The Revolution Of The Car Industry: Kit Cars

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
the revolution of the car industry kit cars

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.“

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3 of 17 comments
  • Bumpy ii Bumpy ii on Aug 08, 2011

    So, has anyone ever made a 'universal' platform that didn't weigh more than a dedicated design would have?

    • Cdotson Cdotson on Aug 08, 2011

      The Chrysler K-platform was pretty nearly "universal" and I don't recall anything built on a K to be what I would consider heavy. Besides, wasn't the K platform one of the first implementations of this strategy VW is implementing? It certainly led to Chrysler having a profitable 15+ year run before being raped and pillaged. VW's ideas aren't new, they're just successfully implemented so rarely VW can make them newsworthy.

  • JMII JMII on Aug 08, 2011

    How many of VAG current vehicles are based on some version of the Golf? They are all share the 2.0T engine as well. GM's problem is they started with a crummy base then slapped different badges on it, plus in most cases they didn't even try to make them look or function differently. Thus instead of just one lame car they have four versions of it for sale. I too wish true kit cars would make a come back... however I'm one those crazy people that thought the idea of a Pontiac Fiero with a Lambo kit (+ V8 in the back) was a downright awesome idea.

  • Analoggrotto It's getting awful hard to tell these Mercedes apart from one another.
  • Analoggrotto Ah the Fisher Price car for the uncoolest of uncool dad-bods.
  • FreedMike If it were a GLI, it’d be a decent project car. But at the end of the day you have a base Jetta, and those weren’t all that great. Speaking of project VWs - when I was living at my old house a few years ago, one of my neighbors had an OG 1983 GTI sitting on his lawn. Lord, did I want to take that car home.
  • Dukeisduke "Gouging" - lol. California's gas prices are driven by a combination of the highest state gasoline tax in the US (66.98 cents per gallon) and the CARB-mandated California-only boutique fuel blends.
  • Astigmatism Honestly I'm surprised it's not higher. My parents bought two garage spots in Boston for $250k in the 1980s. When I worked in midtown a decade ago, garage spots near my building rented for $500 a month, which would support a $125k mortgage.Places get expensive when lots of people want to live there.