Yes, we know that you’ve all been bombarded with endless stories about modular kits these last few days. While there is a camp of skeptics out there, the move towards modular architectures is happening, and it’s going to have an effect on the way that sports cars are made. My theory is below, feel free to disagree with it.
As companies move towards these kits as a means of standardization, cars are going to become ever more homogenous. Good for profit margins, but potentially not so good for those who like interesting, fun to drive cars. In a previous era, it used to be that sports cars could have their own distinct platform, powertrains etc, but today’s scale requirements have made that next to impossible.
The middle ground is something like the Nissan Z-car. Based on the Nissan FM platform, it still drives well and looks pretty sharp, but its impossible to escape its roots; since it shares a platform not just with the G37 but the FX crossover as well, everything needs to be beefed up appropriate, and that made the car unnecessarily heavy.
Now that pretty much all cars are moving to some kind of kit architecture, there are two possibilities: develop a longitudinal kit, ala Audi’s MLB architecture, or follow the Toyota-Subaru arrangement of jointy developing a sports car.
I think that this is going to become an increasingly common occurrence in the next few years. We already have the upcoming Toyota-BMW sports car as well as the Fiat-Mazda MX5/Alfa Romeo Spider. Mazda may be a small player, but if Toyota, BMW and Fiat find it hard to justify the investment costs on their own without resorting to a partnership agreement, that should tell you something about what it costs to develop a sports car and how little ROI they typically see from it.
From where I sit, the joint-venture method looks like the best way out. For traditionalists, it will be very strange: a BMW-developed MKV Supra seems as odd to me as the European practice of dipping French Fries in mayonnaise. But the auto industry seems to be moving towards this with increasing speed. Better get used to. Unless there’s another way out.