Automotive Tube map | Car industry | Analysis

Published: 25 June 2010

Once every five years is quite enough. I drew CAR Magazine’s first ‘Tube map’ of the global car industry in 2005 and it nearly fried my brain. The idea seemed simple. With a nod to Harry Beck’s iconic schematic of the London Underground, we’d represent all the major automotive groups as lines and their brands as stops. The lines would only cross where the groups had a significant joint venture; developing new technologies or building cars or engines together. Simple? You try doing it.

>> Click here to download and view the 2010 car company Tube map

>> Click here to download and view the 2005 car company Tube map

But it was worth the brain-ache. You could see at a glance which car makers were busy deal-makers, and which remained aloof. You could start to see the rise of the Chinese and Indian car makers, and how well connected they already were. You wondered at the logic of multi-brand colossi like GM. You might have found a few makers you hadn’t heard of before – Iran Khodro, anyone? – and you could play an automotive version of ‘six degrees of Kevin Bacon’; how many changes do you need to get from Maruti to Bugatti?

The original was a minor online hit, so we decided to do it again, not least to chart how the car industry has been changed by arguably the most turbulent two years in its history. And it keeps changing; Tesla’s deal with Toyota was announced just as we were going to press and required a last-minute redrawing of the map, and Ford’s announcement that it will kill Mercury came just too late.

But how different is the automotive Tube map 2010?

There’s a full analysis with the new map in the July 2010 issue of CAR Magazine, but the headline is that there’s less change than we thought. Despite bankruptcies and predictions of doom and mass-mergers, all the major car groups are still there, and a few new ones have been created. Almost all the individual brands are still there too; some, like Saab, had near-death experiences, but the major casualties were badges killed voluntarily by GM as it downsized. PSA and Fiat are now our Circle and Central lines; at the heart of the industry, busy making deals with the small-car technology they have, and everyone else wants.

These deals, rather than full mergers with a partner of uncertain strength seem to be the way the industry is pulling itself out of the mire; even those previously aloof groups such as BMW and Daimler are now doing deals with each other. And the Chinese and Indian makers are still on the rise; SAIC and Tata now have whole lines of their own.

As we acknowledge in the magazine, and as any cartographer will tell you, there’s no such thing as a neutral map. Ours is drawn from the perspective of a western consumer. Fisker, which has yet to build a car, is represented but some big China-only brands are missing. We’ve taken some controversial decisions too; treating Renault and Nissan as one group – because the deals Carlos Ghosn has struck benefit both – and treating Porsche as a VW sub-brand already, because that’s what everyone agrees it will become.

And we’ve only included deals and co-operations of a certain scale. Maruti and Bugatti might share an indicator bulb, but if I’d tried to include it, my brain really would have melted.

>> Click here to download and view the 2010 car company Tube map

>> Click here to download and view the 2005 car company Tube map

By Ben Oliver

Contributing editor, watch connoisseur, purveyor of fine features