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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Vision Thing: The World Car fallacy

Since getting into this writing thing, one of the big joys of the gig (apart from conversing with commenters and seeing my untethered ramblings in digital ink) is digging deep into research. Rather, I get to read a lot. As you probably gathered, I love reading.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/vision-thing/vision-thing-the-world-car-fallacy/
46 REPLIES 46
TG
Gearhead

I didn't read your whole article (due to my spectrum issues) but I see two major hurdles with the world car
(1) even in our 'global' economy, we still have different 'local' standards for emissions, economy, and safety. I remember seeing a letter from Daimler Chrysler to the USEPA stating that if the USEPA did not align its standards to europe (so Daimler Chrysler could build one set of cars instead of two), Daimler Chrysler would unload Chrysler... which it did.
(2) with 7-point-something billion people, making one of anything that will make everyone happy is a no-win scenario. Trying to make one government in one country that everyone is happy with hasn't been particularly successful to date
AdrianClarke
Instructor

Most vehicle legislation is already a lot more harmonised than you’d think. Where there are differences nationally, most countries align broadly to EU or FMVSS standards, or a mix of both. So, it’s not really a problem. I worked for Land Rover, and even at our tiny volumes we could build cars that covered all relevant legislation for these major bodies.
The market is in general much more diverse now, but the main middle of the market stuff will sell worldwide. There will be outliers, like US specific vehicles but the US is unique and a mix enough market to support it’s own models, although the Mustang has been an absolute monster hit in the UK.
Snailish
Engineer

I think world car can work, but it takes some different thinking than "we sell lots of these here, let's dress them up for this other market"

Ford sold a lot of Fox and Panther platform cars in North America, long after it sounds like Europe was expecting front wheel drive. That's like saying "we have great coffee" to a market that wants tea.

So my "I wonder" is how did this go 2005-present? Problem with analysis there maybe is the mess the industry was in late 2000s --but what world car successes were there? (GM started to sell some great Holden-developed things in North America and then cancelled them all when they got the bailout, The Daimler-Chrysler born Charger/300 platform has evolved but soldiers on, etc.)

But we are in a flux moment of hybrid/EV futurism where maybe the next Chev 4 door sport sedan EV can be sold (with whatever badge) all around the world. Just don't expect to move high numbers of full size pickups, I think Ford has sold a lot of recent Rangers around the world though?
AdrianClarke
Instructor

It’s more about the platform now, and the market is much more fragmented. A Fox/Panther would have been too crude and big for Europe (our loss). I know some Euro Opels made it back across the Atlantic as Saturns, and the recent Buick Cross Tour is an Opel Insignia. With the right products, it can work although. Jeep has been doing pretty well in Europe for a while now with it’s smaller models.
relton
Advanced Driver

In 2007, I picked up my US spec BMW 335i coupe at the factory in Munich. The BMW engineer who took us on the factory tour told us that only 15%of the parts in my US spec 335i were common with the Euro spec 335i coupe.

Some of it is due to regulations. Glass, engine calibration, exhaust and catalytic converters, airbags and bumpers are examples. In 2007 BMW offered a 4 cyliner diesel in the 3 series coupe, but only for Europe. The Euro BMWs used a different automatic transmission than the US BMWs, even though both transmission were made in Europe. Headlights were different as well as taillights. And some Euro spec BMWs were right hand drive. The fact that all these cars were made in the same factory was quite impressive.

Some is due to local tastes. Germans like seats with manual adjusters. Americans like seats with power adjusters, especially in luxury cars. GM used Euro style recliners in some seats, and were met with a lot of pushback from US customers.

In my considered opinion, a world car will never exist
Snailish
Engineer

Regulations and tastes are two huge factors for sure.

 

I'd love Euro style manual seats. Seems in North America you get "the terrible cheap seat" or you buy the full package to get the power seat+. Headlights in North America is a weird story for decades.

