In search of the lost platform (as long as cross-segment)

 

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Watchword: share. It matters little that if we are talking about social networks or platforms. The first is the reality of the moment, the other a necessity for the cars manufacturer, searching for the magical tool that allows to churn out new models in bursts, while maintaining a unique structure, from the city car to the SUV.

If the concept of shared platform applies to similar segments, for which the C-segment hatchback sedan was derived from the corresponding version of the minivan and crossover, with the modular platforms the concept has expanded greatly.

Happy the companies, able to take full advantage of the economies of scale. After all happy the customers, often beneficiary of substantial weight reductions with the new models. It is the technology that we would like to see in the spotlight, real countervalue for the customers.

The race to adopt a dream framework spares no brand. The Volkswagen-Audi group was the first to introduce this new frontier of technology, with the MQB platform (Modularer Querbaukasten).

There is only a technical constraint: the distance between the pedals and the front wheel center. It is the standard value common to all models, because every other dimension is changeable. It is composed as a sort of puzzle, allowing to vary the interaxis distance, the front and rear overhangs and other dimensions to allow the installation of in-line transverse engines and longitudinal V architectures. An important investment, able to impose itself by the media while the others chase.

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The French understood the importance of the direction chosen by Volkswagen and Nissan-Renault is ready with CMF (Common Module Family), multi-purpose module which will be the base of the second-generation Nissan Qashqai, arriving later this year, in addition to X -Trail, but also Renault Laguna and Espace, new generations expected in 2014.

The Franco-Japanese help us to draw a picture of what it means, calculator in hand, to rely on a modular platform able to cross different segments. The group will see a savings of between 30 and 40% of initial costs for the design of a new vehicle and also on the components there will be a saving of the 20/30%.

There will be 14 models based on the CMF in 2020, with a volume of 1.6 million vehicles a year. The platform identifies five main areas: engine compartment, front and rear underneath, interior, electrical and electronics components.

As often happens, the most interesting innovations follow a cascade process, with the debut of models of medium-high range, before reaching the lower segments.

Even in Bmw there will be a single platform for Mini and BMW 1 Series. In this case, there is a serious risk of diluting the contents of a brand that offers some of the premium C-segment rear-wheel drive. It seem a strategy of flooding the market with more and more proposals, whatever the cost: some believe this is the winning path.

And then what? Play the whole game exclusively through the marketing, because if the various models will differ only for the covers (read bodywork and design), we will return to narrate how this or that model will differ – even if they are twins in the genesis – thanks to the latest technological gadget.

(Translated by Raffaele Vincenti)

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