Synergies increase efficiency
The large number of new vehicles that we will develop for existing and future markets demands a high degree of economy in design. This is why the Volkswagen Group’s individual brands make use of modular platforms, which ensure that the synergy effects that exist both between models in one series and across all series can be optimized and increased at the same time. For vehicles with longitudinally mounted engines, there is a Modular Longitudinal Platform (MLB). The Audi brand has already developed the new Audi A4 and Audi A5 models based on the MLB platform. The modular platform approach – a strict extension of the cross-brand platform and modular strategy – reduces complexity, costs incurred and time required for development.
Volkswagen presented the New Bora and the Lavida at the Auto China 2008 in Beijing – two A-class vehicles for the Chinese market that were developed on the basis of the same platform. Efforts concentrated on designing a separate body for each car. By using a homogeneous platform, Volkswagen was able to reduce the cost of materials in the face of stiffer competition and growing cost pressure. The vehicles are also fitted with engines that are already used in China.
Pooling strengths through strategic alliances
Cooperation arrangements with other vehicle manufacturers are becoming increasingly important as a means of tapping new market segments. Pooling skills and know-how can keep development costs low and spread investment costs across several partners. In 2008, we continued a number of successful joint projects, for example working with Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG on the development and production of the Volkswagen Touareg, Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne models, and with Daimler AG on the production of the Volkswagen Crafter and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter models. Production of the Routan, an MPV for the US market, also started last year in cooperation with the Chrysler Group.
To promote rapid market launch of SunFuel, a renewable second-generation biofuel, Volkswagen is seeking to form cooperation arrangements with and make direct investments in companies that are dedicated to producing these fuels. Already in 2002, Volkswagen and CHOREN Industries decided to encourage and drive forward the development of new fuels. In 2007, Volkswagen then made a financial investment in CHOREN. Our long-term aim is to produce SunDiesel in Germany in accordance with minimum sustainability standards. The first commercial plant, with an annual output of 15,000 tonnes, is scheduled to come on stream starting in 2009. In addition, construction work is due to start on the first large-scale plant with an annual output of 200,000 tonnes.
In the area of biofuels, Volkswagen also has a longstanding partnership with IOGEN, the objective of which is to produce cellulose ethanol in Germany. IOGEN is the world’s leading producer of cellulose ethanol, a fully renewable second-generation biofuel.
In 2008, we sought and intensified cooperative arrangements with many expert battery manufacturers to promote the development of high-voltage battery systems for hybrid drives and electric vehicles.
In cooperation with the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the University of Münster, we are also studying battery cells and electrode materials for the lithium ion batteries used in electric drives.