Volkswagen Group ploughs S$117bn into new ‘super’ SSP electric platform for all its future cars, in-car software and self-driving also on the cards
Wolfsburg, Germany – The first Volkswagen Group electric vehicles, like the Porsche Taycan and Audi E-tron, have only just hit the ground in Singapore over the past couple of years, but the German giant has already unveiled its plans for the huge next step it will take into future automobiles.
Group CEO Herber Diess announced the New Auto group strategy, which kicks off now until 2030, on July 22, 2021 at the VW Group’s AGM. It aims to transform the world’s second largest automaker from a conventional automaker into a ‘software-driven mobility company with strong focus on its powerful brands and global technology platforms’.
To that end, the company has invested S$117-billion in the creation of new technologies to underpin this move.
Diess revealed details on the Group’s next ‘super platform’ named SSP, which will span almost all the cars it makes, the software behind them, as well the fact that current gasoline models could reach the end of their lines. The first of these vehicles are previewed as VW’s Trinity and Audi’s Sphere concepts.
It crystallises around VW’s next totally new electric car and will run on the SSP platform, the concept termed Project Trinity, which is expected to debut in 2026 and ‘out-Tesla’ Tesla. Trinity is a reference to three new pillars of cars – autonomous driving/neural networks, new architecture (SSP), and a new production approach.
The four-door fastback sedan has only been revealed as an outline, but is rumored to be positioned against the Tesla Model S. VW clarifies to say that cars by then will have far fewer variants, run on standardised software, and customers will pick and choose the e-services they need on demand.
Audi’s three Sphere concepts also showcase the sort of products this tech-boost will enable. They are three completely autonomous electric concept cars that will debut from mid-August. The sphere name is a reference to the idea that it surrounds the passengers entirely, with a digital ecosystem that follows them around (not creepy at all).
With this, the Group says, it will be able to slash its carbon footprint per car in 2030 by 30 percent, compared to 2018, and see BEV sales rise to 50 percent. By 2040 it expects 100 percent of its cars to be zero-emissions.
The name of VW Group’s next-gen platform is SSP, the Scalable Systems Platform, which the company describes as ‘all-electric, fully digital and highly scalable.’
Just as the matrix platforms revolutionised car-making and helped maximise profits by reducing complexity, SSP will take that one step further by underpinning all of the cars the VW Group makes.
Currently, the VW Group makes its cars on three platforms – MQB (modular transverse, transverse engines for smaller, mainstream cars like the VW Golf) MLB (modular longitudinal, for mid-size cars such as the Audi A6) and MSB (modular standard, for front-engine rear-wheel drive luxury cars like the Porsche Panamera).
Its electric cars have already consolidated into two platforms – MEB (modular electric, eg VW ID3) and PPE (premium electric). The first of the latter will be Audi’s new A6 E-Tron and the next, fully electric Porsche Macan.
But SSP will condense all of that into one platform. It sounds unworkable, but only in terms of combustion-engined cars, whose hardpoints (engine, passenger cell, etc) are more fixed. An electric platform can switch around motor positions or even battery layout more easily.
“We will reduce today’s complexity by about 50 percent. And I think you can understand what this means for us in terms of economies of scale,” VW Group development chief and Audi CEO Markus Duesmann told Automotive News Europe. Duessmann also said that to match the ‘platform pruning’ there will also be fewer sub-variants of each model, adding there is ‘strict limits on the combination of different variants’ needed to maintain profitability.
SSP-style technology consolidation will also extend to batteries, with the Group pushing for a unified battery format (costing up to 50 percent less and to cover 80 percent of Group EVs by 2030) with six factories in Europe to supply cells.
SSP is still in the planning stage, so not everything could shake out like Diess plans. Porsche, which uses its own platform for its 911 sports car still, could continue to use PPE with tech additions from the SSP cupboard. But Porsche has always been an outlier, and the consequence for consumers is a wide range of BEVs from the Group, but with perhaps fewer sub-models to choose from.