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THE “JV” I have in mind is “Joint Venture,” wherein two or more companies share their talents in research, development or production. We’ve seen this big time with Subaru/Toyota and their BRZ/Scion FR-S, respectively. And coming are Fiat/Mazda as well as BMW/Toyota, of which more anon here.
I’ve listed these JV pairs with alphabetical orderings, as it’s not always clear just who does what. On the other hand, it’s fun to analyze JV products, and I have devised a tool for this: the SimanaitisSaysW Test, where the “W” can stand for “Who” or “What” or, a bit more depressingly, “Why.” Let’s call it the SSWT for short.
Briefly, if differentiating two JV products is straightforward—by virtue of styling, personality or mission—then the pair passes. If differentiation degenerates into a trivia game of slight nuances, then the pair fails.
Subaru/Toyota. As an example, differences between the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S are not profound. They’re the subject of bar bets, to be settled in the parking lot.
And, in fact, elsewhere in the world, this particular JV fesses up: In Japan, South Africa and Australia, the car is a Toyota 86 (“Eight-Six,” “Hatchi-Roku”); in Europe, it’s a Toyota GT86.
Cadillac/Chevrolet. By contrast, even though it’s an in-house JV, I’m ready to give the Cadillac ELR and its precursor and sibling, the Chevrolet Volt, an SSWT Pass.
To my eye, the ELR does a good job of updating Cadillac’s Art & Science theme (now a decade old). Come 2014, no one is going to confuse it with a Volt. The ELR is 2 inches wider and has standard 20-inch wheels. What’s more, the car’s luxury fitments—and price—are going to be definers of character as well.
Let’s hope similar things prevail with Fiat/Mazda and BMW/Toyota. Here’s what we know so far.
Fiat/Mazda. On January 18, 2013, Fiat and Mazda firmed up last May’s Memorandum of Understanding in signing an agreement to co-develop two convertible two-seat rear-drive sports cars. Manufactured by Mazda in its Hiroshima plant starting in 2015, the cars will be the next-generation MX-5 as well as an Alfa Romeo Spider.
The two companies have used words such as “differentiated” and “distinctly styled” in describing their goal for these new sports cars. Also, each one will be powered by engines unique to that brand.
It’s sounding like a potential SSWT Pass.
BMW/Toyota. BMW and Toyota have broadened their JV fortunes in signing binding agreements concerning several areas: lightweight technologies, fuel cell systems—and new sports cars. Also cited was collaborative research on lithium-air batteries, the next step beyond today’s lithium-ion technology.
By 2020, the two companies hope to co-produce a fuel-cell propulsion system, not just the basic fuel-cell stack, but also its related hydrogen storage, battery and motor. Here, I’d give Toyota precedence in its work to date.
By contrast, BMW brings advanced expertise in composite production techniques, together with another JV—its link with SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers and their joint Moses Lake, Washington, facility.
The sports cars are envisioned as sharing a mid-size platform. This aspect of the agreement is still under study, with a decision expected by the end of 2013.
Whatever their characters, let’s hope these sports cars have BMW handling prowess and Toyota production costs. May we anticipate another SSWT Pass?
[A late add, based on news today, January 26, 2013: Mercedes-Benz has announced a delay until 2017 for introduction of its production fuel-cell car, previously expected in 2015. It’s said the company is now seeking a partner in the venture. Does anyone have Hyundai’s number handy?] ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013