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Old 01-03-13, 08:22 PM   #1
mmarshall
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Default Are the best American-badged small cars now designed overseas?

Hoovey 2411 recently brought up an interesting point that I think is worth of a separate CAR CHAT thread and discussion..........that Ford, GM, and Chrysler may (?) have given up on trying to domestically design and produce a truly good small car that can be sold here at a profit. I knew, of course, that much of the latest-generation Ford Focus, Dodge Dart, and Buick Verano were designed in Europe (or off of Euro-platforms)....and Hoovey also pointed out that much of the new Chevy Cruze was also designed in Europe (though the Verano and Cruze are actually much different, and not simple rebadges).

Though all of these cars are still too new in the American market to truly gauge long-term reliability (Consumer Reports has some first-year reliability data on all but the Dart, and some additional data on the Cruze), it is obvious (to me at least) that these cars, after years of disappointing small cars from Detroit manufacturers, are light-years ahead of even their most recent predecessors in fit/finish, quality of interior trim, driving dynamics, and precision-assembly. Sure, there are a couple of sticking points....like the quirky Focus twin-clutch automatic and MyTouch/SYNC controls, the Dart's somewhat underpowered low-line engines and baseball-sized shift-handle, the Cruze's recalls, and the Verano's somewhat cramped interior. But there seems to be no denying that today's American badged C-class compacts (and the supcompact B-Class Ford Fiesta and Chevy Sonic) are simply worlds ahead of their predecessors. Or, at least, as of now, they seem to be.

And, as has been pointed out, these vehicles essentially came from Euro-platforms. The Focus came from a Ford world-car platform also jointly developed with the Volvo S40(before Ford sold off the company) and Mazda3....all highly-respected compacts. The Dart, of course, is done on a modified version of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform, with (mostly) Fiat MultiAir engines and a Dodge-designed interior. The Cruze and Verano (although both quite different from each other) come from the European Opel/Vauxhall Astra platform, though each use domestic GM Ecotec powertrains, and the Verano gets a lot of added sound-insulation.....besides using an almost identical version of the Astra's dash/console/door-panels. A Buick Excelle version of the Verano is also sold in China, and is currently that country's top-selling car. Most of you know that I was impressed enough with the Verano to actually buy one. I was also, in general, very impressed with both the Cruze and Dart.....and only slightly less-so with the new Focus, mainly because of its dash-design and the quirky twin-clutch transmission at low speeds.

So....have we now entered a new era, where junk domestic compacts are a thing of the past? Seems to be at least some evidence of it. But Hoovey also brought up another interesting point.......we may (?) also be experiencing some brain-drain here in America as some of our best auto-designers and engineers end up working in Europe.
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Old 01-03-13, 09:22 PM   #2
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Several years ago I wrote several articles in other blog sites about this topic. It's not complicated at all. American car companies were incompentent and had to turn to their Euro branches to gain a decent car. It's plain and simple failure, with the wool currently being pulled over America's eyes with today's "non-US" offerings.
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Old 01-03-13, 09:41 PM   #3
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Several years ago I wrote several articles in other blog sites about this topic.
In those several years, though, we've seen quite a lot of improvement. Contrast the new Dart, for instance, with the notorious junk compact vehicles that Dodge/Plymouth sold before it. I think you'll agree there's little or no comparison. That's also the case with the Focus, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the Cruze. I say a somewhat lesser-extent wih the Cruze because the Cruze's predecessor Cobalt, IMO, was a somewhat better car than the Dodge Caliber, which preceeded the Dart.


