In order to reduce costs and hasten product development, German automakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz have decided to adopt a new strategy by reducing the number of vehicle architectures.
Vehicle architecture is a basic structure on which different components of a vehicle are designed and developed. Whereas ‘Platform’ signifies its purpose of conveying its general size and capability. For example one can say that the Volkswagen Beetle and Golf are built on the same platform. While the two cars’ bodies are totally different from each other, the platform is basically the same. Developing different models and still making it affordable to manufacturers is possible only because of Platform and component sharing.
Today, the Bavarians including MINI currently have five vehicle architectures: the new FWD platform for the MINI and FWD BMW 2-Series AT; one for the 1-, (current) X1, 2- and 3-Series cars, a bigger one for the 5-, 6- and 7-Series plus the Rolls-Royce Ghost, one for the X3 and X4 crossovers, and another for the X5 and X6 crossovers.
According to Herbert Diess – a board member for R&D – that number will decrease to just two platforms: one for front-wheel drive cars and the other for rear wheel drive models.
BMW’s new i3 plug-in hybrid/electric and i8 plug-in hybrid will not be included in this architecture restructuring though. Similarly, Mercedes will reduce its product architecture from the current nine to only four. The four architectures will be MSA, MHA, MRA, MFA.
MSA : Modular Sports Architecture will have lots of aluminium and carbon fiber to reduce weight. It will underpin the SLK and the two door SL range.
MHA : Modular High Architecture will be used for large SUVs and cross-overs. This includes the ML, GL and the MLC, which is to be launched in 2015.
MRA : Modular Rear Architecture will be worked upon for the GLK compact crossover, 2016 E-Class. The MRA debuted with the C-Class (W205). The MRA will give engineers the ability to work for different wheelbases as well as body widths and will underpin as many as 10 cars. The next gen S-Class will also be based on a variant of the MRA platform.
MFA : Modular Front Architecture will consist of the A-Class, B-Class, CLA-Class and the recently-unveiled GLA-Class. Reports suggest an upcoming CLA Shooting Brake will also be underpinned by the MFA platform.
Such standardization and part sharing measures by the big 2 German luxury vehicle manufacturers will surely result in massive cost savings thereby eventually translating into reduced product cost; a benefit team AutoColumn hopes will surely be passed on to the consumer. Keep watching this space for more.