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Rumors and conjecture have finally become reality as Ford Motor Company announces that they have chosen CATIA V5 (CAD software) and Enovia (VPM) for their design and manufacturing processes worldwide.

Note: the following news item appears courtesy of Reuters.

IBM Inroads at Automaker Ford Deals Blow to EDS
Wed February 5, 2003 07:21 PM ET
By Siobhan Kennedy

NEW YORK (Reuters) - International Business Machines Corp. said on Wednesday it won a key computer services contract with Ford Motor Co, breaking the long-standing grip of rival Electronic Data Systems Corp. among top U.S. auto makers.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but IBM said Ford would purchase between 4,000 and 5,500 copies of IBM's [CATIA V5] software used by computer-based product designers.

IBM also said it will provide lucrative consulting services and support as part of the multi-year deal. For every $1 of software sold, IBM typically reaps about $5 in consulting fees, said Ed Petrozelli, general manager of IBM's global product lifecycle management division.

Up until now, Ford had largely used software from a company called SDRC to design its vehicles. But after SDRC was acquired by EDS -- whose former parent and biggest customer is General Motors Corp. -- rival Ford got the jitters, analysts said.

"Immediately Ford started getting a little anxious about EDS controlling its product design infrastructure," said Kevin Prouty, an analyst with AMR Research in Boston, adding that the deal with IBM amounted to a "big crack" in EDS' stronghold in the U.S. automotive industry.

"This is Ford saying we are not going to be an EDS shop. We are going to use IBM in a strategic way on par with EDS," Prouty added.

Ford spokesman Paul Wood told Reuters the idea of using both EDS and IBM was to "become consistent with our brands around the world ... and from that drive synergies and reduce costs."

Ford, the No. 2 U.S. automaker behind General Motors, is in the middle of a turnaround plan aimed at producing $7 billion in annual pretax profits by mid-decade. It has vowed to pull get there through new models, requiring ever-shorter design cycles and more extensive parts sharing.

Automakers are trying to improve quality and productivity by more extensive computer modeling of vehicle assembly, seeking to fix problems before machinery is installed and factory workers are trained.

The news is another setback for EDS which is struggling to rebuild its image as a top computer services provider after a string of high-profile contract losses, a huge profit shortfall in the third quarter and a resulting U.S. government probe.

EDS, which plans to report fourth-quarter results on Thursday, has said its earnings in the period will suffer from the bankruptcy of United Airlines.

Under the terms of the deal Ford will license IBM's product design software, which is developed in conjunction with French software shop Dassault Systemes. The software, called CATIA, will be used principally to design the body and exterior of Ford vehicles.

EDS' I-deas and Teamcenter products will be used by Ford to design its vehicles' interiors. Ford further expanded the relationship by selecting EDS to store all the automaker's product design and parts data worldwide, said Bill Carrelli, president of EDS' product business strategy and marketing. (Additional reporting by Justin Hyde in Detroit)

MY OPINION: EDS and their hybrid UG/IDEAS (NX) will only be around long enough for Ford to make the transition to CATIA V5.  It makes absolutely NO sense for Ford to use UG/IDEAS (NX) for interiors, and/or chassis, and CATIA V5 for body structure and external panels.  If CATIA V5 has the surfacing capabilities to do Class A surfacing on exterior panels, why wouldn't they use it to design the interior.  Class A surface is class A surface, right?  If CATIA V5 has the capabilities to design the body structure, why wouldn't they use it to design structural components in the interior and chassis???  I'm unaware of any other major OEM doing anything like this.  Didn't Ford learn their lesson with the their past CAD software (SDRC) debacles???

Out of necessity, we were forced to work with two CAD systems at Saturn several years ago.  The body designers came from GM and were familiar with CGS.  The Vehicle Interior Systems (VIS) group benchmarked several CAD systems and chose CATIA (V2 at the time).  Trying to work with two separate CAD systems was a complete mess.  The only way to get CGS data into CATIA, and vise versa, was through an IGES translator.  The translated data was garbage; barely usable to perform menial design tasks.  Saturn finally switched to CATIA 100% across-the-board in the early 90's.  Unfortunately, when Saturn was assimilated into GM in the mid-to-late 90's, they were forced to switch to Unigraphics, which had replaced CGS as GM's corporate CAD system.  At the time, Unigraphics was clearly inferior to CATIA (V4 by then) and no one at Saturn was happy with the move.  Many of my former Saturn colleagues are still grumbling.

I'm not an expert on software development by any means, but from what I understand Unigraphics and CATIA V5 do not share the same core architecture.  Thus, they are NOT interoperable.  As of this writing, there are no built-in "save-as" translators.  As such, IGES, STEP, or 3rd party translation software will be required for the two CAD systems to share data.  One of the strengths of modern CAD software is the ability to retain a parts history, thus making it very easy to make downstream changes.  Parts translated via IGES or STEP translators do not retain their history.  Thus rendering the parts as "dumb solids" or "dumb surfaces".  Such was the case nearly 15 years ago at Saturn.  3rd party "feature based" translation software is getting better, but at it's best it is not as cost effective, efficient, or as accurate as native data that requires no translation. 

So why would Ford choose to use two CAD systems when they've just chosen one (CATIA V5) that can do it all?  The only reason that makes any sense is that Ford is buying time so their designers and engineers can get up to speed on CATIA V5.  In my estimation, Ford could not risk any bad blood with EDS at this critical stage by telling them they are being eliminated.  To do so would be to risk losing EDS' "enthusiastic" support on current programs.  Ford cannot afford to put themselves in that position.  They need EDS onboard during the transition faze.  And how long will this transition period last?  Not as long as you might think.  Despite the fact the CATIA V5 announcement came on February 6th 2003, my sources tell me that Ford has been working with CATIA V5 for quite some time now (as reported on this website nearly two years ago).

The next question is whether General Motors will be next to jump on the CATIA V5 bandwagon.  Consider the following; Bob Lutz, formerly of Chrysler Corporation and regarded as "the father of the Dodge Viper", has joined GM as Vice Chairman of Product Development.  And which CAD software is Bob Lutz most familiar with???  (Hint: CATIA)  Also, one of my former CATIA V5 students has recently taken a job at GM doing data translations.  She tells me that the department she's working in (at GM) already has CATIA V5 workstations and that they were very pleased that she has already had CATIA V5 training.  Hmm...I wonder why?

These are my thoughts, what are yours?  If you'd like to share your opinion, please send me an email at