By on August 4, 2014

mqb

Michael Macht, the man in charge of production at Volkswagen, is leaving immediately, with Automotive News Europe reporting that VW CEO Martin Winterkorn was unhappy with the rollout of VW’s MQB “toolkit” that will underpin everything from B-segment hatchbacks like the Polo to large sedans like the Passat.

According to the outlet, poorly functioning production equipment has led to cost overruns and delays, with overtime adding a significant cost to the rollout. With Macht responsible for overseeing MQB’s introduction – which would ostensibly include new machinery and tooling, manufacturing processes and all the other assorted initiatives required for such a grand undertaking, his departure is understandable. Executives may be handsomely compensated, but when things go wrong, they’re the first to be shown the door.

Let’s see what happens when it’s time for MQB to head to Chattanooga. Or when the first major recall strikes MQB vehicles.

 

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45 Comments on “Heads Rolling At Volkswagen Over MQB Fumbles...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Organization question:

    I notice the Porsche logo is not on this chart. I always thought VW owned Porsche – is this not correct?

  • avatar
    seth1065

    VW does own Porsche but I do not think the use any MQB stuff yet, VW had to know there would be growing pains with this but sometimes you need to throw a head to the lions

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Synergies are rarely synergistic.

  • avatar
    LALoser

    I remember a certain EIC and related minions saying this was a stroke of genius and the way forward. Reality trumps theory yet again.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      We have learned since, thanks to Jack and his policy of transparency and openness, that the EIC you mention had his own agenda and was a bit too…chummy, with some in the auto industry at certain auto makers.

    • 0 avatar
      Chris FOM

      To play devil’s advocate a bit, this could simply represent teething problems. MQB is still brand new and only a few cars based around it are for sale. For such a dramatic overhaul of how to approach the concept of a “platform” some bumps in the road are to be expected. It may yet be a disaster, but that call is still 5-10 years away.

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      Reading comprehension much? While there may certainly be design/planning issues with MQB that causes it to fall on its face, this article is linking manufacturing equipment issues (uptime, yield, delivery, etc.) to the during of the VW head of manufacturing. If there were issues with the platform itself, I would expect the design or planning lead to be shatcanned.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    …Executives may be handsomely compensated, but when things go wrong, they’re the first to be shown the door…

    Maybe in Europe and Asia, but definitely not in the United States.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      It happens in America too, just not to the Chairman of the Board. That’s because most people don’t realize that the Chairman isn’t responsible for such mundane things. The Chairman’s job is to shmooze the board members, and keep the stock holders happy with high stock prices, or at least keep the screw ups from materially affecting the stock prices.

      A chairman can be a resounding success while running a company into the ground. One chairman did just that, keeping the stock prices high by selling off profitable divisions, deferring maintenance in the core business and slashing product development. By the time he left, the company was stripped to its core business, had no new product and badly deteriorating plant and equipment.

      That forced the new chairman to seek outside funding at outrageous interest rates for an accelerated product development program and massive plant and equipment upgrades, causing the stock’s price to plummet. Would you believe the stock holders wanted the old guy back?

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I bet Sgt Schultz is behind this.

  • avatar
    lon888

    I remember the nay-sayers predicting MQB wouldn’t be the big cost saver that VW predicted it would be. Chaulk one up for “I told you so”.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    I’ve read a handful of the reports (all of which sound like the same report, simply rehashed across multiple news outlets, TTAC included). Outside of what Automotive News referred to as an “internal source”, there really wasn’t much detail into what the issues really are.

    I’m not trying to argue that there *aren’t* any issues, but I’m legitimately interested in finding out the story behind the headline. Generally speaking, the solution of throwing bodies at a problem doesn’t work so I’d like to hear what the root of the issue is.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      It sounds as if all of the machinations that are needed to get the modular bits to fit together don’t save any money over doing it the old way.

      In other words, the old way wasn’t so bad. Giving a platform more flexibility for building on top of it is probably easier than trying to make things that can be bolted neatly onto the ends.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Funny, I heard that if you don’t kit, you ain’t nothin’.

        • 0 avatar
          tresmonos

          Even if you kit, one build location will not be exactly like your other build locations. Toss in a few global suppliers, and your parts will see even more variation.

          MQB won’t eliminate the working level grunt Design and Release engineers and their interfacing manufacturing engineers. There will still be massaging needed to get the car built.

          I wish I could see how Honda is trying this ‘no prototype’ launch. That has got to be a disaster. But if anyone can pull of that BS, it would be Honda.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        Or, it just may be a combination of teething issues along with an extremely aggressive rollout / product launch. None of the articles that have talked about MQB or the recent firings has much detail about the way this program has been rolled out or given any idea of the changes necessary to implement it.

        It’s not just VW that interests me in this story, I’m a sucker for stories about massive engineering projects that succeed or fail and the reasons behind them.

        • 0 avatar
          tresmonos

          Truth. The details would behind this roll out would be a hell of a read.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            tresmonos: “Truth. The details would behind this roll out would be a hell of a read.”

            Unfortunately, very few people would read it. Few people have any idea how complicated modern manufacturing is. Fewer still are willing to read.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    There is a difference between being ultra-rich and having your own country. Seems like a worthy successor to a 600 Pullman (the first choice car of dictators around the globe) to me.

    When you come right down to it, this is merely the equivalent of “The Beast” for heads of states that are a tad smaller than the US.

  • avatar
    J.Emerson

    What’s buzzier, that chart or the interior trim on a MKIV Golf at 60 mph?

  • avatar
    krayzie

    Looks like their new production equipment is living up to the quality of their own products.

