During the past decade, the modular platform has revolutionized the production of our vehicles and expanded the range of automobiles. This technical and economical tool has transformed the automobile landscape, without drivers knowing.
The modular platform: what is it?
This involves the modern conception of a car’s body, whose shoulders correspond to the “front axle” and the hips to the “rear axle”. Two sets of elements often referred to as “Big modules”, which include both the structure of the chassis to which are attached the suspension, steering, engine, pedalboard in front and suspension and possibly certain parts of the transmission or electric engine in the rear. Between the rear and the front, the manufacturer installs a steel spine of the desired length and fits the front and rear extremities with the head and feet of his choice. This way, one and the same platform can be used for a compact, sedan, coupé, SUV, minivan etc.
What are the advantages?
This standardized architecture offers several advantages, first among them economic ones. The bulk of the development costs of such a platform is spread across a range of models. This sharing of the architecture has an effect on production, allowing for a standardization of the processes, parts and tooling across various factories of the same make or automotive group. Such systematization makes it possible to complete the first phases or a significant proportion of the assembly on the same line for different models. An industrial process that makes production more flexible and more responsive to demand, reducing production times. Those platforms generally allow for a reduction in weight and the use of more durable materials, thereby enhancing the dynamic features, comfort and safety of the vehicle.
It is impossible to draw up an exhaustive list of the platforms on the market! However, there are numerous relevant illustrations, starting with the VW Group which, with its 10 brands and 220 models, is among the car makers most interested in the topic. By way of an example, the renowned MQB serves as the basis for the Volkswagen Golf, the Audi A3 and the Seat Leon. All in all, dozens of models are concerned. And the phenomenon continues to grow: Opel is expected to move from 9 to 2 platforms, Mercedes from 9 to 4, and BMW will limit itself to 2 structures. The latter is certainly one of the most notable examples, with one platform intended for the most compact cars, housing a transverse front engine in front-wheel drive vehicles (Mini and BMW), and one platform for large vehicles with longitudinally mounted front motors, possibly with the entire transmission alongside, as in large SUVs. One additional factor will affect the further development of this trend: electrification. Generalist car manufacturers are doing all they can nowadays to design the platforms of the future, those that will become the cars of tomorrow. They will be available with heat, hybrid or fully electric engines and will require the design of platforms capable of accommodating fuel reservoirs, battery packs or both.