The Truth About Cars » modular platform The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 20:01:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » modular platform Bernstein: VW Won’t Realize Big Savings From MQB Fri, 12 Apr 2013 12:30:29 +0000

Bernstein Research analyst Max Warburton thinks that the cost savings being anticipated by investors regarding VW’s MQB modular architecture will not materialize as planned.

MQB has been touted as a way to cut production costs by 20 percent via standardizing vehicle “hard points” like the pedal box and engine placement, while allowing for significant flexibility in other dimmensions. But Warburton remains a skeptic, telling the Detroit News

“We have long argued that the savings from MQB have been over-hyped and were inevitably set to disappoint. There is absolutely no way a new platform can save 20 per cent of the cost of a vehicle at VW’s level of scale,”

That assessment runs counter to estimates from banks like Morgan Stanley, which forecasts a savings of as much as $4,000 per car and as much as $10 billion in gross savings by 2016, once MQB has been implemented over 4 million cars. But the often touted benefits of scale don’t hold up for Warburton, who believes that returns are less significant beyond 1 million units.

From a product perspective, Warburton also believes that MQB’s extreme flexibility – from A to D segment cars – could be more of a hinderance than a help

“Either VW can engineer a Polo with Passat-level weight, rigidity and specifications, or a Passat with Polo-grade components. Most industry experts think VW will end up with a much too expensive small car platform…there are many reasons why VW may be able to resume profit growth in future years. It has great brands (Porsche now as well as others like Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini), products and technology, a unique position in China and one day the European car market will recover. But its margins are not going to expand magically just because it has a new platform,”

While TTAC has long been bullish on MQB and modular platforms in general, Warburton is a credible authority on the auto industry, and his concerns are not to be dismissed. Savings of 20 percent are indeed unprecedented for the auto industry, but with margins so thin and volume so critical, there is no doubt that MQB will be a significant technological advantage for VW. Nevertheless, TTAC has always been concerned about the possibility of cascading failures of standardized components that could lead to unprecedentedly large recalls. Only time will tell how these scenarios will play out.


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The Most Important French Car Of The Decade Is A Minivan Tue, 02 Apr 2013 12:00:33 +0000

The MPV segment, so popular in Europe, was basically invented by the French. The Renault Espace, the grandfather of the modern minivan, was originally supposed to be a Peugeot, until PSA deemed it too expensive and sold it to Renault. Nearly two decades later, Renault disrupted the segment again with their compact Scenic minivan, which spawned imitators from nearly every single brand.

Citroen’s newest MPV, the C4 Picasso, is a massively important car for PSA and the French car industry. It’s not as sexy as the Renaultsport or Alpine products coming down the pipeline, nor does it have the enthusiast-weirdo cachet of previous PSA products. But this car will be one of the products that determines PSA’s future. Having missed the boat on making a push in the low-cost segment, the C4 and the Peugeot 208 will define the next generation of PSA products, as the two brands attempt a convoluted re-positioning in the marketplace.

The Picasso is the first car to ride on PSA’s new EMP2 modular architecture. The Picasso will be chock full of PSA’s latest tech, from blind spot cameras to massive touchscreens to adaptive cruise control. New diesel powertrains will offer in excess of 70 mpg on the European cycle and C02 emissions on par with a Toyota Prius; not hugely exciting, but if you ever hail a cab in Paris, you’ll probably be riding in one of these.

PSA desperately needs to C4 to succeed. As the test best for their next generation architecture, the future of PSA hangs in the balance. Strong sales will mean a whole new generation of EMP2 based vehicles. Failure could entail another bailout or worse.

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Analysis: Three Different Approaches To Maximize Scale Fri, 22 Feb 2013 14:00:20 +0000

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.

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Analysis: PSA Debuts EMP2, Their Own Modular Platform System Thu, 24 Jan 2013 16:24:33 +0000

We at TTAC are very excited by modular platforms, and it has nothing to do with undiagnosed autism spectrum disorders or a lack of interest in the wider world outside autos. Modular platforms are the next great leap forward for auto makers; green cars help save cute animals, and thus get all the attention, but guess what underpins the Nissan Leaf? A version of Renault-Nissan’s B Platform, which underpins everything from the Cube to the Clio to the Sandero.

The driving force behind modular platforms is scale. Auto makers are competing in a global marketplace selling an extremely complex commodity product with high R&D costs and low profit margins. Modular platforms help by creating a standard platform and component kit across a number of model lines, making the car less complex to manufacture and allowing for the platform itself to be amortized across a number of model lines.

One could argue that BMW was one of the pioneers of modular platforms, building the 3, 5 and 7-Series in the familiar “one sausage, many lengths” format that we all know and love (or loathe, depending on how much you emotionally invest yourself in the brand). Recently, Volkswagen has taken modularity to  another level with their MQB platform. Different components can be added or removed depending on the vehicle’s footprint or engine size, but the distance between the front axle and the pedal box remains fixed. This allows VW an unprecedented amount of flexibility to build pretty much every transverse, front-wheel drive vehicle off of one platform, at any of its global factories that is configured to built MQB-based cars. The advantages as far as scale goes are unprecedented.

