Car "platforms"

I’m looking at a Jeep Liberty. It has a “platform” like the Dodge Nitro which is not well made at all. What exactly does it mean when it says they have the same “platform”???

They share the same basic body structure, and are made in the same factories in this case. Sometimes, a platform has the wheelbase lengthened or shortened to make different models.

Just to give you some idea of what range of vehicles you can get from a platform, here are some examples of vehicles on the same platform:

Ford Focus (European) / Ford Focus C-Max / Mazda3 / Volvo S40 / Volvo V50 / Mazda5 / Volvo C70 / Volvo C30 / Ford Kuga / Volvo XC50
Mazda 6 / Ford Fusion / Lincoln Zephyr / Lincoln MKZ / Mercury Milan / Mazda CX-9 / Ford Edge / Lincoln MKX

You can see you can get a LOT of vehicles out of the same platform, which can be very different. It really depends on what you think is not well made about the Nitro. If it is really just a fit-and-finish difference problem or functionality/layout problem, that shouldn’t worry you. If the chassis seems lousy and too flexible and engines/transmissions are bad, that would be more of a concern.

Platforms are the basic engineering configuration of a family of vehicles. It is done to save on design and development costs. So, the Honda Odessey has the same platform as the Accord, the Ford Focus shares a platform with the Mazda 3.

If the diferent vehicles are made by the same company, you can expect similar reliability, especially if the drivetrain is the same.

In the case of the Ford Focus, only the basic design is shared, all the pieces, except the engine are made or bought by Ford with a significantly lower level of quality in my opinion.

Kia is owned by Hyundai and Kia models look similar to Hyundai’s. However, Kia is still an independent entity, and has not reached the quality and reliability level yet of Hyundai.

Since most Chrysler products have similar reliability, there is not a great deal of difference between models.

All the car makers have different divisions/departments with their different cars using the same platform or chassis to save money. For example, Chrysler division uses the same platform on their Town & Country mini van as Dodge division on their Caravan & Plymouth division on their Voyager.