By on March 17, 2014


In order to accelerate development of new models while also cutting costs, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are downsizing the number of architectures to be used in future vehicles in their respective lineups.

Automotive News Europe reports Mercedes will be down from nine platforms five years ago to four platforms by 2016, with the first — the MFA — already in showrooms as the CLA; the MFA-underpinned B-Class and GLA will arrive in United States showrooms later this summer. The move would allow Mercedes to move safety systems from their flagship S-Class to lower classes more quickly than in previous years.

Meanwhile, BMW will go from five to two platforms — one for RWD, one for FWD –between its namesake brand and Mini. The latter debuted with the redesigned Mini not too long ago, and will also underpin the 2-Series Active Tourer officially unveiled in Geneva last week.

As for the RWD platform, BMW R&D board member Herbert Deiss says it will arrive in 2016 under the next-generation 7 Series. Both consolidations were brought to life to allow more affordable expansion of each brand’s lineup.

BMW’s i Series will not take part in the consolidation, nor will Rolls-Royce.

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39 Comments on “BMW, Mercedes Downsize Number Of Architectures For Future Vehicles...”

  • avatar

    “If less is more, just imagine how much more more will be.”

  • avatar

    How is BMW going to build something the size of a 3/4 Series on the same platform as something like a 760iL?

    • 0 avatar

      IMO, they won’t. I think they’ll go to FWD/AWD for the 3 and 4 series eventually. Enthusiasts will howl, but mainstream consumers don’t care. See Audi.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, this is my worry too.
        I guess they could build a single, very high standard platform that carries the NVH standards of the 7er down to the 3er and 4er but that might defeat the object of the exercise.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, I bet you’re right. It will only hurt their sales a little.

      • 0 avatar

        I think it will hurt them more than they know. I’m not sure what Mercedes will do with the C-class, but if they eventually ditch it for CLA, BMW will have an exclusive market for small German RWD sedans/coupes. Jumping into the the pool were Audi has already been for twenty years and where Mercedes would also have a heads up seems like recipe for failure.

      • 0 avatar
        Dirk Stigler

        Audi has always been FWD. Pre-Quattro, and in the malaise era, that was their big selling point. So it’s not a good example of how people would react to a FWD BMW.

        BMW’s selling point for the last 20 years is their highly developed RWD platform in the 3 and 5 series (the 7 being a luxury boat that exists because a luxury carmaker needs something like that in their product line). Their customers will in fact notice and care if the 3er goes FWD. They’ve likely ridden their popularity wave about as far as it will go. It’s time to refocus on their core brand identity. Putting the 3 and 5 on a FWD platform at this point would be a GM-worthy brand-suicide move.

        • 0 avatar

          Unless of course they’re doing it knowingly – and will nearly immediately retract the New-BMW product lines and release “BMW-Classic” which will become a hit.

      • 0 avatar

        mypoint02 – – –

        A 2011 or 2012 survey in Germany conducted by Dr Norbert Reithofer (CEO, BMW) revealed that 80% of consumers couldn’t tell which wheels were doing the power delivery, — and didn’t care. The world has changed. The axis of planet has shifted by at least two degrees. BMW has become a large marketing firm, with profits and sales dominating over quality and performance. Yes, its cheaper to make a FWD car, and yes, space management inside is more efficient. But is that all that automobiles are about?


      • 0 avatar

        > IMO, they won’t. I think they’ll go to FWD/AWD for the 3 and 4 series eventually.

        Unlikely. I demonstrate that the existing 3-7series are within stone’s throw below:

        Similarly the 1series is within reach of a mini nevermind 2-series active tourer

    • 0 avatar

      Depends on how they do it. If they emulate Cadillac, they will build a 3 series and try to stretch it. If they build it with the 7 series in mind, they will then shorten it but build a 3 that drives like a 7. If I had to guess, they will build it with the 3 series in mind and stretch it, and in the process possibly [further] ruin the 7 series by making it a “big 3”. The fact Rolls Royce will not take part also suggests this route.

      • 0 avatar

        You know, it’s almost like a reversion to the 1920’s, where you’d buy a chassis and have a coach-built body put on top of it. All the cars are going to have the same chassis, with the only differentiation being the body on top.

        Except instead of a higher quality RWD chassis, it’ll be something FWD we’re trying to stretch to many sizes. It’s like the worst combination of GM in 1991 and what Volvo is trying to do currently.

        Inquiry: What mainstream manufacturer is currently using the highest number of platforms (across both regular and luxury brands)?

        • 0 avatar

          During the previous TTAC administration I seem to recall GM having something like 27 platforms worldwide in the MQB pieces, and VAG having something like 20 looking to slim down to 12 with MQB.

