Toyota Camry, the V6 XLE, and the
Lexus ES 300 are clones, but the price difference between
them is over $4500. For that you get a more finely finished interior
Lexus and the promise of better service... CS1 maint:
Extra text: authors list (link)
^ Simmons, Lee; Simmons, Barbara (1997). Penny pinching. Bantam Books.
p. 131. ISBN 978-0-553-57366-4.
Toyota Camry XLE V-6 has
exactly the same engine and shares many of the same body
specifications with the
Lexus ES 300. Comparably equipped, except for
^ Edmonston, Phil (2004). Lemon Aide Guide 2005: New Cars and
Minivans. Penguin Group. p. 145.
^ Perloff, Jeffrey M. (2004). Microeconomics. Pearson Addison Wesley.
p. 672. ISBN 978-0-321-16073-7. Retrieved 6 November 2010.
... are automotive twins, as are the
Toyota Camry and
^ a b Csere, Csaba (June 2003). "Platform Sharing for Dummies". Car
and Driver. Archived from the original on 6 December 2010. Retrieved 6
^ "Q&A: Richard Parry-Jones, Ford Global Product Development VP".
Automobile Magazine. April 2009. Retrieved 6 November 2010.
^ McFarlane, Greg; Kincaid, Betty (2010). Control Your Cash: Making
Money Make Sense. Mill City Press. p. 142.
ISBN 978-1-936107-88-9. Retrieved 6 November 2010. Take the Lexus
ES. It boasts the sexy panache of style and elegance that no other
sedan can compare to. Except the quotidian
Toyota Camry, that is. Same
car. Same blueprints, same skeleton off the same assembly line in the
same factory, ...
^ "Inside Truck Platform Sharing". Motor Trend. 2008-04-22. Archived
from the original on 20 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
^ Kevin M. Kelly (January 1, 2009).
Automotive Design and Production. External link in title=
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