Sur­prises, sur­prises un­der your bon­net

The beat­ing heart of your car doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily wear the badge you imag­ine road­war­rior

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODMOTORING - HENRI DU PLESSIS

THE MO­TOR in­dus­try is fas­ci­nat­ing. If you think what you need to put to­gether to make a mod­ern mo­tor car and then think how many dif­fer­ent makes of mo­tor cars there are out there, you can­not help but won­der how all th­ese com­pa­nies make money.

In the mil­i­tary, we re­ferred to hold­ing to­gether all the strings that made up a com­bat op­er­a­tion as “Com­mand and Con­trol”. Well, I am telling you, the com­mand and con­trol of a car fac­tory must be one heck of a thing. There are a lot of strings to hold to­gether and I think headache tablets must be in good sup­ply.

It ac­tu­ally never ceases to amaze me how all th­ese things stay to­gether.

You have the head bone fit­ting on the jaw bone, which fits on the neck bone which goes on the shoul­der bone, and so on. The elec­tri­cal com­po­nents, the body sec­tions and pan­els, the sus­pen­sion com­po­nents, the glass, the in­te­rior ma­te­ri­als, the dash­board, the in­stru­ments, the en­gine, the gear­box, the cool­ing sys­tem, rub­ber hoses, lights, lenses, brack­ets, dif­fer­ent bolts, nuts and screws. Quite a show.

The mov­ing as­sem­bly line was, of course, as most of us know by now, the cre­ative work of a ge­nius called Henry Ford. Be­fore that, I think to pro­duce more than one car at a time must have been a rather mixed-up busi­ness.

Back in the day, when cars be­gan, man­u­fac­tur­ers made a lot of things in-house for their ve­hi­cles. Nowa­days, one finds in­de­pen­dent ( and not- so- in­de­pen­dent) man­u­fac­tur­ers pro­duce a wide range of com­po­nents on con­tract. Th­ese com­po­nents are then brought to the as­sem­bly plant ac­cord­ing to a tight sched­ule based on the so-called just-in-time prin­ci­ple.

This prin­ci­ple sug­gests that one should en­sure not to take de­liv­ery of, and pay for, com­po­nents too far ahead of time, as it would then re­duce your cash flow and in­crease your over­heads at any given time, while ty­ing down bud­gets. Or some­thing like that.

So you want that com­po­nent to get to you just as it is about to go into the car, the­o­ret­i­cally.

All th­ese com­po­nents are, how­ever, usu­ally made to the de­signs that come from the car man­u­fac­turer con­cerned, of course. Ex­cept those that re­ally don’t mat­ter, as long as they do the job. Such as the al­ter­na­tor, or the bat­tery, for ex­am­ple.

Even gear­boxes are shared. A most no­table ex­am­ple is the BMW M3/Fer­rari Cal­i­for­nia shar­ing of a Ge­trag twin-clutch unit. Of course, there are soft­ware dif­fer­ences, with the Fer­rari box be­ing the more rad­i­cal.

But a whole bloom­ing en­gine? Er, yes. A sweet lit­tle tra­di­tion had ac­tu­ally built up around it over the years. And one would be sur­prised to see who the part­ners in an en­gine share can be. Mini and Citroen, for ex­am­ple. Alfa Romeo and Opel, for another. VW and Audi? No sur­prises there.

But what about Gen­eral Mo­tors and Chrysler? There’s a nice sur­prise for you, isn’t it?

An Ital­ian- based, partly Gen­eral Mo­tors-owned com­pany called VM Mo­tori has been mak­ing diesel en­gines for Jeep and Chrysler prod­ucts. Not bad kit at all, re­ally. But it was a sur­prise. If you go on to the var­i­ous chat rooms on the web about Ford, Chevro­let and Chrysler en­gines, you will no­tice that the Amer­i­cans are rather feu­dal in their ap­proach to their favourite en­gine. It is a log­i­cal con­clu­sion that if the com­pany was 50 per­cent owned by Gen­eral Mo­tors, it must have made diesels for GM prod­ucts too.

The other share­holder in this en­gine builder was, in­ter­est­ingly, Fiat Au­to­mo­biles. Which owns ev­ery­thing from Fer­rari through to Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Lan­cia and, well, Fiat. As well as the Iveco truck com­pany and Fiat trac­tors.

So, you won’t soon find a Fer­rari diesel. And Fer­rari cer­tainly build all their own en­gines. Of course.

But, who’d have thought it pos­si­ble, un­til early this year – Maserati has just re­cently launched its lat­est Ghi­bli range (the smaller Qu­at­tro­porte) and one model is a diesel. With an en­gine from VM Mo­tori.

Now, Fiat Group Au­to­mo­biles’ has, fol­low­ing re­ceipt of reg­u­la­tory ap­provals, ac­quired the re­main­ing 50 per­cent stake in VM Mo­tori from Gen­eral Mo­tors.

Started in 1947, VM Mo­tori spe­cialises in the pro­duc­tion of diesel en­gines. Its man­u­fac­tur­ing plant lo­cated in Cento, in north-east Italy, cov­ers an area of 85 000m and em­ploys around 1 150 peo­ple.

VM pro­duces about 90 000 en­gines a year. In­ter­est­ingly, Lon­don Taxi is another client.

VM also sup­plies en­gines to in­dus­trial, agri­cul­tural and ma­rine clients.

It only goes to show then. For those of us who still cling to the idea that the en­gine is the heart of the car, nix, brothers and sis­ters. That in­tan­gi­ble thing called “the con­cept” is all that is ex­clu­sive.

MEAN MA­CHINE: Maserati’s Ghi­bli range in­cludes a diesel en­gine from VM Mo­tori.

OUT­SOURCED: The Jeep Chero­kee has a diesel en­gine from VM Mo­tori.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.