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Old 02-20-2007, 08:26 PM   #1
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GM's global rwd approach promises savings

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GM's global rwd approach promises savings


AutoWeek | Updated: 02/20/07, 9:29 am et

General Motors has shouted about the upcoming rear-drive Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac G8, but those are just two on a long list of cars that GM is producing on its new global vehicle architecture.

GM has been hyping the geographical reach and cost savings. Executives say:

Models are on sale or will be sold in Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America.

Global annual volume will be "around 500,0000 to 700,000, somewhere in that range," Gene Stefanyshyn, vehicle line executive for the architecture, told Automotive News.

Product development savings will be an estimated $500 to $1,000 per vehicle compared with different regions developing separate architectures -- savings that would total $250 million to $750 million.

Most GM vehicle architectures now are engineered for global applications. Regional engineering centers are given responsibility for developing architectures, guided by headquarters in Detroit.

For example, on the global rwd architecture, GM gave Australia's Holden Commodore mid-sized sedan new front-end styling to create the 2008 Pontiac G8, which will be exported to North America. GM North America expects 30,000 annual U.S. sales.

Australian exports

GM's Holden subsidiary in Australia developed the global rwd vehicle architecture. Assembly of mid-sized and full-sized Holden sedans started last year. Besides sales in Australia, models are being exported to Brazil, the Middle East, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

A Daewoo version will be offered in Korea this year from complete knockdown kits. A long-wheelbase Buick model will be assembled in China beginning next year. A version for Opel in Germany is being discussed.

Today, Australia is the sole rwd assembly site. But starting in November or December 2008, GM's Line No. 1 assembly plant in Oshawa, Ontario, will turn out Camaro coupes. Several months later, a convertible will be offered.

GM insiders say the redesigned rwd Impala will be added in 2009 or early 2010, after Oshawa's Line No. 2 plant is converted. Oshawa also will export some models.

Five additional rwd models are envisioned for sale globally.

At least six brands initially will market models on the rwd platform: Buick, Chevrolet, Daewoo, Holden, Pontiac and Vauxhall.

Fisher Body days

Flexibility is a key element of the architecture.

"It is really like going back to the old days of what GM did with Fisher Body" to create the full-sized rwd cars of the 1960s, said Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, interviewed this month at the Chicago Auto Show. He said GM "could do a whole lineup of entirely different-looking cars using common architectural components."

Lutz says the 1960s strategy allowed flexibility in such areas as wheelbase, front overhang, rear overhang and overall length between such nameplates as the plush Buick Electra 225 and the more mainstream Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight. Such flexibility is built into GM's new rwd architecture.

"I did a theoretical count," Stefanyshyn said. "I think there were 36 combinations -- not that we are going to exploit all that, but there is kind of a building-block approach. We can do pony cars, convertibles, sedans, wagons, a lot of things."

Today, GM can create an rwd vehicle with a long or short hood, Stefanyshyn said. "We have short dash-to-axle and long dash-to-axle" options. For the Camaro, Lutz said, "the front rails are extended to permit the longer hood line that you want on a pony car." Shorter front rails can be used for a sedan.

The wheelbase can stretch to 120 inches from 110. There is dimensional flexibility between the area in front of the instrument panel and the rear wheels, Stefanyshyn said.

Both mid-sized and large rwd cars can be created on the global architecture.

"Overall length for a mid-sized rwd car would be around 194 inches," Stefanyshyn said. "The long rwd would be around 201, 203, maybe a bit bigger if we want to put more rear overhang, a bigger trunk, make it more formal."

Such a car would be 2 or 3 inches longer than today's Impala.

Six- and eight-cylinder engines are offered; a four-cylinder engine is being studied.

Bottom line

Stefanyshyn said global architectures offer savings in four keys areas:

1. Engineering

2. Material costs

3. Plant tooling

4. Vendor tooling.

About a third of the savings comes from engineering, he said. Material costs decline about 10 percent. There are only four brake families, for example.

The third category, plant tooling, is difficult to estimate, Stefanyshyn said. It depends on such factors as whether a plant needs to be built and whether a wide range of robots or a high degree of labor will be used in assembly.

Although he did not provide a percentage, Stefanyshyn said, "There are some savings in the vendor tools depending on the commodity and how much freight and racks they consume."

The bottom line?

Stefanyshyn said GM will reach the $500- to $1,000-per-vehicle savings depending on the car and regional regulations: "We are hoping to see those kind of numbers," he said.
Global plan

Here are GM's global rwd models.

Holden Commodore sedan
Chevrolet Lumina sedan
Chevrolet Omega sedan
Vauxhall VXR sedan
Holden Statesman sedan
Chevrolet Caprice sedan

Buick Royaum sedan
Pontiac G8 sedan
Chevrolet Camaro coupe, convertible
Chevrolet Impala sedan
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Old 02-21-2007, 12:11 AM   #2
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GM's interpretation of lean manufacturing, good stuff. Hopefully this philosiphy carries over to other global platforms for the future (which I'm more than sure it will), then GM will be just that much better off from a financial and logistics perspective.
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