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Parts to be standardized as Japanese automakers aim to cut costs, develop vehicles faster

The Yomiuri Shimbun –

TOKYO — Toyota Motor Corp. has announced the introduction of a new vehicle development system that will standardize major auto parts in an effort to cut costs.

The system is intended to develop various models—in particular vehicles aimed at emerging countries—faster and more inexpensively. Nissan Motor Co. and Germany’s Volkswagen AG are also taking similar steps.

However, such systems can negatively affect auto parts makers and other related companies.

Under the Toyota New Global Architecture announced this week, the automaker intends to standardize half its 4,000 to 5,000 major vehicle parts in the next few years. Parts to be standardized include engines and transmissions.

“This will be a way to make better cars,” Toyota President Akio Toyoda said during a press conference at the company’s headquarters in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture.

According to Toyota Executive Vice President Takeshi Uchiyamada, the new framework is aimed at “achieving cost cuts and product improvement at the same time.”

The automaker will aim to reduce engineering costs by at least 30 percent by standardizing vehicle platforms and conducting research and development of multiple models simultaneously.

Meanwhile, Nissan plans to introduce a system in 2013 in which vehicles will be developed in four modules and designed by combining these modules in different ways. Under this system, 80 percent of Nissan’s vehicle parts will be standardized, up from the current 40 percent, the company said.

The Volkswagen Group is scheduled to release a compact car developed under such an engineering system this year.

Toyota said the new system will standardize half of its major auto parts, enabling the parts to be used in different models regardless of vehicle size. Auto parts and components are usually developed according to the size of vehicles.

The introduction of such new engineering systems is therefore considered a major turning point for the auto industry.

Also behind the moves is stricter environmental regulations around the world.

“Costs to improve fuel performance and safety measures are expected to more than double in 2015 from 2010. So we’ve been forced to cut development costs,” a Nissan official said.

However, if such systems are introduced widely, automakers may no longer procure auto parts from small and midsize companies.

Herbert Hemming, president of German auto parts maker Bosch Corp.’s Japanese unit, expressed concern over the possible trend at a press conference Monday, saying some parts makers could be forced out of the competition if the race to cut costs intensifies.

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