Volkswagen is putting the finishing touches to a brand new front-wheel drive platform to be used by up to 60 models from Audi, Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen by the middle of the next decade.

Known as MQB (modularen querbaukasten or modular transverse engine mount architecture), the new structure will replace today’s PQ2, PQ3 and PQ4 platforms. The move, according to Wolfsburg insiders, will help save Volkswagen and its various offshoots up to a billion euros per year by streamlining production and creating greater economies of scale.

New VW Touareg for Detroit

The secret to the MQB is the way it provides for a common distance between the front axle and the pedals irrespective of the size of the car it is applied to. VW’s head of R&D, Ulrich Hackenberg, claims this will help reduce the number of front-wheel drive 'engine mounting architectures' used by Volkswagen from 18 today to just two.

The new platform design, which will make its debut on the next Audi A3, due in 2011, allows for a much greater variance in track width, wheelbase and wheel size than with Volkswagen’s existing transverse engine platforms, while allowing for both front drive and four-wheel drive.

“It gives us the possibility to produce models from different segments and in varying sizes using the same basic front-end architecture,” said Hackenberg. “We can go from a typical hatchback to a saloon, cabriolet and SUV with only detailed changes to the size of the wheel carriers.” He said it will be used on every model from the new Lupo all the way through to the next-generation Sharan.

The new architecture should provide between 60 and 70 per cent parts commonality between Volkswagen’s biggest-selling models. And as well as supporting petrol and diesel engines, it has been developed to support models using natural gas, liquid petroleum gas and ethanol. Modifications will also permit the inclusion of hybrid drive.

Greg Kable

Picture: Motorforecast

Twitter - follow autocar.co.ukSee all the latest Volkswagen reviews, news and video