Has Volkswagen discovered the Holy Grail of carmakers?
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Now, with the implementation of MQB, "they're being asked for quotes on 35 million parts," says a senior European industry executive.
More importantly, the modularity enables VW to design, engineer and build a wide variety of vehicle size and shapes - from a subcompact Polo hatchback to a full-size, seven-passenger crossover that's due in the United States in 2015.
The flexibility of the MQB system also allows VW to create more cars that are more tailored for specific markets at a lower cost, and it doesn't have to sell so many units to break even, according to Morgan Stanley analyst Stuart Pearson.
MQB isn't the only weapon in Hackenberg's arsenal.
Larger Audi, VW and Porsche models with longitudinal engines - mounted in a north-south configuration - will use a similar set of components dubbed MLB that already underpins a number of Audi vehicles.
And many of the group's ultra-luxury and performance brands will employ a third component set called MSB, designed for premium rear- and all-wheel-drive vehicles such as the Porsche 911, the Bentley Continental and the Lamborghini Gallardo.
Each of the three modular component sets will come in different variations that will enable enormous flexibility in terms of product design, while accommodating a wide range of powertrain options, from gas and diesel engines to electric motors and batteries.
"Modular platforms have grown beyond the technology (alone) to become a management tool which helps support the brands' development. The toolkits help the brands to preserve their character and sharpen their individuality," said Hackenberg, now development chief for the Volkswagen brand.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
The modular toolkits seem like the ideal complement to VW's other strengths, not the least of which is the company's sheer size: Group revenue this year is projected by Bernstein Research to top $275 billion.
But the huge volumes planned for the MQB derivatives alone could also expose the group to the same sort of mass recalls of millions of cars experienced in recent years by Japanese rival Toyota. If a single part has a problem, and that part is in many different models, a recall affects many more vehicles.
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