Complexities in designing a vehicle standard. Part 1 - Regionalisation

Mark Song
March 27, 2023

Building and maintaining a comprehensive up-to-date vehicle database is a challenging task partly due to the regionalization of the automotive industry. Automakers design and build cars to meet the needs of different markets around the world such as local regulations, cultural preferences, marketing strategies, and production capabilities.

These are the factors that complicate the process of building a vehicle database.

1. Every country has a different car parc

Each country has its own unique fleet of vehicles, which can vary significantly in terms of make, model, year, and specifications. The reasons for this can vary but often have to do with differences in consumer preferences, regulations, and market conditions.

For example, the Toyota Hilux is a pickup truck that is sold in many countries. It has been the best-selling vehicle in Australia for several years but is not sold in the United States, where the Toyota Tacoma is more popular.

Here are some more interesting examples:

  • The Tata Nano 2009-2018 is a small city car that was developed in India and was marketed as the world's cheapest car at $2,000. However, it was not sold in other markets due to concerns over safety and emissions standards.
  • Suzuki Jimny is a compact SUV that has a dedicated following in Japan and Europe but is not sold in the United States.
  • The Daihatsu Tanto is a small city car that has been one of the best-selling cars in Japan for several years but does not have a global presence.

2. Cars may have different names in different countries.

Car manufacturers often rename their models for different markets. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including trademark issues, cultural differences, and marketing strategies. Here are some interesting examples:

  • Cultural Differences: The Mitsubishi Pajero was renamed the Mitsubishi Montero in North America and Spain because the world "Pajero" has negative connotation in Spanish.
  • Marketing Strategy: The Toyota Corolla is called the Toyota Auris in Europe and Toyota Levin in China to be marketed as a more premium and upscale model.
  • Trademark issues: When Mazda introduced the MX-5 in 1989, they were unable to use the name in the United States as another company already owned the rights to that name. As a result, Mazda decided to use the name "Miata" for the North American market.

Manufacturers might even rename their makes. Chevrolet Aveo was initially marketed as Daewoo Kalos and is called the Holden Barina in Australia.

3. Countries have different trim levels and options for the same car

Vehicles often come with different trim levels and options depending on the market.

For example, the new Honda Civic sold in the US is available in Sport, EX, and Touring trims, while the Civic sold in Europe is available in Sport and Advance trims.

4. Difference in technical specifications, regulations and standards

Vehicles may also have different technical specifications in different markets. For example, a car sold in a region with strict emissions standards may have a different engine or exhaust system compared to the same car sold in a region with less strict standards.

  • Requirements - The 2019 Ford Ranger sold in Australia & New Zealand is offered with a heavy-duty suspension setup that includes thicker sway bars, heavier-duty shocks, and larger brakes and diesel engines that are not available in the United States.
  • Safety regulations - In Europe, headlights must be designed to minimize glare for oncoming drivers. The 2021 Volkswagen Golf GTI sold in North America had standard headlights, but the version sold in Europe has LED headlights with a distinctive U-shaped design.
  • Emission standard - European Union has more stringent emissions standards than the United States. In the United States, the Mustang is available with a 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, a 5.0L and 5.2Lr V8 engine. However, in some European markets, the Mustang is only available with the 2.3L EcoBoost engine.
  • Local standards - Not only does this differ between countries, but it can also differ between states. California has strict emissions standards, requiring vehicles to have a specific type of catalytic converter and oxygen sensor - CARB-compliant catalytic converter & wideband oxygen sensor.

5. Regional production differences

Many car manufacturers produce the same model in more than one country.

For example, Honda Civic is produced in multiple locations around the world, including Japan and Thailand. The Japanese-built Civic is generally considered to be of higher quality, has different features and is often more expensive than the Thai-built Civic, which is produced for the Southeast Asian market. The suspension components, such as the struts, springs, and sway bars, may be designed with slightly different specifications to accommodate different driving conditions and regulations

As a result, aftermarket suspension components, like lowering springs or coil overs that are designed to fit the Japanese-built Civic may not be compatible with the Thai-built Civic due to differences in suspension geometry, and vice versa.

6. Differences in timezones

Different regions may have different timelines for model years, facelifts, and other changes to vehicle designs.

For example, in 2014, Nissan released a facelifted version of the Nissan Juke, which included cosmetic updates to the front and rear fascias, as well as new LED headlights and a revised interior. However, the timing of this facelift differed depending on the region. In Japan, the facelifted Juke was released in June 2014. In the United States, the Juke did not receive the facelift until the 2015 model year.

A replacement headlight that will fit a Japan 2014 Nissan Juke will not fit a US 2014 Nissan Juke.

7. Language barriers

Finally, language barriers can make it difficult to create a global vehicle database. Vehicle information may be provided in different languages, and translations may not always be accurate or consistent.

Even within the same language, there can be differences in terminology and spelling. For example, in the United States, a car's trunk is typically referred to as the "trunk," while in the United Kingdom, it's called the "boot."  Some regions use miles per hour to measure speed, while others use kilometres per hour. Similarly, some regions use gallons to measure fuel consumption, while others use litres.

Complexities in designing a vehicle standard

This is part 1 in our series exploring the complexities in designing a vehicle standard . In our upcoming posts, we'll delve deeper into other factors.

Partly is building a global platform for replacement parts, starting with the auto parts industry. Get in touch to request early access to the Partly Whitepaper - Designing a vehicle standard, when it's available.