 

Less of an issue now (since it can be done with simple programming) but Canada insists on making differences vs. USA spec. This just costs the customer more (i.e., day time running lights which USA studies said didn't really do much and you can always just drive with your lights on).

 

An article a few years back talked about Toyota setting up a factory that could do unique vehicles rather than 1000 grey Camrys in a row. This is the path to the world car, when the option sheet is real and varied and it lets the regional tastes outfit the vehicle without requiring massive batches of the exact same spec. I think you'd see NA tastes shift quite a bit given the actual options too.

 

 

relton
Advanced Driver

Smallish might like Euro seats, but I was around for the reaction to the use of Euro style rotary recliners on the front seats of the first GM minvans (dustbusters!). Not pleasant. I was also around when Chrysler used a US style lever recliner for seats on a Euro Horizon. Also not pleasant. Cultural blindness on GM's part, cost cutting on Chrysler's part.

Note that both companies subsequently went bankrupt.

AdrianClarke
Instructor

There is a limit to how much variety you can have, but Toyota would be the ones to nail it. I can guarantee you will never get a la carte options, but cars are localized for tastes to a point. American market cars tended to be softer, have more features but be ruthlessly cost cut elsewhere (because the US is very much value for money driven). Euro and JDM cars this opposite (note this is a VERY broad generalisation.
AdrianClarke
Instructor

That’s an engineers 15%. In reality it’s just trim and parts spec details. And I still think he was exaggerating. Spartanburg builds all BMW SUVs for all worldwide markets I believe.
CitationMan
Gearhead

I still find it amazing that US manufacturers never successfully duplicated the combination of Civic & Accord or Corolla & Camry, even though this tried and true two model winning formula has been staring them in the face for decades. Even as cars have sadly gone out of favor, they’re still a winning formula for Honda and Toyota.
fueledbymetal
Advanced Driver

I think Ford was closest of the domestic automakers with the first generation Focus world car, but they cheaped-out on the second generation by just revising the first gen for the domestic market while completely redesigning the ROW car. It also didn't help that the domestics killed residual values relative to the imports by pushing cheap fleet sales, so they had to compete on price rather than quality with the imports.

That said, the American market was already transitioning to SUV's at the time of the second gen Focus and Ford couldn't charge the premium for the Focus that they could overseas (small car market was much hotter there), so I understand the financial sense of the move. In retrospect is was a good move for them since they've ditched cars all together here (except for the Mustang).
TG
Gearhead

Every time American manufacturers tried to make small economy cars in the early days, they either got slammed by the press or slammed by the safety police. By the time the bulk of the American buying market got around to the thought process that driving something made out of 6000 pounds of steel might not be such a good idea, Japan and Europe had already pretty much filled that market

MustangJim
Technician

Wouldn't the Ford escape/ kuga be considered a successful world car? Also the fusion/ mondeo until fords recent mistake of cancelling it here. Im sure that there are others as well.
relton
Advanced Driver

I' not familar with the Kuga. But I was told, by people inside the plant, that trying to make Euro compliant Mustnags in Flat Rock, MI., caused so much disruption because of the different parts required, that Ford decided it wasn't worth the effort and quit. At least a few Mustangs were accidently made with Euro style windshields, and had to be reworked at great cost.
MustangJim
Technician

The Kuga is the same as the Escape, just as the Fusion/Mondeo was. 

Snailish
Engineer

Or the "new" Ranger that was already being sold as a Ranger in other places for years.

AdrianClarke
Instructor

I suspect this is not true as the Mustang has been a huge hit in Europe. The Kuga is your Escape.
relton
Advanced Driver

A few years back, GM did a teardown of the "world car" Corolla. I saw 3 versions of the Corolla disassembled. The US version, the Euro version and the Japanese version. Other than some external sheet metal parts, they had no other parts in common.

i think the success of Corollas, Civics, and so on is not that they are common the world over, but that they are made to meet the tastes, and desires, of the market in which they are sold.

