The Jeep Effect: Steering PLM into the Future

In the 1980s, American Motors Corporation was floundering.

After intermittent success throughout the 70s, the automaker struggled to adapt to shifting consumer preferences and to compete with the booming Japanese automotive market.

AMC saw some initial gains when Renault became its principal owner but that boost was short-lived.

As the decade progressed, AMC’s struggle to stay solvent became evident, with reported losses and productions stabilizing under 50 percent of capacity.

In 1985, François Castaing, then-head of product engineering and development at AMC, was tasked with bringing a downsized version of the Jeep Cheroke that would reignite the public’s interest in the brand to market.

Castaing recalled in 2003, “We were looking for a way to speed up our product development process to compete better against larger competitors.”

To boost efficiency, AMC deployed a system that centralized CAD files in a way that enabled engineers to more efficiently communicate during the product development process.

Since the engineering data was readily available to development teams, change requested were actioned much quicker. The investment in product data management quickly paid off.

When Chrysler Motors Corp bought AMC in 1987, the automaker took the deployment further into the product lifecycle and increased efficiency further.

Castaing, who died in July 2023, continued improving efficiency at Chrysler after the acquisition.

In 1993, he founded USCAR (United States Council for Automotive Research), which facilitated cooperative research and development among competitors Chrysler, General Motors, and Ford in the name of progress.

He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2010.

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