As a Brit who has now lived in Michigan for 12 years, I have slowly come to take a very Detroit-centric view of the automotive world. This can be re-enforced by my annual pilgrimage to the North American International Auto Show each January. My routine was changed this year as I missed the NAIAS to travel through Europe, the Middle East and Asia. That trip gave me a chance to contemplate the differences and similarities in global car cultures during a time when I’m usually focused on checking out the latest in full-size pick-up trucks and pony cars.
The globalization of nameplates and their underlying platforms is a trend that has surely passed none of us by. It is also continuing to grow its momentum. While I saw many more Fiesta’s in Europe than I do in my neighborhood, that fact that this same small car is built and sold in North America, Europe, Asia and beyond is great example of a global vehicle. Although significant regional differences can still be found; my European colleagues can buy a 3 door version, and might be shocked to see the 4-door version available at my local dealer and in many parts of Asia.
Creating a vehicle with a “design globally, build locally” philosophy requires robustness to more factors than a regionally developed and manufactured product. The potential advantages of parts sharing, lower development costs and improved time to market come at the price of considering a broader supplier base, material variations, specific local content and other variables. In these instances the application of a strong virtual validation process becomes a pre-requisite and the use of CAE study techniques is a key to creating a truly robust design.
During early product development key decisions for design direction shape not just one nameplate but the safety structure, powertrain options, chassis dynamics, durability, manufacturing capabilities and electrical architecture of a series of vehicles. Making informed decisions requires not only a good local understanding of each customer demographic, but a global approach to multi-disciplinary design optimization. Only this early application of simulation technology will allow OEMs to achieve a goal of over 80% part commonality (reducing worldwide development costs) and the delivery of true global
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