"World cars" are not driven by markets, but by bean counters who think they can make cars on the cheap. It has never worked since the Model T days.

BMW, and others, have managed to have world wide appeal by making cars for the markets were they are sold. The only common theme among their cars is the brand recognition and marketing, not the cars themselves.
Snailish
Engineer

This Corolla example is interesting to me.

 

If the external sheet metal is the same then the subframe structure would be common, or at least as common as when you can buy a Ford Fusion FWD vs AWD and that means some underneath changes. Nevertheless, development costs are shared in such platform variations (or you don't get the variations if the business case isn't there).

 

Right/Left hand drive it depends if the engineers designed it to cleanly "flip" or if one version is more cobbled together.

Bumpers/headlights have differed in the past due to regulations.

Grills often differ due to styling agendas.

Citing a Japanese model is interesting as there is a long history of that domestic market getting higher spec versions of the cars they send out to other places (hence the JDM parts aftermarket business).

 

North America has generally avoided Diesel cars, Europe was deep in on that. NA auto transmissions seem to have taken hold sooner and deeper?

 

But... in some of these markets we weren't given the choice either, maybe JDM specced Corollas (or Euro) would have sold better in Canada given the chance...

relton
Advanced Driver

JDM Corollas could not have been sold in Canada because Canada follows US safety standards, and adds a few of their own, like daytime running lights. JDM cars will not meet US safety standards because they use an entirely different manikin to set up interior dimensions, and hence the measurement of safety rules. To overcome that, you would wind up with an almost entirely differnt car.

Right hand driver versions are also difficult. While the position of the driver is 'flipped", the controls are not. The driver still uses his right foot for the accelerator, and the steering wheel still turns clockwise for a right turn. The mechanical components of cars are not symmetrical, so a lot of enginering has to go into making a LHD car a RHD, and, again, lots of different parts. Customer preferences, like the location of the hood release handle, also require more new parts. Cadillac tried to sell cars in England with the hood release still on the left side of the car, out of reach of the driver. Lots of pushback on that one.

Canadian cars are often less optioned, and lower trimmed, than US versions. Customer and cultural prefernces, as Canadians buy the lower trimmed cars in far greater numbers than US customes.

There hasn't been a real world car since the Model T, and I don't think there ever will be one.
Snailish
Engineer

I think you will find Canadians spend the same money for less car, it's not  a preference for less.

FloridaMarty
Instructor

The time is coming very soon or maybe right now, that a world car would solve many issues, but the car makers are as divided as the current US political scene. A simple car, built for transportation, affordable, reliable, easy to maintain. We need a car like the "T" or the "bug" again.
Snailish
Engineer

Or/and the Mini or Land Rover or the Land Cruiser depending on what part of the world you do your driving.

mfp4073
Advanced Driver

Hallelujah!!!!!
82spider
Pit Crew

Interesting, Adrian. You had me with "Yates."

Seems like Honda had few issues and companies like GM had all the issues. Sounds like they were not as well researched to be truly "global" in reach.
AdrianClarke
Instructor

I think it's more the fact that GM in the US was a very big ship with a very narrow view that blinkered their thinking. They had Opel/Vauxhall to take care of Europe and Holden (again, a completely separate division) in Australia. So they didn't need to worry. Until the world started getting smaller, and they just weren't equipped in the US to deal with it.
Honda et al (and brands in the UK that didn't have parents in Detroit like BLMC) had to export to survive.
js100
Detailer

The article mentioned the Beetle, but failed to recognize the very successful VW Rabbit / Golf, that for multiple generations (including current) are sold all over the world. I've not disassembled any of these, but they have certainly looked and driven the same in the US / Europe / Mexico when I've rented one. Another German brand, Mercedes seems to sell a re-trimmed version of many of it's models in Europe / North America / Middle & Far East, and has for decades. I think that the US companies could have used any of these to manage their own programs for mass market and luxury models. As a note, I think the imported 70's Capri and Fiesta were better cars than anything made by Ford (or GM) stateside. Too bad the exchange rate killed those programs.