  • avatar
    jetcal1

    Sounds like a normal production transition to me. Sales presentations not fully vetted, materials sourced by the lowest bidders, unrealistic schedules and budgets set by senior management.
    Somewhere, someone said this is a “bucket of sh!t and it stinks.” By the time it filtered up through management to the top it became “it smells sweet and makes plants grow.” Nobody likes to tell their seniors bad news. Then everyone is surprised when the schedule/budget goes out the window.

  • avatar
    Yesac13

    I seriously doubt it is worth it to make a few platforms for many different models.

    It seems to me to be a case of pounding a square peg in a round hole.

    I think in the end its better to design a single model from scratch and sell that one model only. Its definitely better to share common parts like engines, transmissions, seats, switch-gear, and so on but not platforms. With newer technologies that speeds up production from the drawing sheet to actual production, it makes less and less sense to have a common platform these days. It did make sense in the past.

    For example, there’s 3D printing. With 3D printing, it is now more profitable to make short run productions of an item (no need of massive production numbers to make it worthwhile). I’m not saying there will be a 3D printed car (doubtful for a long time) but the fact is that the technology is cheaper and faster these days, making a common platform an obsolete idea of the past.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      “I think in the end its better to design a single model from scratch and sell that one model only.”

      Henry Ford thought that too. It worked for awhile, but then the people wanted more models! More colors! more power!

  • avatar
    stryker1

    “Executives may be handsomely compensated, but when things go wrong, they’re the first to be shown the door…”

    Unless they work for GM circa 1990s, early 2000s.

  • avatar
    davidziff

    Even when they get shown the door, they still get a financial package that means they can live a life of luxury until the day they die.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    This article doesn’t provide any details or clarifying information. Any new car launch has issues and delays and cost overruns. MQB is a 20- car launch, so of course there is some teething.

    And the “let’s wait for some recalls” last sentence is even worse reporting. Do you care to share details or is that just a USAToday headline? Like thete were no recalls before MQB. Have there even been MQB recalls yet?
    I’m not a VW fan, but admire their undertaking. But I’m sure some journalist can fabricate a headline of nothing….

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Is it possible that in today’s hyper-competitive news cycle it’s virtually impossible to get anything right? I say that slightly tongue-in-cheek, but what new car launch goes perfectly, especially when in the span of 24 months you’ve launched something like 12 models/variants, globally, I might add, on a completely new architecture that fundamentally changes the whole business?

      Again, not being an apologist, I’m more interested in the backstory and facts than I am with all of this heresay and headline grabbing.

      I’m interested to hear about how Audi’s MLB rollout went in comparison. Keeping in mind, of course, that the volume size of that rollout (A5, A4, Q5) is a fraction of the Golf/A3/Leon/Octavia deployment. Seeing as Winterkorn was the architect of Audi’s kit architecture, I imagine he’s been unimpressed with the VW implementation.

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    I also called MQB a fail back when that tool, BS, was heralding it as the best thing since sliced bread. I even got banned for it.

    The simple fact of the matter is that (and I’m speaking as an engineer here) that anytime you have anything this reaching as a platform, the ‘back-office’ support for it must be equally reaching. Imagine having a common kit of parts and then asking 50 design and engineering teams across 5 different brands to customize it for their needs. Can use this part? Will this cross frame support the front end load? I don’t know, I didn’t design that part, it’s part of the kit! What if I want to change some thing? Do I have to ask a dedicated change control group? Someone has to be limiting variation to keep the kit concept pure. What if a component in the kit is bad? Who goes around and asks all the design groups if updating a part in the kid messes with their designs? Who pays for the changes?

    It must take MONTHS of agonizing and thousands of overhead derived R&D manhours to drag each product design forward kicking and screaming against a system explicitly designed to prevent originality and change.

    worst design decision ever. More heads should roll. and fast.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Fracture –

      You make great points, and all the more reason it would be fascinating to have a true, in-depth study of the program and how it functions in reality. Even more interesting is the whole “what’s going wrong?” analysis. Is this like NASA, where the problems are mainly political and managerial, or are the issues engineering specific?

      My guess is that trying to scale the MLB experiment at Audi into MQB at Volkswagen has been met with substantial bureaucratic and managerial red tape due to the sheer scale and size.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    I was always dubious about this rather overhyped concept. Suppose we design a suspension arm for a 1.6 ton car, and then try and use it for an 800kg economy car, where weight is critical. Obviously it will be too strong, and an easy weight and cost saving will be to redesign it for the 800kg car. Now apply the same thought process to every part of the car. Basically, there may be some parts that can be commonised, but this idea of an overarching kit seems doomed to produce expensive, heavy, if more robust, cars.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Well, keep in mind that there are different suspension kits for different models. Audi suspensions and body shells/panels utilize more aluminum because the price point affords it. VW has made a point of saying that one of the goals of MQB is flexibility (ironically), in allowing them to use different materials (at different price points/cost structures) for different models. Standardizing the engine placement/mounting, electrical systems, HVAC, infotainment, dash clusters, etc. is huge (again, in theory) for assembly, factory flexibility, training and repair.

      They’ve made an effort to make common that which can be made common – the classic example VW uses is of the attach points for the dashboard: instead of having four different stamped parts, there is now one.

      I think that VW looks at MQB savings as all encompassing, from design, prototyping, assembly, assembly flexibility, assembly training, documenting, certifying straight through to dealership/service training. The focus on these stories so far seems to be on assembly hitches, which are a major cause for concern no doubt, but again: I’m interested to hear what the major assembly line issues really are.


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