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It's plain and simple failure, with the wool currently being pulled over America's eyes with today's "non-US" offerings.
I'll agree there's no arguments on the (formerly) failure part, though I'm not so sure that it's (now) a case of wool being pulled over people's eyes. I think a lot of Americans are simply glad to have a choice now among some cars that they simply didn't have in the past. They don't have to go to a Japanese, Korean, or Euro-nameplates now to get a good small car. Not only that, but the Big Three dealerships, of course, provide many more local outlets for sales and service. For example, in many places in the U.S., just try and find a still-operating Suzuki or Mitsubishi dealership within a reasonable distance...it's like a needle in a haystack.
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Old 01-03-13, 11:40 PM   #4
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Thanks for the bringing up this topic Mike. In recent years, the Small and Subcompact have exploded onto the market thanks in part to consumer demand, government regulations, and economic woes. It's been a staple for Japanese brands with great offerings such as the Fit, Civic, Corolla. Domestics tried a few years ago with some models like the first Focus (which later became more American and diluted from it's Euro roots), the Neon, Caliber, Cobalt, and the terrible Aveo. So now with the Domestics back with small cars that trace their designs to overseas, they are much improved. Does this mean Domestics (or HQ) have given up at home? The way I see it, if manufacturers are looking to cut back and share global platforms that can compete in international markets then it shouldn't matter too much whether it was designed in Detroit, Tokyo or Munich. Like you mentioned Mike, the new C and B class segments have dramatically improved over what was produced even just a few years ago. To be honest the fine lines of what make an American car have really blurred, and for that matter I think the whole market is just becoming more international. Are BMW's produced in the Carolina's any less German? The way I see it, as long as the cars being produced by the Domestics are competent and competitive then I don't see a problem with them being designed overseas.
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Old 01-04-13, 03:02 AM   #5
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I was always wondering the same thing living in Mexico and seeing the Euro-spec American vehicles on the roads and thinking to myself, "these are way better than the American cars we have back home."
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Old 01-04-13, 03:55 AM   #6
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Wasnt Cruze designed in Korea by exDaewoo? Same as most other GM small car platforms, they are actually designed by GM-Daewoo Korea, not Europe.
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Old 01-04-13, 08:52 AM   #7
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I was always wondering the same thing living in Mexico and seeing the Euro-spec American vehicles on the roads and thinking to myself, "these are way better than the American cars we have back home."
I thought the same about the Ranger whilst living in the Philippines. I liked the international ranger much more than the domestic one.
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Old 01-04-13, 09:32 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Hoovey2411 View Post
and the terrible Aveo.
The base-model Aveo was admittedly El Cheapo in almost every way (military-grade interior, manual windows/doors/mirrors, no A/C), but the top-line LT2 model had surprisingly good fit/finish and a plush interior. Unfortunately, the chassis-engineering and powertrain in all of the versions wouldn't even fit the appliance-category.

Here's a shot of the Aveo LT2's top-line interior.
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Old 01-04-13, 09:40 AM   #9
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Wasnt Cruze designed in Korea by exDaewoo? Same as most other GM small car platforms, they are actually designed by GM-Daewoo Korea, not Europe.
A little of both. It was actually a world-platform where Daewoo and Opel both played a large role. That's one thing that separates the Cruze from the Verano.....The Verano is more closely-tied to the Opel/Vauxhall Astra than the Cruze, though both Cruze and Verano use American-spec GM Ecotec drivetrains, with Verano having the larger base-engine.
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Old 01-04-13, 09:44 AM   #10
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I thought the same about the Ranger whilst living in the Philippines. I liked the international ranger much more than the domestic one.
The larger F-150's enormous sales numbers pretty much forced the Ranger out of the American market. Few buyers were willing to go for the Ranger when a few $$$$$ more gave them a substantially larger, more powerful, more comfortable, and more versatile truck. True, the F-150 guzzles gas (especially with heavy-duty packages), but fuel-economy is usually not a major concern of truck-buyers.
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Old 01-04-13, 07:48 PM   #11
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Yes, I was concerned about the brain drain of automotive design engineers out of North America. With the loss of engineers and the continuing loss of manufacturing in North America, we may be losing our middle class.

International sharing of automotive platforms is good: it prevents a duplication (and triplication) of effort and saves costs. But the Detroit Three's current FWD sub-compact, compact, mid-size and even full-size vehicles ride on platforms designed and engineered in Western Europe (Germany, Italy) or East Asia (South Korea, China, Japan). It seems that there is no need for FWD automotive platform design engineers in North America.

