The Volkswagen Group is planning to overtake Toyota, the world’s biggest car maker, as part of a 10-year plan that will see the majority of new Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat models – possibly even some Porsches, Bentleys, Lamborghinis and Bugattis – adopt one of four mechanical platforms.
The four new model architectures are for compact rear-engined city cars (MHB), small to midsized transverse-engined family cars (MQB), mid-engined sports cars, and larger longitudinal-engined cars (MLB).
According to a report in Automotive News yesterday, those four architectures could allow the VW Group to almost double its volume by 2018, to reduce model development times by up to a year, and to reduce costs by between 25- and 40 per cent. Here’s what’s known about each of them right now.
’MHB’ to underpin smallest models
Volkswagen’s smallest new platform will form the basis of its forthcoming family of rear-engined Up! city cars but, as Autocar has learned, it will also serve underneath a new Seat city car known as the Ros, after the firm's Arosa city car.
There is considerable scope for it also to be used to engineer a bargain basement Skoda model, given the Czech brand’s reputation for value for money. Industry experts will be keeping an eye out for a concept car at one of Europe’s motor shows next year.
As the cheapest of VW’s four platforms, it’s also likely to play an important role in the groups’ expansion into developing markets.
From Fabia to Bolero, via Audi’s new A1: ‘MQB’
VW’s next platform up will become its most ubiquitous ever. It’s codenamed ‘MQB’ and will allow VW to engineer a variety of different front, transverse-engined, front-wheel drive cars using the same starting point.
The models themselves will span several segments, varying in size from the next VW Polo and Skoda Fabia at the smaller end, up to the next VW Passat and Seat Bolero. They will differ in concept as widely as the sixth generation VW Golf and the next Audi TT, and the inherent flexibility within the platform will allow manufacturers to vary wheelbase, track width, overall height and seating position.
All ‘MQB’ products, however, will share components, manufacturing processes, and primarily the positioning of the engine, front axle and pedal box will be the same in all. The first to appear is likely to be the Audi A1, in 2010.
VW’s mid-engined sports car platform
Next in the scale is a new platform for mid-engined sports cars which the VW Group is currently developing. The internal codename for this project has been kept a secret, but Autocar understands that the project is borne out of the desire to be able to make cars as distantly separated as the Porsche Boxster and Lamborghini Gallardo more easily and more profitably.
According to our information, the next Porsche Boxster and Cayman will use this new model architecture, as will a smaller mid-engined sibling for the Audi R8, called the R4.
If it’s sufficiently adaptable, the new mid-engined platform could also be farmed out to both Lamborghini and Bugatti. Watch this space to read more on the project.
Top of the pile: ‘MLB'
The VW Group’s largest new platform will allow it to develop the next Audi A6, the new VW Phaeton, the next Bentley Continental GT and anything in between. It allows engines to be positioned longitudinally in the engine bay, and for power to be channelled to all four wheels, and is already serving under the new Audi A4 and A5.
New platforms, new models
As well as fathering replacements for the models we already know, these four model architectures will streamline development processes, and make it easier and cheaper for VW to bring all-new models to the road.
The means we’re going to see even more niche models from the group that recently gave us the VW Tiguan and Audi R8. We’re already expecting more offroaders and a premium supermini from Audi, a compact coupe from Seat, and both a small 4x4 and a large crossover from Skoda in the coming years. It seems those models are only the tip of the iceberg.