Automotive SPICE versus CMMI: method comparison

Both the CMMI and the A-SPICE model have been around for quite some time. A-SPICE stands for Automotive Software Process Improvement & Capability Determination and is based on the original SPICE model, but it is made more applicable for the automotive market. The model shows a lot of similarities to the CMMI Model which was developed in the 80’s. As the CMMI was initially created by the SEI (on request of the American Department of Defense), A-SPICE is maintained by INTACS and is mainly sponsored by German automobile constructors (VW, Daimler, Audi, BMW).

The objectives of both models are the same but have a different initial focus area. Suppliers that want to collaborate with American DoD, need to be at a certain maturity/capability level according to CMMI. CMMI is also used as a model for process improvement (even when not applying for government contracts). On the other hand, suppliers that aim to work with mainly German OEM’s, need to be at a certain capability level according to A-SPICE.

Automitive Spice

Technical aspects

Both models have a similar process approach. A-SPICE v3.0 consists of 31 processes. 15 of these processes are mandatory, 7 are optional and the other 9 processes are being phased out. CMMI v1.3 consists of 22 process area’s and only 1 of these could be optional in some cases (Supplier Agreement Management). CMMI makes a distinction between 5 maturity levels and 3 capability levels. A-SPICE only has capability levels (5) from which only 3 are really used (performed, managed, and established).

The biggest difference between both models is the fact that A-SPICE focuses a lot on the engineering practices (V-model). They not only focus on software (as it was designed for in the beginning), but also on the systems engineering (software + hardware, electronics, mechanical, etc.). It pays little attention to project management & other organizational practices while these are very well documented in the CMMI-model.

Appraisal methods

Appraisals are also approached differently for both models. CMMI requires a lot of effort in terms of “pre-onsite activities”; in A-SPICE this is optional. The duration of a typical A-SPICE appraisal varies between 3 to 5 days of onsite activities; in CMMI this can vary between 5 and 10 days onsite (ML2 or ML3 appraisals). Which makes CMMI costlier. 

The rating of practices in CMMI is rather strict, a maturity/capability level cannot be reached if one practice is rated partially or not implemented. In A-SPICE there seems to be more room for discussion. A specific score for a base practice level can overruled by an average score or assessor judgement. This way, a rating can be obtained even if one process is only partially achieved.


The conclusion is that CMMI is still more an improvement model while A-SPICE seems to evolve more and more to an audit model. Anyway, CMMI is still relative popular in the US, China & India but seems to be almost dead in Europe. A-SPICE is growing rapidly in popularity in Europe and even the US automobile constructors are more and more requesting A-SPICE.