February 25, 2024

The first thing I created in this game was a feature that linked all car manufacturers together through joint ventures and commercial ties. It was a sort of “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” for auto manufacturers, taking in all major manufacturers of cars until it returned to its original location.

Yes, I do. It was a simpler time. We had to create our entertainment.

It wasn’t easy. It didn’t count for a link if you used Bosch engine management as everyone else. It was acceptable to say something like “Ford sells engines in Caterham”, which uses engines from MG Rover. However, this is a tenuous statement. It’s possible, but it is a bit convoluted.

As our recent feature demonstrates, it wouldn’t take as much time or be so complex today.

Car makers are being driven by new tech. An analyst from HIS Markit said that car makers are now serious about electric cars but that EVs are a complicated business case.

Companies that would not otherwise be open to sharing a dashboard button are spreading development burdens.

Toyota, Subaru, and Suzuki all work together to develop electric platforms. VW has joined Ford is doing the same, while BMW and Jaguar Land Rover have been developing drive units together. These are just a few of the major tie-ins.

There’s still more to consider: advanced driver-assets systems that allow for self-driving, shared ownership and mobility as a service, and other fuels. It’s both incredibly exciting and terrifying for an industry that used to introduce new cars 10 per cent faster and 10 per cent cheaper than its predecessors. No wonder it is linking arms as it moves towards the unknown.

You can still find the old-school links here, but with new twists. Geely had not yet built its first car when I wrote this feature. It now owns Volvo and Lotus, Proton and Lynk&Co, and has a large stake in Daimler. Vauxhall, although now owned by PSA, still produces cars for GM. It took me several days to figure out the original feature. It would take me about 30 minutes to complete today.

They all share a common problem: the outliers, the dozens of EV start-ups or tech companies with extensive electronic engineering knowledge.

This outwardly simple feature may be telling. Vehicle engineering is a century of experience making the most expensive, durable and complicated consumer products on Earth. It is what binds car manufacturers together and what they will rely on more than ever.

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