Volkswagen is streets ahead with its common, global, modular concepts

Volkswagen’s Modularer Querbaukasten (MQB) which translates to Modular Transverse Matrix is a concept for sharing core components in a strategy for modular construction of all its transverse, front-engined, front-wheel drive cars. VW has probably taken this further than any other car-maker and are being bench-marked and closely watched by Toyota, Ford and others.  MQB is designed to stretch from the Polo to the Passat. At the top end Porsche are developing a comparable MSB concept (Modular standard matrix). Apart from only one dimension that must be held, the modular concept allows most dimensions to be stretched.

Golf 7 chasis: MQB Flexibility

Volkswagen Group brands (Volkswagen, Audi, Lamborghini, Seat, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, Porsche and more) comprise more than 200 individual models of cars. The complexity involved in trying to reduce costs and the number of components, meeting exceedingly strict emission and safety standards all the while reducing waste and consumption is obviously quite huge. MQB not only represents a new car specific part platform, but also an all-new modular engine program and modular production program. With MQB VW can build any vehicle from Polo to Mid-size SUV utilizing the same assembly line.

VW modular matrices

The MQB platform has a common engine mounting system and allows both petrol and diesel motors mounted in the same way and at the same angle of inclination. VW factories around the world could become multi-brand factories with VW’s, Seats, Skodas and even Audis to roll off the same line.

Reuter’s reports:

…. Since the heyday of Henry Ford and his Model T, the world’s automakers have considered the “global car” to be their Holy Grail – the same basic design that can be built, in subtle variations, and sold in different markets. 

Take that fundamental concept, stretch it across many different vehicle types, sizes and brands, then build them by the millions, and you begin to sense the enormity of Volkswagen’s rapidly evolving “mega-platform” strategy and its potential impact on competitors around the globe.

Auto engineer Hackenberg nurtured this bright idea for three decades, after early pitches to auto executives were largely ignored, until somebody finally bought it wholesale. The man who bit was Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn. …… 

The strategy is not without risk. It could, for instance, expose Volkswagen to the threat of a massive global recall if a single part, used in millions of cars, fails.

But rivals have taken note of the power behind its move. Volkswagen’s modular platforms are being benchmarked by most of the world’s top automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp and Ford Motor Co, according to company executives. ….. 

…. VW’s work on its largest mega-platform, known internally as MQB, began in earnest in 2007 and is being implemented over the next four years at a cost of nearly $70 billion, estimates Morgan Stanley. The potential payoff is compelling: Projected annual gross savings by 2019 of $19 billion, according to the bank, with gross margins approaching 10 percent.

The automaker is expected to announce a record profit for 2012 of more than $30 billion later this month (February 22), according to Bernstein Research, whose senior analyst, Max Warburton, observes: “VW looks to have unstoppable momentum — in China, the U.S., Europe and most of the rest of the world.”

Even before MQB was launched in 2007, VW was a leader in using interchangeable components:

At a gathering in Japan five years ago, Renault and Nissan executives lifted the hoods on several VW Group vehicles side by side — including models from Skoda, Seat and Audi brands — and saw trouble.

“They had the same engines, the same clutches, the same ventilation — all identical parts,” says an executive who attended the presentation. “It was a level of commonality that didn’t exist at Renault-Nissan.” 

After a six-year gestation, VW has just begun to implement its sophisticated and highly flexible platform with the deceptively simple label MQB, a German acronym for “modular transverse matrix.” Virtually all of the group’s small and medium front-wheel-drive family models, including the latest generations of the VW Golf and Audi A3, are being designed around MQB as their base.

The new platform features a far greater degree of plug-and-play modularity, flexibility and parts commonality than at Toyota, General Motors Co, Ford and other competitors.

MQB “could be the single most important automotive initiative of the past 25 years,” says Michael Robinet, managing director of IHS Consulting in Northville, Michigan. “It really changes the game.”

With the new mega-platform strategy supporting its 12 brands, from spartan Skoda to Audi, Porsche and Lamborghini, VW is poised to snatch the global sales crown from Toyota as early as next year, according to investment bank Morgan Stanley.

VW envisions enormous leverage from MQB. The plan is to boost global sales to 10 million or more, with roughly two out of every three cars — some 40-plus models totaling 6.3 million sales a year — built on some variation of the MQB platform, according to U.S. research firm IHS Automotive.

None of VW’s competitors has the diversity of brands, the breadth of technology, the sweeping geographic footprint or the deep pockets necessary to support and take advantage of such a wide-reaching initiative as MQB.

Even Toyota, the current global sales leader, is playing catch-up with its German rival. … 

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