TG
Gearhead

John, Paul, George, or Ringo?

js100
Detailer

They all seemed to have done well, worldwide.  Thanks!

AdrianClarke
Instructor

Yeah you’re right but I wanted to get into the meat of the article and didn’t need anymore examples (but the Golf was mentioned later).
golfnut53083
Intermediate Driver

Excellent article and follow up comments. I was selling new Fords in the late '70's and early '80's when the Escort was introduced. I was amazed at how different the euro version was. Too bad the U.S big 3 didn't "get it".
ctaarman
Detailer

Adrian, I hate to break the bad news to you. Abe Books is owned by Amazon, acquired a couple of years back... You need to find another bookseller!
AdrianClarke
Instructor

Oh god, really? Goddamn you Bezos! (waves fist at local fulfilment center).
Figgy308
Intermediate Driver

One thing that is usually a tell on imported 'world' cars is the amount the importer tells you was spent on tuning it for local conditions. $20 million on dampers, $15m on a larger a/c compressor etc. It is the magicians hand of sleight, we couldn't build what you want, but we threw money at this other thing that you didn't like.
AdrianClarke
Instructor

We took out the expensive, advanced powertrain that gives you power and economy and replaced it with an asthmatic boat anchor! But we gave you wire wheels and extra seat padding! Never mid the quality, feel the width!
SJ
Technician

World car is supposed to fly. I read that many years ago(and watched the Jetson's).
Oldroad1
Gearhead

Who will be the first manufacturer to come up with the first world SUBEV? COMMUCAR, we'll call it.
janedon
Advanced Driver

the Model T was only a "World Car" because there were'nt many other Good choices & Ford had the money to produce enough of them-- (Flood the market)---making them Cheap--
AdrianClarke
Instructor

Yeah it was early pioneer days and the fact it was the first (ok not THE first but you get the point) mass produced car available in any quantity. Henry was obsessed with lowering cost (to his detriment) and couldn't conceive people wouldn't more car than the T provided. This would nearly be his undoing as he refused to design something more modern, until he was basically forced into it (the Model A).
Tinkerah
Engineer

It's more comforting than you'd think knowing in advance how you'll meet your end. In my case, I'll trip over something while gingerly making my way through my cluttered-beyond-all-reason garage and after thousands of successful saves NOT catch myself, and fall. I'll knock myself out and bleed to death before anyone misses me.
iamwho2k
Intermediate Driver

Both of my uncles --one in Maui, the other in Oregon-- had 'Mercury' Capris. My Maui uncle drove at, uh, some speed in excess of the limit. It got me hooked on 'forbidden fruit'. I actually protested to no one in particular --the Internet hadn't been invented-- when I learned Ford had turned the European Escort (I still lust for a XR3i) into a debased American Escort. It is weirdly ironic now that ordinary Fords like Fiestas and Focuses have become forbidden fruit, though I would sacrifice an organ or two for a RS200.
AdrianClarke
Instructor

Tbh the XR3i was not that well regarded at the time, the engine was a bit coarse and it lacked power and engineering sophistication compared to a Golf GTi say. But Ford knew how to sell a car and knew it's customers and those UK fast Fords were all monster hits.
Like all things eighties the prices have gone nuts. They're good cars, but not £30k good.
Flashman
Technician

I'm never disappointed reading your work and always feel more enlightened afterwards. Now that Mr. Baruth is MIA you're the best thing on Hagerty.
AdrianClarke
Instructor

That sir, is praise I’m not worthy of. But thank you.
AdrianClarke
Instructor

Sorry I'm late to the party gang, I've been away for a week or so. If anyone wants to get stuck in below, I'm back.