PSA, the struggling French automaker behind Peugeot and Citroen, has just released their own version of a modular platform, dubbed EMP2, as a means of capitalizing on that trend. From a product standpoint,  EMP2 will cover the C and D segment cars in the PSA range, which are fairly large for Europe, but account for about half of PSA’s sales.Crucially, EMP2 will not be applicable to B segment cars, while VW’s MQB platform will, a major oversight given that PSA relies on markets like Europe, Africa and South America, where B segment cars are most important.

Instead, EMP2 will be the building blocks for vehicles like the Citroen C5 mid-size sedan, the DS4 and DS5 premium hatchbacks and the Peugeot 308 and 508, which compete in the C and D segment respectively. EMP2 will also be used to build station wagons, SUVs (which PSA currently sources from other OEMs) MPV-type vehicles (minivan type cars that are smaller than North American minivans, a popular segment in Europe that PSA has traditionally been an innovation leader) such as the next generation Citroen C4 Picasso and the all-important light commercial vehicle segment.

PSA is touting weight savings of 154 lbs versus outgoing models, with a 22 percent reduction in CO2 emissions thanks to technologies like start-stop systems, electric power steering, lightweight construction materials and low rolling resistance tires. Other advanced features like electronic parking brakes, active aerodynamics and radar-guided cruise control were also touted in a short video released by PSA.

From a manufacturing standpoint, PSA appears to have emulated a number of VW’s innovations with EMP2, while making some interesting advancements. Much like MQB, EMP2 relies on a series of “plug and play” modules, with some interesting differentiations. For example, EMP2 offers two rear suspension options; a beam axle or a multilink independent system can be optioned, depending on whether PSA wants to keep costs down or to provide a superior driving experience. A high or low driving position and a short or long rear section can be substituted, allowing for an easy transition between a passenger car or something like an MPV or commercial vehicle that requires more cargo room and a higher seating position.

Where EMP2 appears to fall flat is in the front section – while MQB offers an exceptional degree of customization up front (with only the one fixed point) it appears that PSA has kept the front section fixed, with various powertrains able to be installed. Given the size and profitability delta between PSA and VW, it’s understandable that PSA would opt for a simpler, less expensive solution, though the importance of scale and flexibility suggests that VW will continue to have the upper hand with MQB. It’s likely that the fixed front section is one of the key stumbling blocks preventing EMP2 from being used as a B-segment platform, since the single fixed point of MQB allows for different wheelbases as well, something EMP2 is not capable of.

From a manufacturing standpoint, PSA has also given up much of the flexibility that Volkswagen enjoys with MQB, in exchange for what is ostensibly a cheaper and less complex architecture. PSA simply does not have the R&D budget and global scale to embark on something as ambitious as MQB, and therefore must make tradeoffs in certain areas. On the other hand, PSA doesn’t require such an overarching modular architecture like VW does, and can tailor its factories to produce popular models that align closely with local tastes (such as high-end crossovers and larger sedans in China, MPVs and C-Segment cars in Europe), whereas Volkswagen must manage multiple brands and product lines across a greater number of markets.

The first EMP2 products will be the Citroen Picasso MPV and the new C-segment Peugeot 308 – which will compete against the MQB-based Golf, as well as its Skoda and SEAT siblings. Worth noting is that both VW and PSA are debuting these products at a time when the mainstream car market is eroding in Europe. The real threat may come from the low-cost entries, specifically Renault’s Dacia line, which offers B and C segment sedans and hatchbacks, as well as compact SUVs and MPVs, at cut-rate prices, with little appreciable difference in quality. While high-content features like start-stop and radar-guided cruise control may be absent, the basic features that many motorists require, like air-conditioning and central locking are still available. And given Europe’s precarious economic state, the price – frequently under 10,000 euro – is right. Meanwhile, Renault, taking advantage of their own modular platform system, is making as much as 9 percent profit on the cars, margins that PSA can only dream of.

Also worth noting is how EMP2 would integrate with any potential GM tie-up. This past summer, plans for a joint Opel/PSA tie-up in the D segment space were discussed, with Opel tapped to build the successor to Citroen’s D-segment entry, the C5. Half a year later, Peugeot is debuting a vision that runs counter to the Opel plan, one which would provide significant cost-savings for both auto makers, despite the seemingly moribund alliance. Clarification from both parties will be required to get a picture of PSA’s future product plans, as well as the strength of the GM-PSA alliance. In addition, this may be a signal regarding PSA’s own lack of faith in Opel, which is in the throes of a near-meltdown financially.



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