          EDIT: Wikipedia claims 14 active platforms as of 2014. So either I’m plain wrong or that higher figure was from around the bailout time.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          It’s probably still GM.

          *Gamma II (Subcompact)–Encore, Sonic, Spark
          *Delta II (Compact)–Cruze, Verano, Volt
          *Epsilon II (Mid-sized FWD)–Malibu, Regal
          *W-Body (Full-sized FWD)–Impala Classic
          *Super-Epsilon II (Full-sized FWD)–Impala, LaCrosse, XTS
          *Zeta (Full-sized RWD)–Camaro, Caprice, SS
          *Alpha (premium RWD)–ATS, CTS
          *Sigma II (premium RWD)–CTS Coupe, CTS Wagon
          *Theta (compact crossover)–Captiva, Equinox, Terrain
          *Theta Premium (mid-sized crossover)–SRX
          *Lambda (large crossover)–Acadia, Enclave, Traverse
          *K2xx (large BOF vehicles)–Escalade/EXT, Sierra, Silverado, Suburban, Tahoe, Yukon/XL
          *GMT600 (large vans)–Express, Savanna
          *Y-Body (sports car)–Corvette
          *New Truck Platform–Canyon, Colorado (could possibly be put on K2xx platform)

          I didn’t even count the commercial stuff, like GM’s medium-duty GMT530/560 platform that underpins the Presidential Limousine. I also didn’t count the City Express, which is a rebadged Nissan. There’s also the upcoming Omega platform, for Cadillac’s upcoming flagship vehicle. And even taking away the “long-wheelbase” platforms (Super-Epsilon and Theta Premium), it’s still a lot of architecture.

          Some of these platforms are on their way out, and those would be the Sigma II, W-Body and Zeta platforms. And some of them are already related to one another. For example, Lambda and Theta Premium are related to Epsilon II. So I’m sure GM will figure out how to downsize its full/mid-sized platform for the smaller cars…or maybe they’ll upsize the compact platform.

          Now, which brand has the most platforms relative to the number of cars it produces? That’d probably be Jaguar. Each of its vehicles seems to have its own platform, And some of these are quite old. I believe the current (X150) Jaguar XK is based on the architecture of the old one (X100), which dates back to 1994, when the Aston Martin DB7 used it. That platform is itself a (heavily-modified) evolution of the XJ-S platform, so it might well date all the way back to 1975/6 ins some places! And that would explain why the XK is so cramped and has backseats that are a joke. Then there’s the XF, which uses the old Ford DEW98 platform that seen on the S-Type, LS and Thunderbird. The XJ uses the aluminum architecture of its predecessor, which is only as old as MY2004 here in the States. The new F-Type has brought its own new aluminum platform, and the upcoming compact sedan (XE) will bring in yet another platform, though it’s supposed to be the one that gets stretched to eventually underpin the next XF and possibly the next XJ.

  • avatar


    Reminds me of a move stolen right out of Government Motor’s Big Book of Cheapness.

    I see a much smaller 7-Series and S Class coming down the line…

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    As far as BMW goes, it’s already true that the 5, 6 and 7-Series are on the same basic platform. The new X5 may be a structural relative as well (though probably not the X6, which is now a generation behind). And everything with a “3” or a “4” in it is structurally-related. So it’s feasibly possible to have just one RWD platform for BMW, with the proper engineering. But that seems like a very poor idea to me for a brand whose smallest and largest cars have very different missions and customer-bases. And where does Rolls-Royce fit into this plan?

    • 0 avatar

      Rolls still uses the last 7 series platform. I wonder if they are just going to leave it that way for awhile. It would be hard to justify a custom platform with their volume.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Right. The Ghost and Wraith use the 7-Series platform. And it will be a while before they’re redesigned/replaced, too. I think it’s already been decided that the next Phantom won’t get its own bespoke platform (as the current one does) but will use a corporate BMW one.

      • 0 avatar

        Is there enough volume to downsize t he Rolls chassis for the 7 series to use ?

    • 0 avatar

      The problem is that it ends up being very hard to differentiate meaningfully cars on the same platform. The F10 5er now drives just like a 7-series: big, heavy, isolated, luxurious. There is no way that BMW can make one platform support both a good 7er and a good 3er.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    I think we need a “platform deep dive.”

    As I understand it, modern platforms are a set of common interfaces between components: front clip, passenger cabin, etc. Each component can come in different sizes.

    Cars used to be designed one-off: a new Golf could be made into a Jetta or a wagon, but it was entirely different from a Fox or Passat. Platform-based cars can be made in different lengths, widths, etc, using the same basic components.