The platform is what is important and these modern automotive platforms are not designed in North America. Although the visible portion of Detroit's current cars may be different from their international cousins (but, increasingly, they do not even look different), they are merely "top hats" (according to Ford's Alan Mulally); one platform can share various different top hats, just as a man can change a hat. The vehicles look different but they are the same under those different hats.

The Chevy Cruze was designed in part by GM Daewoo in South Korea, just as the current Buick Lacrosse was designed in part by Shanghai GM but it is the platform that counts. The Cruze and Buick Verano (and the Volt and the Opel Astra) all share the GM Delta II platform so they are all related. The Buick Lacrosse, the 2013 Chevy Malibu and Cadillac XTS (and the 2014 Chevy Impala) all share the Epsilon II platform, so they are all related.

These 2 platforms were designed and engineered in Germany, and were designed to accomodate numerous engines to allow for different engines in different regions of the world; this is part of the localization process. GM's sub-compact vehicles are designed and engineered in South Korea.

Ford's current sub-compact (Fiesta), compact (Focus), mid-size (2013 Fusion) and full-size (Taurus) platforms were all designed in Europe, the smaller ones in conjunction with Mazda and the large one in conjunction with Volvo.

Chrysler's mid-size (Chrysler Sebring/200, Dodge Avenger and Journey) platform was originally designed in conjunction with Mitsubishi, and compact (Dodge Dart) platform was originally designed by Fiat.

The Chevy Camaro's RWD Zeta platform was originally designed in Australia by GM Holden, as was the Cadillac CTS' Sigma II platform. The Cadillac ATS, however, rides on a new Alpha platform, engineered in Michigan because the Sigma platform is too heavy for the smaller ATS.

So I am now somewhat more optimistic. GM's newest RWD platform is designed in North America. I wonder if Ford's next full-size platform will be designed in North America or be a stretch of its current (or next) European mid-size platform, now that they have severed ties with Volvo (which designed Ford's current full-size platform).
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Old 01-04-13, 08:08 PM   #12
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Yes, I was concerned about the brain drain of automotive design engineers out of North America. With the loss of engineers and the continuing loss of manufacturing in North America, we may be losing our middle class.

International sharing of automotive platforms is good: it prevents a duplication (and triplication) of effort and saves costs. But the Detroit Three's current FWD sub-compact, compact, mid-size and even full-size vehicles ride on platforms designed and engineered in Western Europe (Germany, Italy) or East Asia (South Korea, China, Japan). It seems that there is no need for FWD automotive platform design engineers in North America.

The platform is what is important and these modern automotive platforms are not designed in North America. Although the visible portion of Detroit's current cars may be different from their international cousins (but, increasingly, they do not even look different), they are merely "top hats" (according to Ford's Alan Mulally); one platform can share various different top hats, just as a man can change a hat. The vehicles look different but they are the same under those different hats.

The Chevy Cruze was designed in part by GM Daewoo in South Korea, just as the current Buick Lacrosse was designed in part by Shanghai GM but it is the platform that counts. The Cruze and Buick Verano (and the Volt and the Opel Astra) all share the GM Delta II platform so they are all related. The Buick Lacrosse, the 2013 Chevy Malibu and Cadillac XTS (and the 2014 Chevy Impala) all share the Epsilon II platform, so they are all related.

These 2 platforms were designed and engineered in Germany, and were designed to accomodate numerous engines to allow for different engines in different regions of the world; this is part of the localization process. GM's sub-compact vehicles are designed and engineered in South Korea.

Ford's current sub-compact (Fiesta), compact (Focus), mid-size (2013 Fusion) and full-size (Taurus) platforms were all designed in Europe, the smaller ones in conjunction with Mazda and the large one in conjunction with Volvo.

