Chrysler to Dump CATIA for NX

Chrysler will convert all its design and engineering work from CATIA to NX over the next four years. It is part of new CEO Sergio Marchionne’s plan to tightly integrate Fiat and Chrysler. This is Dassault Systemes’s second high-profile loss of a major account in three years.

Chrysler Fiat logosAutomotive News is reporting that Chrysler’s new owner and partner, Fiat, is mandating that Chrysler switch its design engineering work from CATIA to NX. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, also CEO at Chrysler, is reported to be the driving force behind the transition.

Siemens PLM Software, maker of NX, would not comment on the report. The Dassault Systemes account representative for Chrysler, Robert Brincheck, told Automotive News that a “political struggle is going on” at Chrysler whether to unify on one CAD software or allow CATIA and NX to co-exist. Brincheck added that Dassault remains the dominant player at Chrysler, and that his company will fight to hold the account.

At stake is not just the design software. Chrysler is switching its entire PLM technology platform, from Dassault’s ENOVIA to Siemens PLM’s Teamcenter. The PLM transition will take place over several years, as various design groups start new projects.

The change is more than a one-customer coup for Siemens. Not only will Chrysler need to buy thousands of seats of NX and Teamcenter over the next five to seven years, but its vast supply chain will also have to switch. This also means a windfall for several vendors of interoperability software, which will undoubtedly be sought after to reconcile translation issues, heal 3D models, and cope with the variety of other issues that emerge with both 3D geometry and manufacturing data when models are moved from one environment to another and deployed throughout the engineering and manufacturing chain.

Automotive News says Chrysler has started NX for the modifications to the North American version of the Fiat 500, the software in which it was originally designed.

As part of Fiat 500 development, Fiat also has introduced Siemens PLM software that captures product-development data, the source said. Until that recent introduction of Siemens PLM’s Teamcenter software, Dassault’s Enovia software had ruled that domain at Chrysler as well.

A variety of automotive manufacturers already use NX from Siemens PLM Software, including General Motors.

Why Now?
Chrysler has used CATIA since 1989 for its design and engineering. The last big CAD/PLM overhaul at Chrysler was 1988, when it moved from its internally developed Chrysler CADCAM to CATIA v3.2, spending more than $2 billion in the process.

The change is a result of Chrysler/Fiat CEO Marchionne’s decision to leverage the new alliance to develop global economies of scale. Chrysler will spend $23 billion to overhaul or replace all Chrysler brands by 2014.

Much of the overhaul will require the merging of Chrysler styling with Fiat’s more fuel-efficient small-car technology. Fiat also plans to take advantage of Chrysler expertise in trucks and large cars.

The Final Analysis
Dassault won’t give up this marquee account without a fight, and will most likely open up a second front. Dassault’s Brincheck said Dassault is pitching CATIA and its suite of design software to General Motors, currently Siemens PLM’s largest account. Prospects there are dim, but Dassault has nothing to lose in the gambit.

Sales of high-end CAD have been slowing for years, as the market neared the saturation point. The switch from CATIA to NX won’t increase the size of the market, but simply move market share from one vendor to another.

Dassault is in a tough spot. More and more of their customers are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward upgrading to CATIA V6 technology, which includes tight integration with a not-quite-finished ENOVIA V6 for data management.

This is the second high-profile loss for Dassault in three years. The last one was the decision in 2008 by EADS, the parent company of Airbus, to standardize on PTC’s Windchill for PLM. Unlike the Chrysler decision, that change came after a rigorous study most analysts said set a new standard for how to evaluate PLM software.