We’ve discussed the importance of scale countless times on this website. La Tribune takes a brief look at Ford, Volkswagen and PSA and the different ways they are working to achieve economies of scale in one of the toughest markets in the auto industry; the C-Segment.
As you’re all well aware by now, Volkswagen’s MQB platform represents the most radical approach to a modular platform. The distance from the front axle to the pedal box remains the sole fixed dimension. Everything else is modular, capable of being snapped into place like Lego. MQB will underpin everything from the Polo to the Passat (B-D segment) and will be built in North and South America, Europe and even China. Annual volumes are expected to be 3.5 million units by 2018, roughly 35 percent of VW Group’s entire global sales.
Slightly more conservative is the path taken by PSA. Not long ago, we published a side-by-side analysis of MQB and PSA’s new EMP2 modular platform. EMP2 is a bit less ambitious, covering only C and D segment cars, MPVs, light commercial vehicles and crossovers. These segments represent a significant portion of PSA’s sales, but the lack of B segment capability is a question mark, especially given the popularity of this segment in global markets, and Peugeot’s own 208. Instead, PSA will leave B-segment development up to Opel, as part of the GM-PSA alliance. While VW touts MQB as a holistic approach to manufacturing, parts procurement and component sharing, PSA’s message with EMP2 has been focused around weight reduction, cutting CO2 emissions and providing flexibility in terms of vehicle size and packaging. Given PSA’s status as Europe’s leader in low emissions vehicles (an average of 112.5 grams/km, 0.1 gram better than Toyota), this is somewhat understandable. Unlike MQB, only the rear sections of the car are interchangeable. Vehicles can be had with a short or long wheelbase, a low or high driving position and a solid rear axle or independent suspension (useful for marketing low-cost variants in emerging markets). Volumes are much more modest; 1.8 million units EMP2 based cars are expected to be sold by 2018.
And what about Ford? Despite the Global C platform being confined to one segment, and thus not exactly modular, Ford has apparently acheived volumes of 2 million C-segment cars annually. The global C platform, which underpins cars like the C-Max, Focus and Escape/Kuga and will likely add a couple Lincoln variants as well. They key difference between Ford, VW and PSA is that Ford is the sole automaker to sell their car globally, as part of the “One Ford” strategy. Rather than adapting models, or even the output of whole brands to regional needs as VW does, or simply not compete in some large markets like PSA, Ford’s entire product line has significant global exposure in a way that the aggregate model ranges of VW and PSA don’t. Ford hasn’t hinted about moving towards a more modular framework in the future. Even in the face of declining sales in Europe and declining market share in North America, Global C’s volumes are impressive enough on their own.