Are We About To Witness MQB's First "Cascading Failure"?
Reports out of the Berlin desk of Reuters suggest that VW could have a fairly large problem on their hands, one that TTAC discussed during heated battles over modular kit architectures – that of “cascading failures”.
Reports by German auto publication Auto Bild suggest that improperly installed HVAC draining tubes in the all new Mark VII VW Golf can leak water into the driver’s footwell. VW confirmed the problem to Reuters, and suggested that 46 individual cases are known to VW.
On the other hand, Auto Bild has suggested that the number could be as high as 300,000 cars, including the Seat Leon and Audi A3, due to the “cascading failure” phenomenon. The new Golf is built on Volkswagen’s MQB architecture, along with models like the Leon and A3, with the architecture having a high degree of common parts across Volkswagen’s entire range. While this allows for cost savings, manufacturing flexibility and shorter assembly times, it also increases the chances of significant failures, in the event of a bad batch of parts or a common engineering defect. The swift felling of hundreds of thousands of cars (or more) due to the failure of a single component is not necessarily new in the auto industry (we’ve seen mega recalls before) but it would be relatively new for it to affect a group of vehicles derived from a single common architecture.
If this is indeed related to a batch of faulty parts, then it would be evidence of a cascading failure. However, it could also be a procedural error committed by a worker, a poorly implemented assembly process or some combination of the above. This could be one of the more interesting stories of the year, as it may be one of the biggest examples of the downsides of the move to modular “kits”.
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GM cars had this problem a lot. As far as I know, it was endemic in L, J, and N-body cars, a fault with assembly robots burning holes in panels to let water in? Dunno if it's that on my car or rotted out cowl seals letting water in at the base of the windshield.
A common architecture or platform does not increase the CHANCE of a failure occurring. In fact, it may reduce it as there are fewer separate different parts and configurations, and presumably the ones that are used can be more thoroughly evaluated and tested. What it does do is increase the IMPACT of a failure occurring, as there will be more individual vehicles with the same part and configuration. It's not quite the same thing ...