The “World” Car Trend
Ford has recently announced a glut of new models that will be marketed the world over. A series of “global cars” built in Ford factories local to the market that the vehicle is being sold in to. This trend seemingly started with the Fiesta model being made available in the US and South America as well as variants being sold in China and India. All cars are locally produced in factories largely staffed by local workers. There have been discussions in the motoring press and amongst industry experts as to whether this will lead to a dilution of brand identity as well as question marks over build quality and reliability. But are these questions and criticisms valid?
Platform sharing and cost cutting strategies to ensure long term viability are nothing new. The Volkswagen Group have been at the forefront of platform sharing since the mid 90s. Today, Audi cars share chassis architecture, suspension components and powertrains with much of the Volkswagen Group. The 1.2 turbocharged petrol engine, for instance, can be found in Audi A1 &A3, Seat Ibiza, Leon & Toledo, Skoda Fabia, Octavia, Rapid, Roomster & Yeti, Volkswagen Beetle, Golf and Polo. The flexibility and strength of this engine is demonstrated by the broad range of cars it sits in and also the faith that VW clearly put in it. General Motors have been plying this trade for an awful lot longer with platform sharing between Vauxhall, Opel, Chevrolet, soon to be no more Holden and the now defunct Saab since the 1980s. Peugeot and Citroen have been heavily sharing engines, gearboxes and chassis design since the two companies merged in the 1970s and it certainly has done little to dilute the two brands.
But there is another aspect to this whole debate. Manufacturers are already using factories around the world to produce cars and vans in a more cost effective fashion and have been for many years now. Peugeot, Citroen and Toyota have recently announced the continuation of a joint venture which saw the 107/C1/Aygo produced in the Czech Republic. Fiat, who have always sold their Italian heritage, actually manufacture the 500 and Panda alongside the Ford Ka in Poland whilst the Peugeot Bipper, Citroen Nemo and Fiat Fiorino are built in a state of the art plant in Turkey. And yet, no-one looks at a Fiat and thinks of Poland or Turkey. They are still undeniably Italian in character.
With such a long standing history of global car production, it is difficult to see why there is so much industry noise about Ford’s latest plans. With the level of investment put in to the new design, production and marketing of these new cars, they are bound to be a marked improvement on the outgoing models and given that this kind of product launch is so cost-effective, it will only be a matter of time before all manufacturers cotton on to the benefits of utilising local workforces to capitalise on global markets. This on current evidence is nothing at all to fear.