Remember when General Motors touted the frequency with which it redesigns its vehicles? Well, those days could soon be over as the automaker lays the groundwork to double the lifespan of its new vehicle platforms as part of an initiative to reduce and redirect capital spending, while also boosting profit margins.
The first vehicle architecture to follow the strategy is GM’s new D2 platform, which underpins a wide gamut of compact cars and crossovers, including:
- 2016 Chevrolet Cruze and newer
- 2016 Chevrolet Volt and newer
- 2015 Opel Astra, Vauxhall Astra, Holden Astra and newer
- 2016 Buick Verano and newer
- 2015 Buick Excelle and newer
- 2016 Buick Envision and newer
- 2018 Chevrolet Equinox and newer
- 2018 GMC Terrain and newer
The company is targeting for up to 2.5 million vehicle sales a year for the D2 platform underpinning the Cruze and Astra, says GM product chief Mark Reuss. It has also been rumored that a future compact Cadillac vehicle is also under development on the same D2 architecture.
A vehicle’s platform — the basic underpinnings of a car or truck — could last a dozen years or more, according to GM President Dan Amman. The strategy is representative of today’s global car business in which automakers must balance developing new vehicles for global markets and keeping those vehicles fresh in the face of stricter emissions and safety standards, while facing the threat of slowing car sales and disruptive new products and services, such as autonomous vehicles, ride hailing and car sharing services, all while returning more cash to shareholders.
Over the next several years, General Motors is said to undertake the most extensive overhaul of its vehicle development process in decades. The objective of the undertaking is to engineer its global vehicle lineup using just several building blocks, or platforms, thereby spreading the research and development costs for a given line of cars and SUVs over millions more vehicles.
The plan calls for keeping the platforms largely the same for over a decade, while changing styling more often with updates to the sheet metal or plastic skins referred to as “top hats” internally within GM. The automaker also plans to update a vehicle’s electronic features using software updates delivered over a high-speed internet connection, such as the one built into nearly all 2015 and newer GM vehicles through OnStar 4G LTE services.
The strategy isn’t without risks, the most notable of which is the possibility of being left with technologically-outdated platforms. Another potential downside seen by analysts is not delivering a product that is attractive to customers across various global markets. Both potential hazards also apply to GM’s competitors, which are also moving to trim the amount of vehicle platforms to decrease complexity, cut costs, and boost margins.