Web customisable cars on the way?

Product lifecycle management combined with dynamic developing nations may facilitate Dell-style online car customisation and ordering says Siemens PLM

The same level of customisation available to purchasers of new PCs online may soon be coming to those looking to buy a new car, according to software company Siemens PLM.

According to Rajiv Ghatikar, vice president and general manager ASEAN at Siemens PLM, (the PLM stands for project lifecycle management), the car industry will evolve dramatically.

“Today you go into an Audi or Volkswagen website and the first question they ask you is to pick a model of car – so right there you are already constrained,” he said. “Tomorrow … you will be able to say, ‘I want the body of a Golf, the headlights of a Phaeton and the wheels of a Passat’ You will be able to customise your car.”

Ghatikar said at present manufacturers across most industries were constrained by a lack of scalability and flexibility in their production facilities to cater for a growing demand for customised products. This will change, he contends, with consumers able to have more input across the conception, design, manufacture, service and disposal of cars in future.

“Once customers know that [customisation] is a choice you will see the permutations that can come about. When a customer can see that they can customise the car, it will come to a particular cost and will be delivered to a certain schedule you will have, all of a sudden a customer with an unmet need that will now be met. You can only do that if you have the technology that can help you design that car, put [the customised parts] through the right tests and make it doable.”

With infrastructure and business processes geared to produce standardised cars, Ghatikar claimed customisation was likely to come by involving manufacturers in developing nations such as China and India, which have excess and lower-cost production capacity.

“Manufacturers could say that they are going to uniquely manufacture five models at any given time, but if you want customisation then we will outsource to tier one suppliers or other car companies under our supervision which will be able to support the supply chain,” he said.

Already this approach can be see with collaboration between Nissan and Maruti Suzuki in India, Ghatikar claimed.

“Maruti is saying to Nissan, ‘take our [car] body and go do what you want with it’. So we are already talking about OEM to OEM collaboration,” he said. “Nissan doesn’t want to go through an 18-month design process for a car which Maruti already has, so they will pay Maruti for the body – which gives Maruti some volume – Nissan will do tweaks on it then sell it.

“A lot of these developing countries are sitting with idle capacity – they have built capacity in advance of global export and if that export hasn’t come through then they will collaborate. No longer are companies shy of saying, ‘here, take my production capacity,’ because it helps them to reduce and manage their costs.”

Within Australia at present Siemens PLM is working with organisations in automotive, health, consumer packaging, utilities, defence and other public sector organisations, Ghatikar said.

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