Say what you like about globalisation, one thing is certain: it helps the world to cross economic and cultural boundaries and move closer together. This is not necessarily due only to the rapid evolution of the Internet, but also to mobility: because the reputation of a good auto brand applies worldwide. In Asia, America or Europe, people everywhere want to feel the same kind of enthusiasm for a new car. Enthusiasm for the automobile is something that we all share - it connects us, no matter where we live.
To take enthusiasm for technology and turn it into a global feeling can present an engineering service provider with an enormous challenge. Because even if a new car is launched throughout the world, that still doesn't make it the same thing everywhere. It might look the same. But it is the local, specific details that reveal that, despite all the internationality, cultural idiosyncrasies must be taken into account if a vehicle is to be popular. In other words, if a vehicle is to feel good everywhere, then it must not feel exactly the same everywhere. It needs to be made specially for each particular country. And the details, for instance those that generate more comfort, can be exact opposites in Asia and America - what counts in the end is that the driver feels the comfort. What means are required to achieve this end in any given region is something a good engineer needs to know.
Just how complex and challenging the anticipation and consideration of regional differences can be in a global product launch can be seen with General Motors' Chevrolet Cruze. The vehicle platform currently covers a total of eight vehicles, with four main body variants and two different wheelbases. The body variants on offer are one notchback, two hatchbacks (3- and 5-door models) and one estate, all of course with left- and right-hand drive.
The idea was to manufacture the follow-up generation of the compact vehicle at four locations which, culturally speaking, couldn't have been more different: Europe, China, Russia and the USA. EDAG engineers were commissioned to develop the complete interior of all the vehicles. From the design and development of the parts, components such as the instrument panel, centre console, door trims and roof, to pillar trims, luggage compartment trims, insulation and carpets. At the peak of project management, up to 50 members of the EDAG development team were involved in the project.
Working on this vehicle proved to be a challenging undertaking, since handling a worldwide development means that simply every idiosyncrasy of each of the markets involved needs to be taken into account in advance. And with the Cruze, there were literally countless such idiosyncrasies.
Working from Fulda, a global network of suppliers for various vehicle components was coordinated at a very early stage of development, to ensure that the right decisions could be made for each of the variants from the outset. For many of the details, it was necessary for specialists and experts from various markets to work together: for instance, instrument panels in China are different from those in the USA. Drivers in America prefer automatic parking brakes, whereas manual hand brakes are preferred in Asia. This meant that the interior, and the centre console in particular, needed to be fully adjusted to these requirements.
However, the degree of engineering detail in a project of this type needs to take not only technical details into account, but also local legislation: in the USA, for example, there is no law making the wearing of seatbelts compulsory. Vehicles there must therefore have a different kind of impact protection.
The only way that the countless different requirements could possibly be met was by drawing on the know-how of EDAG's worldwide subsidiaries on the one hand, and working hand in hand with the various suppliers on the other. In fact, there were times during the development phase when our Fulda branch resembled nothing so much as an Olympic village. And just like during the Olympic games, the idea here was to achieve the best possible result by working together to tackle and master a joint task, regardless of nationality.
The success of this global cooperation can be seen and felt in the new Chevrolet Cruze. Worldwide. Everywhere.