The news that Magna – one of two bidders for General Motor’s European arm – wants to turn Opel into a contract manufacturer will echo around the global automotive industry.
Perhaps it has taken a contract manufacturer to point out the obvious to the mass producers, but the plan to offer Opel’s Delta and Epsilon platforms – and space on the production lines - to other car makers has been a long time coming.
Magna’s logic is rock solid. Designing and engineering a new platform is extremely expensive. That means that a car maker has to build huge volumes of vehicles based on the said platform to make a profit.
General Motors grasped the volume nettle with its global platform programme, which would have seen the Delta and Epsilon II platforms being used globally by a number of different brands. Ironically, GM has fallen to pieces just as the global project was being rolled out.
Now Magna has picked up the pieces and extended the logic of platform sharing. Instead of building huge global auto companies, just share the technology between smaller, independent carmakers.
This logic has been used for years in other areas of product manufacturing. Computers increasingly use the same central processing chip. The differences in computers now lie in the operating system and exterior design.