New platform brings Volkswagen and Audi models closer

Volkswagen developed its MQB, or Modular Transverse Matrix, platform to improve manufacturing efficiency. Volkswagen, Audi, Seat, and Skoda models will be built on the MQB platform.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
2 min read
Modular Transverse Matrix diagram

Volkswagen developed a new vehicle platform, called Modular Transverse Matrix, that it will use for its Volkswagen, Audi, Seat, and Skoda brands, intended to enable more efficient manufacturing and the dissemination of advanced technologies among its smaller cars.

Many people don't know that Volkswagen owns the Audi brand, but small cars bearing the VW badge and Audi rings are about to become more similar, under the skin at least. The next Audi A3 and Volkswagen Golf models will be the first built on the new architecture. The Modular Transverse Matrix was designed for A and B segment cars. Under the Volkswagen brand, that includes everything from the new Beetle to the CC.

Volkswagen says the new platform will let it build different models on the same assembly line, increasing manufacturing flexibility. The platform, which goes by the acronym MQB for its original German name Modularer Querbaukasten, is designed for transverse-mounted engines, where the crankshaft runs along the same axis as the front wheels.

Volkswagen has been sharing engines among its brands for years now, but the MQB platform will make it easier for the company to fit its standard stock of engines in cars under different brands. Volkswagen says the new platform will eliminate 90 percent of the differences between engine and transmission engineering among these models.

MQB also works as an electric vehicle platform, according to Volkswagen.

The company emphasizes that the MQB platform will let it standardize both new-driver assistance and infotainment system technology throughout its small cars. Assuming that would include the impressive connected-navigation and cabin tech interface we saw at CES 2012 for the new Audi A3, Volkswagen models should be due for a technological leap.

One technology Volkswagen touts for the new platform is its new multicollision braking system, which automatically applies the brakes after an initial impact. That action could mitigate damage from secondary impacts.

Using a common platform poses the danger of eliminating the unique driving character of vehicles under the different brands, and seems close to committing the same error as brand engineering, the practice of merely rebadging the same cars as different models. But the fact that Volkswagen is only using the platform for smaller cars makes the lack of driving distinction less of an issue. A driver of an Audi A3 is less likely to care whether the car performs similarly to a Volkswagen Passat than someone behind the wheel of a much more expensive Audi S8.