HAMBURG – Volkswagen AG's bid to become the world's best-selling carmaker by 2018 hinges on its goal to simplify engineering and production, Ulrich Hackenberg, VW's head of research and development, said.
Introducing the so-called MQB and MLB production processes would reduce costs by 20-30 percent through savings not just horizontally across brands using the same vehicle architecture, but vertically across different segments as well.
This means that a VW CrossPolo subcompact could have more or less the same steering column module as a larger Audi A3 cabrio, for example.
"Without the resulting savings in material costs, investments and production, it would not be possible to successfully implement the Strategy 2018," Hackenberg told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
The funds freed up will be invested in new models and powertrains that meet stricter environmental regulations in the European Union.
The first model to use the MQB toolkits, which would eventually involve a total group volume of 3.5 million vehicles annually, will be next year's Audi A3. The current model use the Golf platform.
"At the end of this year we will begin making the necessary changes in production at the Audi plant in Ingolstadt, followed by the main VW plant in Wolfsburg," Hackenberg said, referring to the Golf's turn to begin using the MQB.
While savings are expected to increase significantly thanks to the new engineering and production process, this also increases the risk posed by potentially faulty parts because they are used in 3.5 million vehicles.
That compares with about 1 million vehicles currently built on VW's largest platform -- the PQ35 architecture used by the current Golf.
"We have to be very careful, since potential problems would be multiplied and have an impact across all brands," Hackenberg said.
In 2010, the VW group was the third best-selling carmaker in the world with sales of 7.14 million units, behind Toyota Motor Corp. with 8.42 million and General Motors Co. with 8.39 million.
Sources: Reuters; with contributions from David Jolley