PLATFORMS AND UNIFICATION
Remember children's sets with metal or plastic parts of different shapes and sizes, with wheels, nuts and screws? They were also called “Constructor” or “Mechanic” - a number, depending on the complexity and, accordingly, the age of the “engineer”.
The techniques of adult designers of the 21st century are somewhat reminiscent of the games of little ones. Working on the creation of a new car, engineers select components and assemblies from existing, but still not obsolete, and, of course, design original ones. Now you can create not just one model, but a whole series of them, and success on the market will largely depend on how extensive a set of components the designers have operated.
BASIS WITHOUT ADDITION
Most of the cars that could be assembled from "Mechanics No. …" were based on a rectangular plate - a kind of floor of a real adult car. By the way, it is this “platform” that often limits the imagination of little fanatics of a wrench and screwdriver.
Isn't it something like modern cars? Only their platforms are incomparably more complex, so they build models that are so dissimilar in appearance and purpose.
The idea of platforms is not new. We will not delve into the "legends of antiquity" when different bodies were placed on the frame, for example, summer - walking, winter - closed insulated. Let's turn to the familiar "Lada". Externally noticeably different cars of the VAZ 2101 … 21013, VAZ 2103 … 2106, VAZ 2105 … 2107 families have a body frame, including a roof, which is the same for all. Similarly, SAAB and FIAT did in due time. Moreover, only the trained eye guessed in the design of SAAB-9000 features of the Italian “Kroma”, and the filling of the machine was different.
Modern technologies of design and production allow making even more dissimilar models on the same platform. By creating a set of floor panels, side members, amplifiers, you can not only build several completely different “from the face” models, but, playing with the size of the elements, produce modifications - long and short, with a narrow track or wide. This approach saves money and time. And buyers receive a wide range of models, which 20 years ago they did not even dream of. The versatility of parts allows you to build everything on one platform - from a minivan to a convertible.
One of the leaders of "platform-building" is the Volkswagen concern. Relatives of the popular “Golf” and a minivan produced under the name “Turan” - not only the Audi A3 and TT, but also the Volkswagen Bora sedan, New Beatle in a retro suit, hatchback and wagon well known in Russia Skoda Octavia, Spanish SEAT-Toledo.
General Motors set out on the same path. Following the Opel-Vectra and SAAB 9–3, the Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn will be built on the so-called global Epsilon platform. Ford also actively unifies cars of all classes. The platform brothers are the Ford Fiesta, the spacious, tall Fusion and the recently debuted Mazda 2. The British aristocrat Jaguar X is the closest relative to the Ford Mondeo. The new Volvo S40 (the previous one, we recall, was made on the same platform as Mitsubishi Karisma) is structurally close to the Mazda 3 and Ford Focus, which is expected to debut next year.
For the current stage of the automotive industry it is characteristic that more and more often not only “brotherly” companies from one concern are building machines on single platforms, but also competitors. “Whales” have long understood: it’s faster and more profitable to put together funds and efforts so that, after giving each car an original corporate identity, enter the market with a well-developed high-tech design.
PSA and FIAT have jointly developed mini-vans. The Peugeot, Citroen, FIAT and Lancia models are even produced at the same factory, and today the second generation is already on the assembly line structurally similar, but noticeably different in the exterior and interior of the cars. Creating a Galaxy mini-van, Ford collaborated with Volkswagen, and for the construction of a parquet SUV, Maverik chose Nissan as a partner.
Another example of an unexpected partnership: Porsche and Volkswagen invested in a luxurious, expensive SUV. If you put the “Porsche Cayenne” and “Volkswagen Tuareg” side by side, relationship, of course, is easy to catch, but the cars are not doubles.
Collaboration between rivals is becoming wider. Rumor has it that the new Alfa Romeo and Lancia will be "built" on the Epsilon platform of the General Motors concern. Italian design and a “global”, well-developed, high-tech design - customers will benefit from this combination.
The platform is not only a body “iron”, it also includes suspension elements. The main ones - levers, beams, racks - are as unified as possible, and the springs, shock absorbers can be selected for each machine depending on the total weight and dynamics, since specialized firms will manufacture the filling with any characteristics.
