Competition among friends more pervasive than you might think.
Sharing is good. That’s one of the first things we learn in kindergarten. Automotive executives must have been particularly good students because they do that with each other quite often.
As a kid, I was dumbstruck to find my neighbor’s Dodge Omni had a Volkswagen four-cylinder engine. It was sold alongside the Dodge Colt that was designed and built by Mitsubishi. Competitors cooperating? Who knew?
Turns out car companies hook up with each other all the time.
Paul Eisenstein, publisher of The Detroit Bureau website says “developing a new vehicle from the ground up can be phenomenally expensive, in some cases costing over a billion dollars.”
That means the highly competitive automotive industry takes a gamble every time it launches a new vehicle. Finding ways to spread out engineering investments is just good business.
It can be as simple as BMW using automatic transmissions engineered by General Motors. Occasionally automakers share the whole vehicle. The Honda Passport was a rebadged Isuzu Rodeo. In return, Isuzu sold the Odyssey van under the Oasis label.
The new Infiniti QX30 is a perfect example. Parent company Nissan makes great chassis and powertrains but they weren’t used for the QX. In 2010, Daimler (the Mercedes-Benz folks) partnered with Renault-Nissan (yes, those two are intertwined) to share components. So the new QX30 employs the chassis, suspension, engine and transmission developed for the Mercedes GLA 250.
Starting with a cake that was nearly baked gave Infiniti an early entrant to the new sub-compact crossover segment and lowered the demands on its engineering staff. The QX30 and GLA 250 are tuned quite differently from each other plus, inside and out, they look very different.
FYI, the upcoming Mercedes X-Class pickup will ride on, you guessed it, Nissan truck architecture. Yes, Mercedes really is bringing out a pickup.
Sharing has given us another sporty roadster. Fiat teamed up with Mazda to revive the classic 124 Spider. Built in the same Hiroshima, Japan plant as the Miata (and riding on the same architecture), it has earned the nickname “Fiata.” Eisenstein points out, “the Miata looks a lot different from the new Fiat Spider; same is true for the Infiniti QX35 and GLA 250. And they drive differently. And, if two partner carmakers can pull that off, it’s a win for consumers, as well as for the manufacturers.”
Buy a Toyota Yaris iA and it’s really a Mazda2 with rebranded fascias. The BRZ and 86 (formerly the Scion FR-S) sports coupes are a joint venture between Subaru and Toyota respectively. Did you know that Toyota has a small stake in Subaru that was (surprise!) bought from GM in 2005?
Many buyers are loyal to a country of origin. Take your pick- German/Japanese/Swedish/Korean/American cars rule! Fact is, most car companies are global behemoths. American University’s Kogod School of Business found the Honda Accord is fifth when rating American content (which includes assembly plants plus research and development). The Acura NSX supercar was largely developed and engineered in Ohio, where it’s made.
Now part of FCA (or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), Jeep is an All-American icon to be sure. The smallest member of the rugged brand is the Renegade. It looks nothing like the Fiat 500X crossover but the two share the same chassis structure and drive train. They’re built at the same plant in Melfi, Italy.
Many Volkswagens bought in the U.S. are assembled in Mexico. BMW exports X3, X4. X5 and X6 crossovers built in its Spartanburg, South Carolina plant to 140 countries. Buick’s new Envision crossover is made in China, the Encore is from South Korea and the Cascada convertible is shipped in from Poland. Travel to Europe and you’ll find that those three vehicles wear Opel badges.
Kia’s first car in the American market was not under is own label. It produced the Mazda-designed Festiva for Ford. Decades later when Kia wanted to leave its budget brand identity behind, it hired Audi designer Peter Schreyer to overhaul the car’s looks. The South Korean brand is now considered to have one of the best-looking lines of cars regardless of price.
These examples show how the competitive auto industry uses cooperation. Share them with a friend.