GENEVA -- BMW and Mercedes-Benz are reducing their number of vehicle architectures to speed development and cut costs.
BMW and Mini will use only two architectures -- one for front-wheel drive and another for rear-wheel drive -- said Herbert Diess, board member for r&d. Today, the two brands use five.
The BMW i3 electric and i8 plug-in hybrid are not part of the architecture consolidation.
Mercedes-Benz vehicles will use four architectures, down from nine five years ago, said Thomas Weber, head of worldwide r&d. Common architectures, also called platforms, allow vehicles to share parts and assembly equipment.
The savings from consolidation "are huge," said Weber, declining to provide details. Quality also will improve and the time to market for new and redesigned models will be significantly reduced, he said.
"You will see how many vehicles we can now bring to market. It would not be possible without this approach," Weber said.
According to Diess, the new BMW Group architectures are the only affordable way to expand the Mini and BMW ranges.
"We could not have such a product portfolio if we had not established architectures for our front-wheel Mini and smaller BMWs and the rear-wheel-drive architecture," he said.
BMW's new fwd architecture debuted with the redesigned Mini Cooper hardtop that goes on sale in the United States next month. The second vehicle to use it is the BMW 2-series Active Tourer wagon that was unveiled last week at the Geneva auto show. It goes on sale in Europe in October but will not come to the United States for at least another 15 months, BMW executives said.
The rwd architecture will debut in two years with the redesigned 7-series sedan, Diess said.
Today, BMW brand's four architectures handle these groups of vehicles:
1-, 2- and 3-series compact cars.
5-, 6- and 7-series mid-sized and large cars and the Rolls-Royce Ghost.
X3 and new X4 crossovers. The X4 will make its worldwide debut next month at the New York auto show.
X5 and X6 crossovers.
Rolls-Royce will not use the new rwd architecture but continue to share components and systems with BMW vehicles.
Diess said all BMW Group vehicles also will share the same electronic systems and components.
"There is a cost disadvantage for the smaller cars but it allows us to bring all of the technical features we have in the 3, 4, 5 and 7 series down into the Mini and smaller cars."
Diess said BMW's cars always shared some components but "we are making it even more synergetic, which does not mean the cars will be more similar."
For instance, the Mini and the 2-series Active Tourer share an architecture, "but if you sit in the cars and drive them, you would not notice they share components and parts," he said.Mercedes' plan
Mercedes is moving to four new architectures:
1. MFA -- fwd vehicles. The new CLA sedan that went on sale in September is on this architecture. It is also being used for the B-class Electric Drive five-door that goes on sale in the United States in July and the GLA crossover that makes its U.S. debut in September.
2. MRA -- rwd vehicles. It debuts on the redesigned C-class sedan that goes on sale in the United States in September. It also will be used for the redesigned GLK compact crossover. The new generation S-class sedan and coupe use some but not all components of this architecture. The E class will use it starting with the redesign in 2016.
3. MHA -- large crossovers. This architecture will be used for upcoming large rwd and awd crossovers, including the ML, GL and a new two-door based on the ML due next year.
4. MSA -- sports cars. The two-door SL and SLK will use this architecture.
Weber said new and redesigned Mercedes vehicles will allow quick transfer of new safety systems from the flagship S class to lower models.
These systems include an advanced cruise control system that maintains a safe distance from the car in front and that brakes to avoid accidents. It uses a stereo camera system, he said.