Within the next ten years, the car industry will change more than in the past fifty years. At least at Volkswagen, says Audi Chief Rupert Stadler. Platforms are a thing of the last century. The future of the car industry is kit cars. Or make that cars designed and built using elements of a common kit architecture. Currently, there are two families of erector kits which can be assembled into all kinds of cars at Volkswagen. They have Teutonic names like “Modularer Querbaukasten” (MQB) and “Modularer Längsbaukasten” (MLB). Porsche is developing a “MMB” (Modularer Mittelbaukasten) for Mittelmotor (mid-engined) cars. Or possibly a MSB (Modularer Standardbaukasten), which could be the Mutter of all Baukasten.
Audi is already working with the MLB architecture. This coming year, Volkswagen will start using the MQB. Says Automobilwoche [sub]:
“The Modulare Querbaukasten will provide at least 43 models of Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat with the same components: Underbody, axles, drivetrains. Europe’s largest automaker wants to become more flexible, wants to react faster to changing customer demands and wants to save 30 percent of costs. Michael Macht, chief of production, calls it a ‘milestone’.”
Success and failure of a car company will be decided in the emerging markets. This is where the growth is. But this is also where a lot of small cars change hands and the smaller the car, the bigger the need for creative cost control. VW chief Martin Winterkorn said: „In the car business, staying power is built on a better cost structure.“
The new kit architecture „is more than a new technology, it is a strategic weapon,” said Ulrich Hackenberg, chief of Volkswagen’s Research and Development. It also allows to build niche cars and to react to regional differences without reinventing the wheels. Audi alone will increase its model count from 38 today to 50 by 2020.
A new production engineering is inherent to the kit architecture. Volkswagen plants worldwide are being currently changed to accommodate the kit, and to become nodes in a larger production kit architecture.
If people think of badge engineering, then they are misguided, says Hackenberg:
“The creativity of engineers and designers of the different brands remains unencumbered. In the contrary. It is more welcome and more demanded than ever before.“