Proprietary file formats are actually a double edged sword. CAD software vendors use them to lock their customers into using their software. MCAD vendors are notorious for doing that. If the customer is a major account like an automotive or aerospace company, this has a cascading effect. Their entire supply chain is also forced to fall in line. On the flip side, when greater forces come into play, these same proprietary file formats may come back to bit them, as Dassault Systemes is going to find out shortly.

Automotive News is reporting that Chrysler will replace its thousands of seats of CATIA with NX from rival Siemens PLM. This is part of the process of falling in line with Fiat, its new owner which uses NX. Chrysler has used CATIA for over 20 years. In fact, CATIA had replaced the drafting boards at Chrysler. So this is as big as it gets. The man behind all of this is Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat, who is also the CEO of Chrysler. This is basically a done deal. In fact, the change has already started to take place. Fiat has already started using NX and Teamcenter to develop the North American versions of the Fiat 500.

So why exactly is Marchionne doing this? Last week he re-emphasized that Fiat and Chrysler will undertake a unified product development process by which Chrysler will get access to Fiat’s small car technology and Chrysler would get access to Fiat’s large car and truck technology. At the heart of all this technology is the design data and the format that it is stored in. More importantly, the extent to which it can be used effectively across the entire supply chain.

I doubt Marchionne is moving to NX because he thinks CATIA is an inferior product or because he does not want to take his CAD software on the cloud, although I think he may have squinted at the latter. He is doing this because of the same reason Chrysler’s suppliers found themselves compelled to shell out large amounts of money to pay for CATIA licenses – to avoid problems in data exchange and design collaboration. If CATIA and NX could play nice with each other, all this pain of moving to another CAD system would not be necessary.

  • Vladimir Malukh

    Using CATIA and NX on the same enterprise is possible, though – not as painless. I know at least on very large organization which managed this issue somehow – it’s Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi. The defence division is using NX for fighters design, while commercial SuprJet plane is designed with CATIA in favor of Boeing consultancy. All the data is managed by Siemens Teamcentr, so engineers at manufacturing plants have access both to CATIA and NX models. It must be noted, that manufacturing plants are located thousands miles away from the Moscow-based core design teams – here in my Novosibirsk city and on Far East Komsomolsk-on-Amur. A the ground floor engineers also use CATIA, NX and Delmia, so data is being interoperated quite intensively.

    To my view – FIAT guys underestimate bad sides of such move from CATIA/Enovia to NX/Teamcenter. It’s not just enormous financial investments to licensing thousands of seats with another quite bargain software. Training the people could become a nightmare along with data conversion between not just CAD but complete PLM solutions.

  • The other driver may be that the ex-Chrysler platforms are going to get most of the new design effort. Fiat's small medium platforms are fairly modern (1 or 2 model cycles) where as the Chrysler large platforms are (AFAIK) older.
    Fiat want a medium/large rwd platform for Alfa, maybe Lancia too, so perhaps it makes sense to engineer that in NX.

  • Vladimir,

    AFAIK, Ford uses CATIA and some Siemens PLM products as well. Making different systems play nice in a PLM system is possible. But effectively transferring technologies involving data in two different CAD systems, like what Fiat and Chrysler have in mind may become complicated.

    You make a good point about training. But that is not a problem that cannot be solved with time.

  • Stan

    Isn't JT the answer?

  • christianb928

    Which one would you choose when moving up from Solidworks?

    I'm in the process of evaluating both.

    Any views appreciated.

  • hi, Catia Vs Alias you might be right but not with ICEM inside of Catia. … If someone called Catia!

  • i hope people are visit in this site more time!

  • Michael

    NX is more cheaper and you know, Solidworks use Parasolid as its kernel, i guess NX is more proper, although CATIA UI is more similar with SolidWorks

  • Toto

    NX Siemens works fine with Suse Linux or Ubuntu Linux : Catia only works with Windows. Linux is more scalable .