LONDON -- Carmakers may have become too reliant on modules, a senior Volkswagen executive warned.
Large assemblies such as front-end modules and cockpit modules are becoming too complex, too inflexible and too cumbersome, said Wolfgang Rohroff, in charge of sourcing for Volkswagen Slovakia.
Rohroff was speaking in a personal capacity on the sidelines of a supplier event here last month.
Volkswagen has been a leader in the use of modules, or large subassemblies, which are completed off-site by suppliers and installed in a single operation on the production line.
Dispelling the general belief that the use of modules simplifies automakers' dealings with their supplier base, Rohroff said that in some situations the procedures were actually more complex and time consuming.
"Whenever there are safety issues involved, the law requires us to monitor not just the Tier 1 supplier but also the Tier 2s and even the Tier 3s feeding components in," he said.
Citing the example of a front-end module, Rohroff said he had to keep documentation on all the lower tier suppliers -- such as Hella for the lighting systems -- as well as track the activities of the module provider.
"It's almost as much work as if they were all Tier 1 to us," he said.
On a practical level, too, large modules could be problematic, he said. Cockpit modules in particular were becoming excessively complex and were not necessarily the most cost-effective solution, he argued.
Stressing that he was giving his own views rather than those of the VW group, Rohroff suggested that modules should be broken down into smaller sections for improved flexibility. "We should split some of them into two," he said, "or maybe even into four."
Most major European automakers rely heavily on pre-assembled modules such as front ends, cockpits and headliners. Toyota and other Japanese producers are less keen to do so.