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Forecast: High-volume platforms on rise

Automotive News reports on which automotive platforms see the largest use.

Nissan Micra
The Renault-Nissan X85 platform is used for the Nissan Micra, shown, as well as for the Nissan Versa, Juke and Cube; Renault Clio; and Dacia models.
Nissan Micra
The Renault-Nissan X85 platform is used for the Nissan Micra, shown, as well as for the Nissan Versa, Juke and Cube; Renault Clio; and Dacia models. Nissan

Quiz: Which vehicle platform will undergird the highest total vehicle production volume in 2016? That of the Toyota Corolla? The Volkswagen Golf? The Opel Corsa?

No, no and no. The X85 platform--which underpins the Nissan Micra, Renault Clio and 36 other models--will be used to produce 3.9 million vehicles in 2016, predicts an industry analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

That's up from a projected 2.6 million in 2010, and it would be a higher volume than any platform to be produced by Toyota Motor Corp., General Motors Co. or Volkswagen AG.

Each of those automakers has its own high-volume platform or two--the price of admission for any automaker with a mass-market brand.

"It's the Wal-Mart business model," said Anthony Pratt, director of PwC's automotive practice. With huge-volume platforms, the big automakers "can buy for less, ship for less, and compete on price. It's a volume game."

As automakers produce more cars from fewer platforms, they will trigger a Darwinian struggle for survival among suppliers. The ability to service a global contract can be a make-or-break proposition for suppliers. The likely winners are those with factories on multiple continents.

"As you see more and more consolidation, you'll have fewer opportunities to bid," said Pratt. "A regional player won't even be given a chance."

Here's Pratt's list of the 10 highest-volume platforms of 2016 and the volume they will account for then:

1. Renault-Nissan X85: 3.9 million units. The X85 is best known for the Nissan Micra and Renault Clio superminis, but it also is used on the Nissan Versa, Juke and Cube. Renault's no-frills Romanian subsidiary, Dacia, uses this versatile platform, too.

2. Volkswagen MQB: 3.86 million units. The MQB, which is just being launched and will be used on a scant 24,000 vehicles in 2010, will provide the mechanicals for nearly all of VW's front-wheel-drive models. The VW Polo, Golf and Passat are likely to generate the biggest volume. Interestingly, the midsized sedan to be produced in VW's new Chattanooga, Tenn., plant will use an older platform instead of the MQB architecture. VW did that to keep the price down.

3. Toyota MC: 3.3 million units. With hot-selling models such as the Camry, RAV4 and Prius, this is the auto industry's largest current platform, with 3 million units in 2010.

4. Ford C1: 2.7 million units. With a diverse model lineup that currently includes the Ford Focus, Mazda3, Volvo C30 and others, this platform is a good example of Ford's One World strategy.

5. Fiat 199: 2.6 million units. This platform underpins the Palio, Punto, Uno and other small cars--the heart of Fiat's lineup. The Italian automaker plans to introduce Dodge and Chrysler variants.

6. Hyundai HD: 2.5 million units. In North America, this platform supports the Hyundai Elantra and Tucson, plus the Kia Sportage and Forte. As Hyundai gains share in Europe, the United States and China, look for it to move steadily up this list.

7. Toyota NBC: 2.2 million units. This platform, which informally stood for New Basic Car, spawned the Yaris supermini and Scion xD, among others. Toyota plans to spin off a small hybrid from this platform.

8. GM Gamma: 2.1 million units. The Opel Corsa is this platform's top seller. In the United States, the Chevrolet Spark and Aveo will carry Gamma's DNA.

9. GM Delta: 2.0 million units. The Chevrolet Cruze and Opel Astra will be big sellers--proof that GM can design common platforms for Europe and the United States. In China, the Buick Excelle has carved out a profitable niche.

10. PSA PF2: 1.8 million units. Peugeot and Citroen derive superminis, sedans and MPVs from this platform, the only one in the top 10 that doesn't have a U.S. model.

(Source: Automotive News)