"Platform" has become a dirty word in the auto industry.
Automakers such as Volkswagen gave platforms a bad name by making too many vehicles customers perceived as being too similar. So word went around that a Skoda Octavia was just as good as a VW Golf, only much cheaper.
In earlier days, executives and engineers thought of platforms as "hard points" to which components could be attached. Not so these days.
There's more scope now for varying the wheelbase and the track and key things such as seating positions. So a VW Touran has a high seating position, while the Audi A3 has a low seating position. The two are the first cars on VW's new PQ35 [Golf] platform.
Industry leaders such as Ford of Europe President Martin Leach have long said that the term platform is a misnomer. Leach says that it's more accurate to talk about common modules, systems and components.
Still, manufacturers are under pressure from shareholders to achieve cost savings resulting from economies of scale. So they must think in platform terms, even if they don't like using the word. But cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 have a high percentage of common elements and the parts under the skin were developed in tandem.
Some carmakers call the common portions "building blocks." Nigel Griffiths of research group Global Insight Automotive refers to the "economic sharing of the parts bin."
Global Insight defines a platform as a family of vehicles sharing 55 percent or more of their components.
"The concept of a platform is so ingrained in the industry," said Griffiths. "Everybody needs to change their concept of a platform rather than changing the name."