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Question of the Day: Would You Care If The Automakers United Their Engine Building Divisions Into One Shared Unit?


Question of the Day: Would You Care If The Automakers United Their Engine Building Divisions Into One Shared Unit?

For quite a large portion of 2015, FCA’s Sergio Marchionne had spent his time trying to court several automotive manufacturers – namely General Motors, who he fawned about a union with so hard that we wondered if he really was just harboring a crush on GM CEO Mary Barra – into combining forces in the name of production cost reduction. Naturally, on our end of the scale, the idea of merging companies makes us want to retch a little. Competition breeds innovation, and by reducing competition in the form of these mergers, the consumer loses out on choice and advancements the two companies could separately create if they were competing with each other. Luckily for us, so far Marchionne has been shot down like the dork with the star-filled eyes in homeroom. But the ear worm of mergers has caught on with a few people.

In an Autoblog opinion post, author John McElroy suggests that American manufacturers need to combine their engine production systems into one unit. Think about that for a second…one engine source for all of the Big Three’s cars. Quoting the article:

“Hardcore enthusiasts care deeply about the powertrains in their cars. So do most diesel, plug-in, and hybrid owners. But all of them account for maybe 15 percent of the car-buying public. So that means about 85 percent of car buyers don’t care where their engine and transmission came from, just as they don’t know or care who supplied the steel, who made the headlamps, or who delivered the seats on a just-in-time basis. It’s immaterial to them. And that presents the automakers with an opportunity to achieve a staggering level of manufacturing scale.”

I will grant that most of BangShift’s readership would fall immediately into the 15 percent of the car-buying public that actually gives a rat’s ass about their cars and what they are made of, but does that mean that we need to be ignored because, according to McElroy’s guesses, 85 percent of the car-buying public doesn’t know and/or doesn’t care? What do you think?

Ford engine line

Photo: Dayton Daily News


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21 thoughts on “Question of the Day: Would You Care If The Automakers United Their Engine Building Divisions Into One Shared Unit?

  1. Bob J

    OK,

    You may certainly include me in the 15%. I would observe that what improves the breed (generically) is the competition amongst the various manufacturers. I recognize that Sergio, and his ilk, look at this from a purely cost savings POV, but I would offer that Roger Smith nearly killed GM with such activities. There’s more to the automobile industry than simple cost savings. Each of the current manufacturers has competent engine design labs and if you think that hasn’t led to major improvements in engineering,manufacturing, and research, then I would submit that you should re-evaluate your opinion. Perhaps the best quote I can offer would be attributed to George Patton:

    If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.
    -George S. Patton

    Just MHO

  2. arrowhead

    Anyone who has followed the auto industry as long as John McElroy should know better. If you want a commodity product, standardize as much as possible. If you want innovation and self expression, nothing beats competition. To follow up on Bob J, GM was dominant in the ’60s in part because of the competion among divisons (including unique powertrains)

  3. Matt Cramer

    Since this suggestion is aimed at the business side, I will explain why this is an exceedingly bad idea in business terms.

    1. Having an in house engine design gives you a chance to differentiate your product from the competition. Only 15% of the public being gearheads works both ways – you can come up with something that isn’t a huge advantage, just a little different, but hype it up like crazy. “Northstar system,” I’m looking at you.

    2. Economics of scale only goes so far. You’re going to need a lot of separate factories to build all the engines the Big Three production requires. Even if you DO build one big factory, most of it will effectively be a bunch of little factories in a single building.

    3. Chrysler already tried this with the GEMA engine – Sergio, how long did it take you to forget that fiasco?

  4. Patrick

    Just like other appliances. The public doesn’t know or care anymore. Look at refrigerators,tvs, and dishwashers. Many brands, only a couple of actual manufacturers. Power tools as well. Aren’t the big 3 already sharing development of the 8 and 10 speed transmissions?

  5. Chevelle_Chris

    I will be someone of the dissenting opinion here; under one condition however that all the cost savings on development be poured BACK into the power train programs to further multiple avenues of innovation. Attempting new tech, new approaches; both in the power development and efficiency envelopes, so the overall net result is better, more powerful, longer lasting engines – that burn less and have lower emissions.

    OH WAIT I’M APPARENTLY HIGH RIGHT NOW and that never happen. All cost savings go to profit bottom line.

    WTF was I thinking, never mind.

