For the first time since the time of Škoda Favorit, the Mladá Boleslav carmaker was commissioned to develop the platform, but what does that actually mean?
In mid-October, the carmaker Škoda Auto boasted of taking over responsibility for the Volkswagen Group’s global MQB-A0 platform, which was information that was provided not only by the motoring media. But what does this actually mean for the carmaker, what will it affect its future and what will it actually look like in practice? Jiří Dytrych, head of the Small product line at Škoda Auto, tried to give us the answers not only to these questions directly in Mladá Boleslav.
At the outset, however, it is appropriate to clarify what a platform is. Many of us have the impression that the platform is only a “sheet metal” base of the car, ie roughly the floor, beams, etc. But the truth is that the term platform hides a much more comprehensive list of technology and equipment – things that can be used in bulk. From body panels, through powertrains, seats, steering, heating and cooling, to sophisticated electronics. The cost ratios within the platform and the whole car are also interesting.
The price of the platform, which makes up about 70% of the car’s price, is made up of sheet metal and bodywork, ie beams, floors, etc., only about 20%. Another about 30% are the powertrain, ie engines, gearboxes, etc. About 25% is the chassis, which means axles, steering, etc. The last about 25 percent of the platform price is electronics and electronic architecture – control units, cables and communication languages in which electronics communicates.
The platform is therefore a comprehensive set of components, the development of which the carmaker will now deal with. This will be the first development of a new platform for Škoda Auto since the days of the Favorit model, which will, among other things, mean that up to hundreds of new jobs will probably be created in the carmaker. The carmaker will again need experts in development, engines, chassis and other components. At the same time, some new employees will be educated by the carmaker, others will be recruited, and some may pass from elsewhere from the VW Group.
The new MQB A0 platform, internally known as MQB27 (W) Global, for which Škoda has recently taken responsibility, should then become the basis for affordable small cars targeting markets such as Brazil, North Africa, South Africa, India, Russia and China. . Thus, these are partly developing markets, where customers are sensitive to selected specifics and at the same time to the affordable price.
At the same time, Škoda has a rich tradition in the development of competitive small cars and at the same time has demonstrated the ability to develop a cost-oriented platform within the MQB A0 IN platform, developed for the Indian market, where models such as the Kushaq SUV or the recently introduced Slavia sedan have grown. In addition, Škoda will be able to apply its Simple Clever approach not only in cars and their equipment, but also in the project management system, development, communication, etc.
In addition to designing a simplified platform, Škoda will also be responsible for adapting future Škoda and Volkswagen models to the specifics of selected markets. The base of the cars will be common, but for the African, Brazilian and Indian markets, for example, more emphasis will be placed on cooling, while cars designed for regions such as Russia will have to handle work in extremely low temperatures. For the North African markets, there is also a greater development of CNG propulsion, which is becoming increasingly popular in the region.
According to the now known timetable, the first model, built on the MQB A0 platform modified under the baton of the Mladá Boleslav carmaker, should be introduced in the second half of this decade. The carmaker states that according to independent studies, there is a potential of up to 7,500,000 cars for new small cars built on the new MQB A0 platform – and only during the first (approximately seven years) production cycle. However, the platform could withstand two production cycles, so the cars built on it could wait for two consecutive generations.
Now you may be wondering why the small cars available on the new MQB A0 platform developed by Škoda Auto will only be directed to foreign markets, if a similar type of car would probably be appreciated by local customers. But the answer is relatively simple – the automotive industry in Europe is subject to many restrictions and regulations, such as the forthcoming Euro 7 standard or Cybersecurity requirements. In addition, it is very strongly pushed into electrification and has high demands on safety. However, customers around the world often have lower demands, for which a much simpler and cheaper car base is enough.
In the past, cars for similar markets were based on European cars and platforms, which were created with regard to much higher standards. In a way, the cars were “overdone” and their price was unnecessarily high. Safety is a good example – while European cars must meet strict Euro NCAP standards, elsewhere in the world, otherwise set Latin NCAP or Global NCAP standards may be required. Meeting these requirements can then be easier and, above all, cheaper.
Specific requirements may then also apply to technology, but this could be slower than electronic and assistance systems. After all, the Škoda Slavia can once again be an example that does not yet offer adaptive cruise control. But in a few years, it may be a necessity for different world markets. In addition, the Indian market is also specific for its high demands on connectivity with smartphones, which are also playing an increasingly important role in the developing corners of the world.
However, each specific requirement means different requirements for the platform. For example, installing a new infotainment system may seem like an easy task, but for the carmaker it may mean higher demands on the car’s electrical system, which will have to be able to transmit more information, communicate with new sensors and work with multiple control units. However, even these details must be addressed in the development of a new platform. And the Mladá Boleslav carmaker will have to prepare for them.
With the assumption of responsibility for the global MQB A0 platform, including conventional drives, the carmaker fell into responsibility for an important global segment with great potential. However, if the carmaker succeeds, it is very likely that it will gain in importance within the VW Group and could be entrusted with even more important projects in the future. One of the options is a small electric car, which could become the group’s future for small cars. But we are a little ahead of it.