AUBURN HILLS, MI – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to expand its use of common architectures and parts, a strategy designed to drive down costs and reduce complexity, two top engineers say.

The first widespread use of the plan involves the automaker’s Compact Wide architecture, which today underpins the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Fiat Viaggio, Dodge Dart, Chrysler 200 and Jeep Cherokee.

“We’ve taken a common architecture and created vehicles with different DNA and driving experiences,” Mark Chernoby, senior vice president-engineering, says at a business review here today.

“Modular flexibility is the key to being able to meet a broad range of brand and market requirements.”

Although the automaker strives to share parts and components wherever possible, there are times when variation is required. For example, the rear suspensions of the Cherokee and Dart are different, which was required to meet specific brand attributes.

When determining how to best implement common architectures, Chernoby says engineers have to determine the range of the flexibility so the strategy won’t negatively impact products at either end of the range.

Several architecture attributes are studied before it is spread throughout product ranges, including how flexible the track and wheelbase are; required load carry capabilities; driveline options; ground-clearance requirements; tire and wheel size; and market constraints.

FCA has formed a team to focus on future consolidation strategies and accelerate the effort.

“We have purchasing and engineering groups working together optimizing plans,” says Scott Garberding, FCA manufacturing head. “The mission is to converge the highest performing parts families and selectively develop new parts families. We want to reduce total parts families more than half while expanding the vehicle portfolios.”

Plans call for FCA to reduce the number of architecture families to nine from 12 today by 2018, which will account for 95% of total volume.

Common architecture families will be used across multiple vehicles, and standardized component families will be used across multiple architectures.

Key to the strategy is optimizing parts performance through the convergence of parts families while retaining flexibility for specific customer needs.

“The component strategy is designed to reduce investments and fixed costs for FCA and our suppliers,” Garberding says. “Aligning strategies enables (suppliers) to leverage efficient utilization of fixed assets and sustainable cost improvements for FCA.”

bpope@wardsauto.com