  6. oldguy

    WTF – So Sergio wants GM to build his engines for him ….and still
    brand them as ‘ Chrysler ‘ products ?
    Is FCA that far down the rabbit hole that they can no longer design ,cast and machine blocks in the US ? ‘ Jeep ‘ products with Fiat engines are bad enough but now this ? Stick a fork in him …
    I have been a Ford fan since I was a kid but have owned three Cryster’s now
    by default – 1991 Caravan – right price right time – 1993 Grand Cherokee that
    I inherited and a 2002 PT loser – again right price right time when my wife
    shelled the motor on the Cherokee (RIP-liked that car actually)
    all have served me well .Never again just for the daimler / FCA non-sense ….Go River Rouge

  7. Tom Slater

    Standardization is in most cases a self evident good. I treat it as almost a priori knowledge that if I could walk into a parts store and ask for a “v8 power steering pump” and the guy behind the counter had nothing to ask me, this would be a better world to live in.
    Competition, though, is what is bringing us higher horsepower. Horsepower is good.
    I’m torn.
    I think GM has done a fantastic job by consolidating it’s V8’s into one family and making parts interchange as well as they do within the LS family. It brings down costs, it increases our ability to hotrod the shit out of the things and it keeps a basic, proven design across the whole lineup.
    Ford, OTOH, makes no two Mod motors just alike. They are expensive to build speed out of, they are finicky, they suck to work on… but this isn’t a Ford Vs GM rant: my point is that their liabilities are a direct result of their lack of standardization across the platform (also, OHC engines suck)
    For four cylinder, hybrid, electric and FWD six cylinders, yeah, consolidate design work. Screwit. These engines are bought by people who don’t care anyway so let’s make’em cheap and make’em reliable and efficient.
    For enthusiast engines, the spice of our automotive lives… we want variety. We want competition. We want the sense of community that having a common enemy (Ford) gives us, we like having the pushrods & torque vs OHC & rpms debate. More than that, we like seeing what sledgehammer / demonspawn bastard of a car is coming out next year, what “final” F-U one automaker is sending to another.

  8. V12 guy

    I’m still trying to figure out who the ‘rocket surgeon’ that decided chrysler transmissions (with a built in leaky plug) didn’t need a dipstick is!

    (2005 hemi magnum)

  9. Threedoor

    No, however I would like to see manufacturers use a standardized bellhousing bolt pattern like trucks do and trans to t-case patern/output shaft standardization.

  10. Truckin' Ted

    I particularly like BobJ’s quote from Gen. Patton, ….it hits spot on. Innovation is the mother of progress………without it we’d still be thinking that carbs and dual points distributors were the BOMB.

    Besides trying to get ‘chummy’ with GM on engines,……it may be worth bringing up that old Serg was also trying to get GM to purchase Chrysler earlier this year. Supposedly, also along the lines of consolidation for efficiency and/or economy. Considering the results that he’s been able to obtain after cleaning house at Ferrari……I would make the suggestion he’d be able to do better as the doorman at a hotel in downtown Milan.

    In respect to Tom’s comments, I would like to point out that irrespective of GM’s latest fines over the IGNITION SWITCH fiasco……..they recently ditched their 4th VP OF GLOBAL QUALITY…….IN 4 YEARS……..her name is Grace Lieblein. Surely innovation is one thing,……making it last and stay together in the role it was intended………..is quite another.

    Let competition run it’s natural course, we’ll all be better off for it!

    1. Tom Slater

      Remember, we are talking powertrains here.
      Show me a RWD V8 that’s simpler, cheaper, easier to package, more powerful and more reliable than an LS. Hell, pick just two of them and show me an engine. You can’t.
      Transmissions? Even the 4L60E holds up well in a stock vehicle. 4L80E is a beast. The six speeds, from what I gather, are even better. I haven’t heard any complaints about the 5Lxx transmissions either. The only complaint I ever hear even from europhile auto journalists seems to be “It’s good, but it’s not a dual clutch…”
      I either can’t, won’t or don’t care to vouch for anything else about a GM product but the engine / trans lineup is unimpeachable.

  11. E Dub

    Chrysler already did that years ago with Mitsubishi and Hyundai. If memory serves it was GEMA, Global Engine Manufacturers Alliance. All the the current 4 cyl FCA stuff has roots there, I believe FCA bought the other two out of the program.

  12. JDM

    Terrible idea. If you are a person who thinks cars are for transportation only and drives some amorphous blob of a car like a Camry you would like this.

    McElroy is no car guy. His thinking is along the lines of Consumer Reports Mentality, a sensible car that is a 4 cyl, hybrid, Japanese jellybean and it’s clones.

  13. mike devore

    I’m not for 1 engine fits all.
    But that could be the way it goes in the next 20 years, whether we want it to or not.

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