|>>|| No. 22498
A fairly large part of the cost of any car is the up-front cost of design and of setting up a production line. Launching a new family car can cost the best part of £500m before you've even built a single production vehicle. Platform sharing (using the same basic design for many different models) is vital in the modern motor industry, by spreading that up-front cost across more vehicles sold. You also make big gains in terms of distribution and servicing, because the same spare parts can be used across many different cars.
For example, (excluding the i series) BMW only really make four cars, they just dress them up differently - one Mini platform, a small car (1/X1/2/3 series) a large car (4/5/6/7 series and Rolls Royce) and their crossover SUVs. The only real difference between the cars in each group are the bodyshells, interior trim and some minor component changes to adjust ride height, with the mechanicals underneath being essentially identical. They plan to consolidate that to just two platforms by 2017. BMW have many technology-sharing deals with other companies - selling engine packages to smaller manufacturers, swapping engine and electronics technology with Mercedes and so on.
VAG's big plan is to move to a single mega-platform for the majority of their cars. The MQB platform will provide the underpinnings for the next models of Polo, Beetle, Golf, Scirocco, Jetta, Tiguan, Touran, Sharan and Passat, all Skodas and Seats, and all front-wheel-drive Audis. They have figured out some very clever tricks to allow them to build cars of different wheelbase and track on the same production line.
Three other platforms will cover the rest of the range - NSF for very small city cars, MLB for front-engined Audis, Porsches and Bentleys, and MSB for mid- and rear-engined Porsches and Lamborghinis (and the Audi R8). Within the next five years, all VAG cars except the XL1 and the Veyron should be based on those four platforms. This is the main reason why buying up lots of brands would make sense for them - they could launch a completely new range for a brand at minimal cost, thanks to the flexibility of their platforms.