Creating the foundation, the designers laid the mounting points of the power unit. Now you can choose a motor … not only from your stocks. Once again, a little history. Use the engines of leading manufacturers - a long tradition of many not too large companies.
But it was the powerful concerns that went for direct cooperation. For example, back in the 1970s, Renault, PSA and Volvo created a six-cylinder 2.7-liter engine, which for quite some time was successfully used on French and Swedish cars.
Today, co-authorship of minders is entering a new phase. Probably, not every fan of Mercedes-Benz thought about the fact that under the hood of some “sprinters” there is exactly the same 2.3-liter 143-horsepower unit as the “Volkswagen-LT”. The modern 1.4 liter Common Rail turbodiesel runs on Peugeot, Citroen and European Fords.
Well, firms of the so-called third world use proven designs and technologies especially often. The success of the Korean "Sanyon" is largely due to the fact that under the hoods of all-terrain vehicles, Mercedes-Benz engines. By the way, the representative Sanyon-Cherman sedan, which is little-known in our country, is built on the platform of the Mercedes-Benz E of the year before last generation (W124).
If cooperation in the motor industry is developing ever wider, then the majority of gearboxes have long acquired from specialized firms. Why spend time and money developing complex units if ZF or Aisin specialists ate a dog on them and offer a huge range of boxes for front-, rear- and all-wheel drive models?
In general, the work of several dozen companies - widely known as Bosch, Garrett or Hella, and familiar only to specialists, has been invested in a modern car. Few people have heard of the relatively small French company, "Florence." Owners of BMW X5 and some "Mercedes" does not come to mind that its specialists provided them with safety in a side impact. They not only produce doors for these machines, but also develop the design, test them. By the way, the company is also a supplier of Renault, Peugeot, Ford. Some manufacturers even trust the complete assembly and painting of doors. On the conveyor, they can only be hung on the body.
TRANSPORTATION OF NATURAL ECONOMY
We will return to our native expanses. About 30 years ago, the idea of global centralization arose in the bosom of the Minavtoprom. NAMI was supposed to be designed by US based on the type of models developed there by the country. They planned to build prototypes at a special factory near Dmitrovsky training ground. Employees of the latter were trusted to test the cars. And the factories could only put them on the conveyor. If we ignore the fact that the developers from US were sometimes too far from everyday needs and production realities, the idea does not look crazy at all. Especially now, when our far from the richest and most modern enterprises are boiling in their own juice, trying to update and expand the outdated range of models.
GAZ and VAZ seem to be working on class D cars, and separately. The deadline for putting cars on the conveyor is foggy, as always. UAZ brings to mind the cars of the 3160/3162 family for ten years already. The end of this path has not yet been seen, but it seems that GAZ is also embarking on it, stubbornly demonstrating prototypes of large off-road vehicles.
And the semi-artisan “Bear”, which was seen in all its “beauty” by visitors to the Moscow Motor Show? A strange idea: to make a car from nodes and assemblies assembled from the pine forest in the vicinity of BelAZ. If you have the money and energy, maybe it is better to consolidate it with passenger cars to create a modern compact, for example, the same "Oka-II"?
Domestic designers choose from a meager set of engines and a very poor gearbox, not to mention the rest of the filling. Moreover, each plant, as a rule, is looking for a supplier on its own. We see the results (and even more often do not see) on our roads …
Several decades ago, aircraft were built by many companies from different countries. Today, according to experts, modern fighters are capable of releasing three states. Something similar is happening in the automotive industry. It is no coincidence that huge concerns merge into giant ones and do not disdain to cooperate with equally powerful competitors. This is the only way to build modern, sophisticated cars, updating them every three to five years to satisfy spoiled buyers. The fate of other factories is, at best, to merge with transnational industrial empires and only engage in assembling models created by the combined efforts of … "Designer No. XXI." Previous primitive kits are hopelessly aging.
Ford Fiesta …
Ford Fusion and …
"Mazda 2" are created on a single platform.
Elements of the body of the Opel-Vectra inherit other models of the General Motors concern.
The body "SAAB-9-3 Convertible" is stuffed with additional amplifiers, but at its core is the same as that of the "Opel" platform "Epsilon".
The chassis of the new "Volvo S40" is no coincidence similar to the counterpart "Ford C-max"