At a recent conference in New York City, product development executive Hau Thai-Tang announced that Ford Motor Company will be shrinking its portfolio of vehicle platforms from nine to only five. This move comes only two years after the company cut down from 15 to nine platforms.
Thai-Tang, who serves as executive vice president for product development and purchasing at Ford, told attendees at J.P. Morgan’s 2018 Auto Conference on Aug. 2 that the company is working toward reducing complexity and shifting to a more modular architecture for vehicle designs.
However, the reduction in platform count doesn’t necessarily mean that fewer products can be brought to market; rather, the move to a more modular architecture involves “systems and combinations of commodities that we want to share across architectures and within an architecture,” Thai-Tang said. Whereas Ford has previously mouthed words about modularization, in reality that just meant that various cars could be built on the same chassis. The new modularization plan is more open-ended and will allow Ford to share more systems across different classes of vehicles, Thai-Tang told journalists.
Currently, Ford Motor Company development teams have to design many systems separately, so that only about 30 percent of engineering costs can be shared across the portfolio. However, the company thinks that “there’s roughly 70 percent of value that we can share across our product lineup” through this new platform program, Thai-Tang said. This might include systems such as climate control or suspension systems. Even vehicle length and wheelbase will become more flexible within individual platforms.
“This is not us shrinking and reducing our size in the marketplace,” Thai-Tang stressed. “It’s all about reallocating our resources into the marketplace where we can win.” So, even though Ford will retire some vehicles, it plans to increase its number of nameplate offerings from 20 to 23 over the next five years.
In his presentation. Thai-Tang identified the five new platforms as:
- ICE (internal combustion engine) – RWD/AWD Body-on-Frame architecture for trucks
- ICE – FWD/AWD Unibody, for smaller cars and crossovers
- ICE – Commercial Van Unibody
- ICE – RWD/AWD Unibody
- BEV (battery electric vehicle) – All Drive Types Unibody
Although BEV is listed as a distinct architecture, Thai-Tang indicated that platforms one through four will also be capable of incorporating battery electric technologies.
Thai-Tang said that the five-platform strategy will be flexible enough to respond to customer needs, pricing constraints, and regulatory requirements across global markets. The three basic variables for defining the five platforms are:
- Energy – ICE versus electric
- The drive system – all-wheel versus front-wheel versus rear-wheel
- And body architecture – unibody versus body-on-frame