Volkswagen’s Brilliant Plan B
Volkswagen’s Brilliant Plan B
It’s been 10 years since the first Volkswagen product built on our brand’s MQB platform left its production line. What makes this innovative modular architecture so clever?
Short for Modularer Querbaukasten, or modular transverse toolkit, the introduction of the MQB platform in 2012 was seen as both an exercise in the necessary simplification of an otherwise complex automotive manufacturing process, but also a critical step towards ensuring the respective future-focused plans of each of the global brands represented by the Volkswagen Group.
Engineered to accommodate any number of variables depending on the requirements of the product being built around this platform, the masterstroke of the original MQB architecture was the introduction of a pre-determined number of fixed points and measurements that were non-negotiable in the manufacturing process. As the name suggests, these included the location and positioning of a transverse-mounted engine, as well as, for example, the distance between the vehicle’s pedal box and the centre line of the front wheels. Working with a pre-determined set of common mounting points and a basic front-wheel drive floorplan, designers and engineers from each department within the Volkswagen Group knew from the outset which parameters could be adjusted to suit their respective briefs – including wheelbase, track widths or even a driving position – and which were “cast-in-stone.”
Featuring a combination of high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels, as well as metal sheeting of variable thicknesses, the introduction of MQB realised newfound levels of tortional rigidity and, as a result, inherent dynamic ability, but also a significant reduction in the overall weight of each product built around it. The first Volkswagen model to include MQB underpinnings was the Golf Mk7, a model line-up that proved on average 100-kilograms lighter than the generation it replaced.
A further benefit of this adopted level of commonality across such a broad portfolio of products was a drastic reduction in the manufacturing costs associated with having to design and engineer bespoke parts to suit each new package. As an example, by incorporating essentially the same heater and air-conditioning unit throughout, the number of potential variations of these systems available to each design department reduced from 102 to just 28. Cost of components aside, average production time was reduced by up to 30%.
Of the more than 32-million Volkswagen Group products built, to date, around the MQB platform – including Audi, Seat and Skoda – 20 million have worn a VW badge.
A South African audience gained its first taste of the benefits of MQB via the closely followed introductions of the third-generation Audi A3 and seventh version of the Golf in early 2013.
Always destined to be evolved to meet a broad-as-possible mandate, while the second-generation Tiguan and its long-wheelbase, seven-seat Tiguan Allspace sibling offered an in-the-metal representation of the flexibility of the MQB, headline news came in the form of Volkswagen’s Uitenhage (now Kariega) plant integrating this architecture in order to assemble the all-important sixth-generation Polo hatch for export to all corners of the globe.
Since shared with its T-Cross compact SUV sibling, the adoption of the so-called A0 evolution of MQB that the current Polo is built on allowed us to introduce any number of latest generation safety and connectivity technologies previous unavailable in this popular compact segment. These include the brand’s innovative IQ.Light and IQ.Drive systems.
Vehicles built on the newest version of MQB include the Golf Mk8 and recently introduced all-new Caddy family of vehicles.
On the tenth anniversary of MQB, lessons learnt from this exercise in the streamlining of an otherwise complex, multifaceted production process have been incorporated within Volkswagen’s thinking towards to the future of mobility. While the latest Modular Electric Drive Matrix (MEB) underpins the brand’s fast-growing portfolio of all-electric ID. vehicles – including housing each product’s battery pack below the passenger compartment and between the axles, front and rear – an all-new Scalable Systems Platform (SSP) is set to carry our aspirations towards complete connectivity between all vehicles, culminating in fully-autonomous driving.