[YesAuto Technology] With the launch of the new X1, the third front-drive model of the BMW brand came into the room. In fact, this is not BMW’s first front-drive model. After the BMW 2 Series station wagon and multi-function station wagon pioneered the first, the newly upgraded X1 followed closely. In the future, the smallest BMW sedan product line Guy 1 Series will also complete the transformation from front rear drive to front front drive. Some people say that this is the fault of the platform. Is this really the case? Is the platform equal to the chassis? What is the platform? What is the direct relationship between it and our car purchase? In order to solve these problems, we will start from today to sort out the issues of major auto manufacturers' platforms in detail. This article as a prelude first talks about the knowledge that the platform must understand.

■ What exactly is a platform?

In English, Car Platform is the source of the term car platform, and the modular concept that has been hotly speculated in recent years is also the embodiment of its latest concept. In fact, it is not a new thing. The prototype of the modern car platform can be traced back to the glory days of the Ford Model T in the early last century. At that time, the entire transmission system and running mechanism of the vehicle were installed on the chassis frame and separated from the body. On this basis, by changing part of the structure, the manufacture of sedan models, convertibles and even small trucks can be completed, plus Henry · Ford's genius introduction of assembly line operation method has greatly improved automobile production efficiency.

Under the circumstances at that time, Henry Ford could not abandon the streamlined production that had already shown great advantages, so he naturally thought of the idea of slightly improving and launching new models on the basis of existing models. However, at this time, it can't be called a platform-based production in the true sense. This is just its prototype.

The early vehicle structure was relatively simple, and Henry Ford had the opportunity to achieve the goal of manufacturing different models by using most of the same parts and replacing a small number of parts. However, with the continuous development of the automobile industry, automobiles have gradually transitioned from non-load-bearing bodies to load-bearing bodies. At the same time, the mechanical structure is becoming more and more complicated. It is no longer possible to quickly develop and produce different models by simply replacing parts. At this time, the issue of how to reduce costs and launch a variety of models to occupy the market is really on the agenda. Therefore, in the development stage, the application of different parts was reduced, and the platform-based design ideas for increasing shared parts surfaced.

From the simple platform history above, we can see that in a broad sense, the platform actually includes a complete set of vehicle development, production and manufacturing links. Sharing the same platform for different types of products can greatly save development costs. The chassis we often talk about is only one of the components.

■ The same platform equals the same chassis?

In many people's eyes, the platform is equivalent to the same chassis, and the situation is not always the case. From the historical lineage above, we can see that the platform is actually an important tool for creating distinctions. Specifically, it permeates all aspects of vehicle development and manufacturing. The chassis is only one part of the platform plan. In other words, the same platform can have different chassis, and models with the same chassis structure do not necessarily come from the same platform.

After reading the above picture, you must have understood that the platform is not the same as the chassis. For enterprises, the chassis is only a part of the platform, which is equivalent to the superficial features of Xiaolongnv’s white robe or hair accessories. It is the platform that hides the different positioning, needs, and the invisible and intangible connotations behind. soul.

■ Why is there a platform?

Although in the above history, we have seen the huge benefits that platform-based development has brought to car companies. Not every car company in the world has succumbed to the “prestige” of platform-based development. Ferrari, the supercar manufacturer in the Apennine Peninsula, is an exception. However, for most car companies, the product line is much wider than that of Ferrari, which focuses on manufacturing supercars. The platform-based development concept has been unfailing for nearly a century, naturally, it has its own advantages. So let's take a look at why there is a platform from the perspectives of manufacturers and consumers.

-Enterprise perspective: a weapon to reduce costs and increase profits

Since the platform is rooted in the entire process of vehicle development and manufacturing, let's start with development. At the beginning of the development of Hyundai Motor, the internal code name will be established first, and then the corresponding R&D team will be formed. Various departments such as appearance design, power research and development, testing and verification will assign members to the project. In this way, whenever a new project is established, there will be a corresponding team, and during the progress of the project, some teams are doing repetitive things in the early stage of research and development, which invisibly causes a waste of manpower, material resources, and time.

With the continuous update of user needs and the fierce competition among enterprises, opening up more market segments and launching models that meet the needs of different consumers have gradually become weapons for car companies to fight. This has led to an exponential increase in the number of development team personnel. What's more “failing” is the increase in development costs. At this time, the platform concept that can reduce repetitive development to a certain extent has entered the field of vision of car companies.

The cost invested by the company in the vehicle development phase must ultimately be shared by selling a certain number of products. Although the car has a strong marginal cost effect, for companies, it is clear that they hope to achieve higher profits by reducing costs Therefore, it is not difficult to understand that the platform development concept has been implemented so far.

That is to say, the promotion of the platform-based development concept has changed the car research and development model from the earlier product development model based on the development of a single model to the planning and design of all models on the same platform at the beginning of the development. The goal of reducing costs and meeting diversified needs by balancing the commonality of parts and the uniqueness of individual models. For companies, in addition to cost reduction, there is also an increase in product competitiveness, and the final gain is more substantial profits.

-Consumer perspective: friends who enjoy configuration

For car companies, the advantages of platform-based development are obvious. The greatly shortened time and R&D costs enable cars to obtain greater profit margins. However, for ordinary consumers, we should pay more attention to this. What benefits come. After all, the profits of car companies come from every share of our car purchases, and the research and development costs are ultimately shared by ordinary consumers.

At the beginning of the last century, the legendary automobile designer Harry Earle took the lead in proposing the “planned obsol ESCence”: that is, at the beginning of the development of a new car, it is necessary to systematically consider the continuous replacement of parts of the design in the next few years to make the car’s The style changes at least once every two years, and a major change in three to four years, resulting in planned style aging, prompting consumers to abandon the old style of active marketing in order to chase the new trend.

It is precisely by taking advantage of people's psychological characteristics that people like the new and dislike the old, and the sales of cars have been greatly increased. However, this puts forward higher requirements on the research and development process. The replacement of new parts requires a complex verification process, and the introduction of platform development concepts helps developers The verification time is quickly reduced, and the entire development process is therefore reduced.

-Is the platform perfect?

Of course, having advantages also means that there will be disadvantages. For products, similar development environments and concepts will cause product differentiation to gradually weaken. For luxury brands, this means that the sense of luxury on which they live is weakened. At the same time, common parts and components will also bring hidden dangers of large-scale recalls.

It is precisely because major car companies around the world have actively promoted their own platforms in recent years, the vast majority of models on the market have become beneficiaries of platform-based development. When there is a problem with one of the shared components, the problem will quickly spread to the entire line of products that use the component. At the same time, with the increasingly close cooperation between car companies, the sharing of development platforms between different brands is no longer unique. Therefore, when the “Takata Gate” surfaced, a storm soon formed that swept many car companies.

-So do you want to platform?

Judging from the current situation, the answer to the above question is yes, and the platform-based development idea has been recognized by most companies. The advantages of platform development, such as cost reduction, product update time, R&D difficulty reduction, and profit increase, are obvious. At the same time, the problems of homogeneity and recall risks cannot be ignored. Therefore, the core point of the problem is how to balance the pros and cons. The balance between general development process, parts and product personality, and ensuring quality requires car companies to slowly explore. The story behind this is exactly the content of this series of topics…

Full text summary:

The platform is like a couple, and the cars produced are like their children. Although these children may have different heights, looks, personalities, or jobs in the future, they must have some of the same genes. So if you understand the platform, you know the mystery of the car's life experience. Starting from the next issue, we will start to count the well-known platforms of car companies one by one. Among them, there are not only famous models that go down in history, but also many little-known stories.