The new innovative platform and engine series for their most popular models could help them become the world’s largest automaker.
Car production is a very complex undertaking. Unlike electronic and digital equipment, cars are made of numerous components and diverse materials that are sourced from hundreds of suppliers. A few of the components are quite heavy; others are sizeable and not easily transferred from one place to another. Compatibility of cars' components was limited in the past and less so nowadays. However, compatibility between assembly lines is still uncommon.
This obviously causes quite a lot of headaches and head scratching, particularly to huge automakers such as Volkswagen Group. Volkswagen Group currently has seven brands in their portfolio (not including Porsche) and some 220 models that are produced in 90 facilities worldwide. The mainstream segments in that mix are called A0 to B. Models in the A0 segment include, for example, the VW Polo. Segment B is the Passat. In between there are multiple models, amongst them the Golf and Jetta. It goes without saying that all other brands in the group build their cars on those platforms.
However, even when two models use the same platform, it is not possible to assemble them on the same assembly line. And now Volkswagen is addressing that problem with its new MQB project. For 20 years, since Ferdinand Piech became CEO, VW has embarked on a colossal acquisition spree, in which they bought Skoda, Seat, Lamborghini, amongst others. And in an attempt to simplify everything from engineering to manufacturing, VW developed their famous platform sharing concept, in which models from across the brands shared platforms, components and engines.
But with MQB, VW is taking the platform concept a few steps further in order to streamline the procurement and production processes. And it could prove to be an industry game changer. The new platform's acronym is MQB, though its full name is Modular Transverse Matrix (since all of platform's engines are transverse mounted). It basically works like this: At the base of the project is a new platform and two new engine series, one gasoline and one diesel. Various models on this platform will be adept in accommodating alternative propulsion systems such as hybrids and EVs.
VW's goals in developing the system were the optimization of the efficiencies of the drive systems, the use of alternative and, in particular, renewable energy sources as well as development of CO2-neutral mobility concepts. The MQB can be produced in various length dimensions for the wheel base and car. However, there is one dimension that never changes: the measurement between the accelerator pedal and the front wheel's center. According to VW, that is the most crucial prerequisite for the successful implementation of the idea of modular component sets for uniform engineering dimensions.
VW has adopted its gasoline engine series to suit the new platform with uniform mounting positions that obliged the engineers to change the engine head layout. In addition a new flange pattern enables the use of only one gearbox for all engine series in every torque class. A new gasoline engine series is comprised of 3 and 4-cylinder engines. The 3-cylinders are known as MPI while the turbocharged 4-cylinder engines are known as TSI. The TSI engine is the world's first 4-cylinder with a deactivation system: two of its four pots are shut down when the engine load is low. All told, output for the series ranges from 85 to 140hp.
According to VW, the new system enables a reduction of engine-gearbox combinations by an insane 88 percent. Other innovations include the integration of the turbocharger, the build of the exhaust manifold into the engine head, and the return of the toothed belt in valve actuation. The new diesel engine series includes 1.6- and 2.0-liter variations that produce 90 to 190hp. Another important aspect to the new platform is its imponderous weight: although the MQB is much safer and better equipped than a Golf IV, it weighs nearly the same.
Engineers also incorporated advanced components such as an electronically controlled front-axle transverse differential lock, progressive steering, proactive occupant protection system, multi collision brakes (to prevent or reduce secondary collision effects), and a touchscreen with proximity sensor. The new platform will facilitate the production of models such as the Golf, Tiguan and Passat. And in an ever growing global economy, VW is preparing the foundation that, if their plans succeed, will see them becoming the world's number one automaker by 2018. The new MQB technologies should help turn that goal into a reality.