Driving a car in today’s modern world is no longer considered as luxury compared to the old times. We drive brands of car from east to west, from the small to big, from the thrifty to the so not thrifty. But do we really know our car from the inside out? When we see a brand of car, do we know if that car really is made from that particular brand? Because in today’s automotive world, an apparel tagline is more than just a tagline. More witty comments after the click.
The world without stranger, the famous tagline from Giordano brand of clothing is one of the mot gullible tagline I ever heard. But truth be told, it holds a meaningful social message. The world without strangers means that we live our life without the fear of not knowing those who surrounds us. No more prejudice, no more wild guessing, no more bad things. But is the premise plausible in today’s society? Not really… We barely even talk to our neighbours, let alone a stranger we met at the bus stop. But Giordano does aiming at the right direction if it were talking about automotive in general, not in human perspective.
The world without stranger is one step closer in reality in today’s modern automotive world. So in what sense this world without stranger really is in reality? Well, consider this, with the ever increasing energy cost that are based on fossil fuel, processing raw materials costs also rises. As of currently, no alternative fuel source can single handedly fuel a blast furnace for steel and glass refinery, two basic materials that makes up a car.
The World Without Strangers indeed
So what does automotive maker of the world did? They cooperate. They are no longer strangers and competitors in the business, they become friends… Or in some case, some poor financially weak automotive company got bought by a financially stronger automotive company. This reflects on the many automotive brands out there in the world, naming but a few from Japan we already have big names such as Toyota, Daihatsu, Suzuki, Subaru, Mazda, Honda, Isuzu, and Nissan. But among those, only two automotive companies that can raise their hand up proudly for stating that they are truly independent, Honda and Toyota.
Honda and Toyota aside, those who cooperate with other automotive maker enjoy the benefit of cheaper operational cost. The company who works together to produce cars now have the benefit of shared development cost, and shared part of construction of cars cost. For example, Mazda for all we know is one of the unique Japanese automotive companies that exemplify advanced automotive design to the highest degree. They got obscenely attractive cars that seemingly came out of Japanese manga/comics. The RX-8, The CX-9, the new Mazda 6, and so on. Now let’s take a look at Ford, one of the “Big 3” of American automotive giant and its subsidiaries. Ford have the boring looking Ford Fusion, the again boring looking Lincoln Zephyr, and finally the vanilla looking Mercury Milan. But hey… Guess what? All 4 cars are actually one of the same, at least structurally. All 4 are based off Ford CD3 platform, and furthermore, they are powered by the same engine… A Mazda engine.
Two of the same… Can’t you guys see it? Off course not
This is because Ford who bought Mazda cooperates in many layer of a car production. They share what in automotive world is known as “platform”, an underlying basic structure of a car, a car’s body internal skeleton. Ford shares the platform with Mazda, therefore, Mazda doesn’t have to incur development cost of the body structure. Instead, Mazda just only need to design a sheet metal or the physical looks of the car.(and boy do they made great looking cars). Where does Ford benefit in this? They got Mazda’s world renowned engines. In fact, according to Indopedia.org, from 2005 onwards, all Ford’s midsize cars are equipped with Mazda’s engine. This is actually confirming a news from 1999 that states Ford and Mazda are building an engine empire.
The examples doesn’t just end there, there are just too many out there. Let’s take some short examples, Maserati, is powered by Ferrari engines. A diesel variant of Mini is actually using Toyota engine. And so much more.
So the keyword here is economy of scale. In the case of Ford and Mazda, both companies basically offers the same car underneath the flashy sheet metal design. By sharing components production together, both Ford and Mazda shares the burden of operational cost, achieving economy of scale much faster than if they are going at it alone.
But because this is a blog for Honda… I must put a Honda here somewhere… Ummm… Okay got it… So how does Honda survives after all this time by going at it alone? Well, Honda is alone alright, but they have what I called a “mini cooperation” between each products. Honda have their own platforms that is spread between each cars. The amazing thing about Honda platforms is that one platform can define a car from the smallest to the large and from the medium to the largest. Honda Life and Honda Civic Euro for example, one is a micro hatchback and another is a medium size hatchback. But both shares the same platform, the same suspension, the same seating arrangement, and everything in between. The size grows, but it’s basically the same stuff underneath the sheet metal.
Two of the same… Really…
But critically, does stand alone automotive company like Honda will be able to survive in the future? After all, compared to Ford and Mazda and any other joint ventures, Honda doesn’t share costs with anybody, that alone is one of threats to Honda. If Honda slips out of its efficiency just once, it’s downhill for them. So in term of efficiency, Honda must produce products that sells… Meaning, they cannot do anything that is… Fun anymore. To be frank, Honda products designs are currently are between vanilla and chocolate ice cream, “too safe” and “too mass market”. Well, they have to do this because after all, Honda have to aim for the mass market, not the enthusiasts. So watch out Honda, a buyout might just be around the corner if you just slipped one bit.
There you have it, the world without strangers, at least in the automotive world. Parts sharing are common, perhaps one day, all automotive company will merge and join together as a world’s auto… Not likely, but one can sure dream.