If an accountant or an armchair strategist ran the Volkswagen Group, Porsche and Audi would probably be strong allies rather than squabbling siblings. But it’s the engineers that are in charge of this conglomerate, so the brands keep fighting over the best concepts and most advanced technologies. A breakthrough engine or a milestone chassis trumps solid financial results any day.
This R&D-dominated mindset has caused Audi and Porsche to invest approximately $4 billion into rival luxury-car platforms. The powers that be should probably break up the fight, but they’re not willing—or able—to curb the in-house battles.
Given half a chance, Porsche would put the next Audi A8 on its Modular Standard Platform (MSB), which will underpin the next Panamera. According to one unbiased insider, the MSB matrix would work well not only for Bentley, Porsche’s corporate ally, but also for Audi. It could be the foundation for a future Audi A8, as well as an A6 and an A7. Porsche also dislikes the platform that Audi is developing for all of the Volkswagen Group’s full-size SUVs, as Porsche insiders point out all sorts of deficiencies, including structural and dimensional limitations, a compromised suspension system, an inadequate electronic architecture, and insufficient flexibility for powertrains.
An SUV-oriented evolution of Porsche’s MSB could be adapted to most full-size crossovers, including Audi’s Q5, Q6, Q7, and the forthcoming Q8. A senior source from Porsche says, “It doesn’t make much sense to standardize the way you stamp, bend, and weld your sheet metal, but we can save a lot of money by streamlining the componentry and by intelligently integrating them into the model families concerned.”
Ask Audi, though, and it’s Porsche that isn’t pulling its weight. Porsche will be developing all of the Volkswagen Group’s future sports cars, but Audi and long-time pal Lamborghini are not happy with the proposals they have seen so far for the replacement of the Audi platform that underpins the Lamborghini Huracán (pictured below) and the soon-to-arrive, all-new 2016 Audi R8 (shown as a rendering above).
Porsche’s proposed platform would be used on the replacement for the Huracán, due in 2021, and the next-next-generation R8, out one year later. While Porsche’s platform is said to be leaner, lighter, and cheaper, it’s very uncertain whether it can actually satisfy the needs of all brands involved. A common architecture that’s equally well suited for Audi’s V-8 and V-10 engines and Porsche’s flat-six and flat-eight boxer engines wouldn’t be easy to achieve. Meanwhile, Lamborghini is looking to break out and develop its own carbon-fiber chassis.
Says a chief Volkswagen Group strategist: “If we don’t call the shots here at HQ, Audi and Porsche will never get their acts together. What these guys fail to understand is that they have to cooperate, not fight each other. We need to prevent individual sports car architectures and excessive proliferation, and to make Porsche’s MSB mandatory for both brands. Standardize the stuff that is really expensive: drivetrains, electronics, alternative propulsion systems, batteries, materials, methods, and processes. Audi and Porsche must stop fighting over architectures and concentrate on diversification by content. It’s as simple as that. And as difficult.”