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Car confidential: New dimension for platform-sharing

Unless you’re clearing sand out of your ears and still feeling dizzy from planting your head in the beach on your summer holiday, you’ll have noticed that more and more cars are the same underneath these days.

Well, here’s a stat to wake you up. Volkswagen – one of the pioneers of what we used to call ‘platform sharing’ – is developing new technologies that will soon allow even more commonality under the skin.

Its new MQB architecture will, for instance, underpin a colossal 46 different models.

Just think about that for a minute. It’s a new modular system of building cars that shows how far shared architectures have moved in the past two decades. 

It used to be Golf equals Leon is an Octavia-like copies the A3 is a reborn TT. And that was about your lot.

But now, it’s becoming way more complicated.

Modern manufacturing seeks even greater synergies across ever more models. Bigger is better, on Planet Bean Counter. 

Volkswagen’s new MQB project targets a massive annual production of nearly four million cars a year – split between 46 models wearing VW, Audi, Seat and Skoda badges.

But platform sharing, 21st century style, brings a new dimension of flexibility. Each brand can choose between three wheelbases and a huge choice of length, width, height and bodystyles across three different model segments – stretching from superminis (Polo sized), to small hatchbacks (think A3) to sports cars (like the TT).

All will be cheaper to build, better to drive and up to 17% cleaner than they were before, engineering sources boast. When will we first see a product of the MQB project?

Not until the new 2011 Audi A3.

If you wear a suit and use words like ‘synergies’, you can’t go much bigger than this – even if your name is GM or Toyota…

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