    IOW: This doesn’t mean that the next 7 Series will have the wheelbase of a 3 Series. Far from it. What it does mean is that you can expect an even more confusing array of different models and configurations from BMW. How about a lifted 7-series CUV coupé? An M1-L stretched convertible for the Chinese market? It’s all down to the marketing department because the engineers can build it cheaply.

    • 0 avatar

      I am also interested in a deep dive as to why it is claimed that it costs $1 billion dollars to design a new platform.

      Is this just for the unibody? If so, why does designing a unibody cost so much? Does it include the suspension set up? Again, why so expensive? Is it all NVH reduction? Is it all in keeping manufacturing costs down? How much is done in software and how much requires physical testing?

      Any detailed links/references would be appreciated.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      You’re right. The 3-Series will surely not be the same size as a 7-Series. But I think that this plan will compromise a lot of the 3-Series’ agility and sporting characteristics. The 5-Series has already become a “German Buick” for using a 7-Series platform, and it’s not that I don’t appreciate such cars, but that’s really not what you’d want in a 3-Series. That doesn’t even take into account how compromised a car like the Z4 would be.

      Many automakers use just a few platforms and shape things as needed. Toyota’s MC platform encompasses pretty much all of its front-wheel-drive cars, everything from the Corolla, to the tC, to the Camry, to the Avalon, to the Highlander, to the CT, to the ES, to the RX. Nissan’s D platform seems to be rooted in the Altima. That was used on the Maxima, Murano and Quest, and then the Murano was upsized to create the Pathfinder and its luxury twin, the JX35/QX60. And it’s amazing how much use they’ve gotten out of the FM (Front-Midship) platform, which handles the 350/370Z, G/Q40/50/60, EX/QX50, M/Q70 and FX/QX70. (You’d be surprised at how many people think that the FX/QX70 is the luxury version of the Murano).

      • 0 avatar

        I’m curious why everyone is jumping to a compromised 3 or a smaller 7 as the result of consolidating platforms. The only really important question is what is the design envelope of the platform – does it decide specific hard points, or more of an architectural approach?

    • 0 avatar

      We had some of that regarding MQB, check the archives. So we need more like a “deep update”.

  • avatar

    That BMW in the photo at the top is SWEET! Kinda reminds me of a Kia Rondo. Oh yea!

  • avatar

    “Meanwhile, BMW will go from five to two platforms — one for RWD, one for FWD –between its namesake brand and Mini.”

    And much like Mini they will build as many variants as humanly possible in order to give the illusion of variety.

    Everytime I hear about modern automakers cheapening out down to just a few platforms I’m reminded of mid-late 1980’s Chrysler, you could get an L-Car (OmniIzonChargerTurismo), a truckSUV on its own frame, or a K-Car variant (EVERYTHING THEY MADE).

    Little did Chrysler know that German carmakers and the rest of the automotive world would be copying their idea.

  • avatar

    I know platform sharing is the way of the future, increasing costs from every corner for automakers make platform sharing simply make sense.

    And while I realize many people go “hey pretty, imma buy that one”, how do people in the know honestly put down twice the amount of money for the same platform at the other end of the lineup?

    It’s been a while since I posed this question, but what is “luxury” anymore? Certainly not A/C, power locks/windows, heated seats, leather, captain chairs, or even console shifters any more. The only answer I can think of is better materials and cool “features”, and a big dose of brand prestige.

    • 0 avatar

      Evidence that people will spend the extra money for essentially the same car has been present in the Boxster/911 since the late 90s. For a brief time the 911 owners were upset that their much more expensive car actually had the same sheetmetal in front of the A-pillar as the entry level car. Design updates have since comfortably differentiated the two and Porsche continues to be ridiculously profitable.

  • avatar

    It’s unclear why people are freaked out that the 3 & 5 might share a platform when an objective comparison of sizes shows this should be feasible:

    The wheelbase is 3-4in apart, which is trivial even in existing platforms (eg 350z/g35 diff is 8in). The tracks are 2-3in, which is hardly outside the realm of imagination given WRX/Impreza are >1in diff on obviously shared designed (nevermind 5/7 almost 1in), esp considering the 3 continues to grow in size to allow room for the 1/2series:

    Even the weight diff of only ~400lb is mostly attributable to general size rather than some platform efficiency.

    It’s most likely that future 1/2series will be using the new fwd/awd platform, which fits with its lower price point. If increasing audi sales over any insight, it’s that people mostly don’t care anyway.

    IOW, typical mountains out of molehills.

  • avatar

    I wonder if this means that the cabin rust in new BMW F20 and F30 will become a standard feature for their entire line-up.

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