The recent unveiling of the 918 Spyder hybrid concept was a wonderful thing, no doubt, but it got me to thinking that the entire Volkswagen Group, which consists of Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi and Lamborghini was putting its money and time into the wrong end of the market. The money available in the new car market is in the lower-priced end of the market, not the higher priced end. Look at BMW, for instance. It is selling an X1, the 1-Series, and now planning on a sub 1-Series car, not to mention the Megacity Vehicle.
Volkswagen and Porsche have the perfect platform to put into play but they are dithering about, obsessing over profit margins. It’s the Volkswagen Bluesport Concept. Us automotive cognoscenti know all the specs on this little beauty—it’s universally agreed that this platform should ALREADY BE IN PRODUCTION. Let’s look at the ways that Volkswagen could make a great per-car margin on this platform, shall we?
Volkswagen model = Bluesport (needs a better name)
Porsche model = 914, 914 E (all-electric version), 914 H (hybrid)
Audi model = R4, R4 E, R4 TDI, R4H
SEAT model = Salsa, Salsa E, Salsa H, Salsa TDI
Lamborghini model = A new entry-level roadster with V-6 and V-8 powerplants and all-wheel drive
Okay, we have a body-in-white, including the door frames, the trunk lid and engine cover skeletons that could all be common. Now, instead of protecting your little fiefdoms by putting brand-specific common parts (such as brake lines, cooling systems etc.) in each brand’s model, just pick the best parts and use them in every model. This is going to significantly reduce costs when spread across so many models. Who cares if lowly Volkswagen buyers are getting Porsche brakes? Consumers are paying for the entire package, not just pieces of it. This will reduce warranty costs, too, which is not an insignificant consideration when planning a new platform.
Now, let’s get to the differences. Volkswagen will have quite a few engine choices. They have naturally aspirated four-cylinders, turbocharged four-cylinders, V-6, diesel and hybrid powertrains to offer, not to mention electric motors.
Audi could offer turbocharged four-cylinders, V-6 engines and a range of diesels, as well as electric motors and hybrid technology.
SEAT will offer the same choices as Volkswagen.
Porsche should offer a turbocharged four-cylinder, a flat-six, and maybe dip into the hybrid area.
Here’s where it could get fun. Lamborghini should offer high performance V-6 and V-8 models using engines sourced from Audi. Since we are saving money on the body-in-white, and the mundane, unseen bits that are all the same across all the models (remember, just the best parts) Lamborghini can afford to be different, and higher priced. Just imagine; a model below the Gallardo that would be (relatively) affordable!
And, I haven’t even touched upon all-wheel drive. This is the province of Audi and Lamborghini. But, remembering my message of spreading the best parts across all models, it should be optional on the Volkswagen, SEAT and Porsche versions too.
Of course, the place where costs will go up are in the sheet metal, interiors, and wheels, but costs can be shaved even here, without compromising quality. Bucket seat frames, for instance, can all be the same. They will just have different cushions and fabric styles, to fit each marque’s image. Door panels will be designed to each nameplate but the door handles, and all the locking mechanisms hidden inside the doors, can all be the same. Same for the dashboard bits--just put specific bezels on them. As long as you use top quality parts in all models. For instance, cheap plastic door pulls from Volkswagen will not fare well in the Audi or Lamborghini models, but the reverse will work very well. In today’s market, just as it has been in the past, the object is to give the buyer the best value possible. I believe this is possible with the new, proposed 914 and Bluesport. Volkswagen and Porsche, I challenge you to sharpen your pencils and get to work now. We have waited far too long for this vehicle and it is time for you to give us what we want. After all, don’t you want our money?