Launched with a huge fanfare in 2011, Volkswagen’s MQB vehicle architecture has become as close to a household name as any automotive platform could ever hope to be.
However, six years on, progress has not been as straightforward as VW bosses might have liked. Yes, the MQB ‘matrix’ is now the basis of 18 VW Group vehicles, with another 10 or so to come in the medium term, but it has proved a more difficult and costly project than many expected.
The creation of a components set that would be capable of underpinning vehicles from the Volkswagen Polo to the Volkswagen Passat large car (and, latterly, the even bigger US/ China-market VW Atlas SUV) was a huge task. On top of that, MQB powertrains, from petrol and diesel to electric and gas-powered, had to fit into the same structure. It was a monumental programme, occupying thousands of engineers and costing many billions.
Earlier this year, Herbert Diess, the VW brand chief, told a German newspaper the company had made “significant progress” on reducing the cost of the MQB platform. He added that the MQB had “high technical content” and would now be used for the next two generations of vehicles “without major investments”.
Being able to stretch the life of the MQB towards the end of the 2020s is impressive. Reducing costs so that the Polo family can finally be part of the MQB family is also a notable achievement. But then getting the MQB right has not only occupied VW for a decade, but it has also been costly in terms of refitting factories worldwide.
But VW — while firefighting the idiocy of Dieselgate — seems to have managed to finally bring the MQB project to a conclusion. Many common car architectures have been designed before and they have usually ended up mutating into numerous, rather more loosely related and more costly spin-offs. It will be VW’s challenge to stick with the newest version of the MQB for the next 13 years or so, without diluting the rigour of its concept.