Chrysler's mid-size (Chrysler Sebring/200, Dodge Avenger and Journey) platform was originally designed in conjunction with Mitsubishi, and compact (Dodge Dart) platform was originally designed by Fiat.

The Chevy Camaro's RWD Zeta platform was originally designed in Australia by GM Holden, as was the Cadillac CTS' Sigma II platform. The Cadillac ATS, however, rides on a new Alpha platform, engineered in Michigan because the Sigma platform is too heavy for the smaller ATS.

So I am now somewhat more optimistic. GM's newest RWD platform is designed in North America. I wonder if Ford's next full-size platform will be designed in North America or be a stretch of its current (or next) European mid-size platform, now that they have severed ties with Volvo (which designed Ford's current full-size platform).
Very well written. There is growing manufacturing in America though.

Click the image to open in full size.

Americans just don't like small cars. We have big roads, tons of roads and big vehicles to share them with. Look what works, the RWD Charger and Magnum, relatively cheap with V-8s. Same with the Mustang, Camaro and they are not small.

Maybe they should allocate energies to more RWD larger cars in the 20-30k range.
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Old 01-05-13, 02:24 PM   #13
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In those several years, though, we've seen quite a lot of improvement. Contrast the new Dart, for instance, with the notorious junk compact vehicles that Dodge/Plymouth sold before it. I think you'll agree there's little or no comparison. That's also the case with the Focus, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the Cruze. I say a somewhat lesser-extent wih the Cruze because the Cruze's predecessor Cobalt, IMO, was a somewhat better car than the Dodge Caliber, which preceeded the Dart.




I'll agree there's no arguments on the (formerly) failure part, though I'm not so sure that it's (now) a case of wool being pulled over people's eyes. I think a lot of Americans are simply glad to have a choice now among some cars that they simply didn't have in the past. They don't have to go to a Japanese, Korean, or Euro-nameplates now to get a good small car. Not only that, but the Big Three dealerships, of course, provide many more local outlets for sales and service. For example, in many places in the U.S., just try and find a still-operating Suzuki or Mitsubishi dealership within a reasonable distance...it's like a needle in a haystack.
I agree with the overall idea that domestic nameplates are better than they used to be. They have to be to remain competitive. However, there is still what we call the best of the best and the worst of the worst. The new Dart is an improvement over the Neon but in reality, it remains on the worst of the worst list. It is a horrible car and is unable to compete with anything in its price range. I've seen up close the quality in construction and there's only one word to describe it; Pathetic. There's no excuse for the corners that Chrysler cut to produce this car. It is destined to become the next Neon which was always a piece of garbage, tin can, throw away car. The Hyundai Elantra makes the Neon...er...Dart....look like a bad joke. It's actually difficult to believe that the dart is a step up from the Caliber because it's inconceivable that Chrysler could do worse. I can think of no other car in the US market that is worse than the Caliber.
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Old 01-05-13, 03:13 PM   #14
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A little of both. It was actually a world-platform where Daewoo and Opel both played a large role. That's one thing that separates the Cruze from the Verano.....The Verano is more closely-tied to the Opel/Vauxhall Astra than the Cruze, though both Cruze and Verano use American-spec GM Ecotec drivetrains, with Verano having the larger base-engine.
its not a little bit of both though, platform itself was designed by Daewoo and then Opel built a car around it, while Buick made some changes to make it a Buick.

GM-Daewoo sells their versions as cheap transportation and they sell well... Opel tried to make it almost-premium and are failing.
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Old 01-05-13, 03:19 PM   #15
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A little of both. It was actually a world-platform where Daewoo and Opel both played a large role. That's one thing that separates the Cruze from the Verano.....The Verano is more closely-tied to the Opel/Vauxhall Astra than the Cruze, though both Cruze and Verano use American-spec GM Ecotec drivetrains, with Verano having the larger base-engine.
I read just recently that the Verano and Cruze come off the same assembly line. If this is correct I would think they share the same roots and platform. The Verano certainly offers more ammenities and sound deadening materials. etc

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