“Toyota said the move, aimed at cutting development costs by 20%, would start with mid-sized, front-wheel-drive vehicles this year. It wants half of vehicles it sells globally by 2020 to fall under the new platform strategy.”
Specifics are trickling out about Toyota’s plans. It seems that they want to make more different products from fewer components and have plants that are competitive even at low volume.
Readers’ comments on the idea of having fewer platforms and more common parts are focused on the risk of extensive recalls, and the way such recalls can wipe out any savings achieved by the strategy.
It really is a matter of degree and of execution. Having fewer dashboard options might reduce the attractiveness of your products, but using fewer types of proportioning valves will not. Also, it is easier to ensure not only availability but quality as well for fewer components, making recalls less likely.
With regards to volume in a given plant, Toyota’s strategy seems a continuation of their work on the Global Body Line, in which the same infrastructure and fixtures could be used for robotic welding at high volume and manual welding at low volume.