On the surface, it seems like there are quite a lot of auto manufacturers out there. Why in the 90s, USA manufacturers alone we had: Chevy, GMC, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, HUMMER, Geo, Cadillac, Saturn, Buick, Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Plymouth. Of course, all of these diversity is actually only 3 companies: General Motors, Ford Motors, and Chrysler.
This all started when Alfred Sloan came up with the idea of a GM “ladder of success”. The idea being that there is a GM car for “every purse and purpose”. So a young professional could start with a Chevrolet, and work their way up to a Cadillac.
Unfortunately, designing and manufacturing cars is an extremely expensive, time-intensive process. This means most companies (especially GM) took shortcuts to fill out their range of cars. So even though you’re driving a Cadillac DeVille, it’s really the same “platform” as a Buick LeSabre, Pontiac Bonneville, and Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight. The only real differences came down to available options and body cladding.
Most of the time this strategy worked well, and consumers were more or less unaware. Of course it most famously backfired when Cadillac decided to use the compact “J-Body” platform of the Chevrolet Cavalier for a new smaller Cadillac called the Cimarron. Unfortunately Cadillac took a few too many shortcuts here, and what came out made it abundantly clear to consumers that they were paying for an overpriced Cavalier. Can you tell which is which?
The good news for cars that are produced on a platform like this is that it’s very easy to find parts. Often you can take a part directly out of a Cavalier and use it in a Cimarron (alternatively you can upgrade you Cavalier to have Cadillac options!).
Lest you think America is the only one that tries this, keep in mind your fancy Lexus ES is in fact a Toyota Camry underneath.
What do you think about cross platform cars?