Volkswagen’s Smart Designs and Manufacturing

Written By: Gary Wollenhaupt
  • 2/23/2015


Underneath its curvy sheet metal, the award-winning 2015 Volkswagen Golf hides a secret.

The seventh generation of VW’s compact sporty car was named Motor Trend Car of the Year and made Car and Driver’s 10 Best list, among other awards.

While the Golf line up is beloved for its sophisticated yet affordable performance, the car’s real success lies in the fact that much of its inner workings are shared with a wide range of vehicles in the VW Group’s global vehicle portfolio.

Underneath the new design, the 2015 Golf is based on the Modular Transverse Matrix—the German acronym is MQB—platform, which can be shared with the Audi A3 and VW Tiguan SUV for example.

Over the past several years the VW companies—with VW, Audi, Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini operating in the United States—developed a vehicle platform system based on four modules. Ultimately the goal is to migrate all VW Group vehicles to the platform system by 2018, including a new mid-size SUV schedule to launch in 2017.

There are three other platforms in addition to the MQB. The NSF platform is used in markets outside North America for sub-sub compacts like the VW Up. The larger MLB platform has a longitudinal engine and underpins models like the Audi A6 and A8 and the Porsche Cayenne. Top of the line is the MSB sports car architecture found in Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley models.

All cars built on the MQB system share the same front axle, pedal box and engine positioning, despite varying wheelbase, track and external dimensions. But most of the platform strategy is invisible to the driver. Where it counts, each vehicle line up retains what’s unique about each brand, says Mark Gillies, a VW spokesman.

“We start with the underpinnings of the car, the floor pan sheet metal basically and then you put a top hat on it,” Gillies says.

The new design also incorporates more ultra-high-strength hot form steel, from 6 percent in the old version to about 28 percent in the new Golf. Higher strength steel means you can use less of it, and the new Golf Sport Wagon weights about 123 pounds less.

The new Golf will also incorporate high-tech safety devices previously found on high-end cars, such as lane-departure warning and laser cruise control.

The flexibility of the shared platforms makes design and manufacturing much more efficient. For instance the Golf’s platform incorporates a lot of room for styling options but there’s a standardized dimension from the front axle centerline to the engine firewall.

That’s a complex area that incorporates up to 60 percent of the value of the vehicle including climate controls, the front axle and power steering, as well as the crash structure. Making that section standard reduces complexity and increases manufacturing efficiency.

“We took out about 90 percent of the power train installation variants on that set of platforms,” Gillies says.

In the previous versions of the Golf, the gas engine and diesel engine installation were unique, which required individual engineering design, components and assembly line operations.

Before, the exhaust for the gas engine faced the front of the car, while the exhaust for the diesel version exited toward the rear. Now both versions have their exhaust systems exiting from the rear of the engine.

“As a result the exhaust line has become easier to deal with, the drive shaft is the same, the gear box positioning is the same, you only have to have one gear shift linkage, there are lots of simple things that save engineering cost and money and time in producing the car,” Gillies says.

The drivetrain of the 2015 Golf family, which was designed in PTC Creo, is currently available in four distinct versions: the sporty Golf GTI, Golf 1.8T, the Golf TDI Clean Diesel and the all-electric, zero-tailpipe emissions e-Golf. A CNG version is available in Europe and plug-in hybrid is on the way.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen



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About the Author

Gary Wollenhaupt

Gary Wollenhaupt is a freelance writer covering innovation in manufacturing, marketing, and sustainable green building technology.