Heads Rolling At Volkswagen Over MQB Fumbles

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

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.

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

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  • Davidziff Davidziff on Aug 04, 2014

    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.

    • Bosozoku Bosozoku on Aug 05, 2014

      Or go on to run some other company in an tenuously-related industry into the ground.

  • HerrKaLeun HerrKaLeun on Aug 04, 2014

    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....

    • Hreardon Hreardon on Aug 05, 2014

      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.

  • FractureCritical FractureCritical on Aug 05, 2014

    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.

    • Hreardon Hreardon on Aug 05, 2014

      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.

  • Greg Locock Greg Locock on Aug 05, 2014

    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.

    • Hreardon Hreardon on Aug 06, 2014

      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.