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Car platforms – what are they and how are they designed?

29 December 2022

A car platform is a set of manufacturing, design and engineering solutions applied to various vehicles. For many years, such a solution has helped manufacturers work on new cars – but today's challenges related to this topic are also very interesting.

What is a car platform? 

The term car platform refers to a set of the same or very similar solutions used as a base for the production of different car models. The automotive market has no shortage of vehicles created this way – one example is the Fiat 500, which shares a platform for example with the Ford Ka. 

What is the car platform design? 

The development of car platforms primarily involves standardizing certain elements related to the production of a vehicle. This is done to reduce costs, but also to ensure that primary focus is put on the development of other elements of the car's design. Of particular importance here is the reduction of the time from the creation of the car concept to the launch of the finished product. The use of joint engineering allows manufacturers to significantly reduce the so-called time-to-market parameter. 

Currently, a modular vehicle platform, also called modular architecture, has become a standard. Platforms of this type consist of three main parts: 

  • a set of specific dimensions that should not be subject to modification; 
  • components that must be included in the final design of the car regardless of other factors; 
  • parameters that, unlike the above, can be adjusted for the needs of a particular model.

For the most part, the modular vehicle platform determines all issues relating to the chassis, the lower part of the car, which is the starting point for the rest of the design. Among other things, this approach is characterized by increased flexibility compared to solutions used previously. This is due to the fact that many components can be modified, although the exact scope of changes depends on the specific manufacturer. 

What does a vehicle platform include? 

The car platform determines many important elements of any vehicle. It provides a kind of foundation on which the entire design of the car is implemented. The car platform mostly consists of the following components: 

  • front and rear axle design; 
  • wheelbase; 
  • power steering system along with other steering parts; 
  • engine type; 
  • location of the drive unit; 
  • drivetrain components; 
  • type of suspension at the front and rear of the vehicle.

The floor plate is often confused with the vehicle chassis, but in practice they are two completely different things. The task of the plate is mainly to designate all the key attachment points for other components – mainly the engine, suspension, steering column, seat belts or electrical harnesses. The dimensions of the vehicle also depend on the floor plate. 

How does a car platform work in practice? 

There are many types of car platforms – and each of them determines the use of certain components, which must not undergo any modifications. Why are such solutions used? It is an approach applied mainly so that automobile manufacturers can produce components with greater input, which in turn is associated with very large savings visible at every stage of the supply chain. The concept of modularity is of great importance here. This way, a sedan, station wagon, SUV and many other types of vehicles can be built on the same platform – it all comes down to adjusting the individual modules accordingly. 

Further savings that result from the use of vehicle platforms are related to the possibility of producing different vehicles on a single assembly line. The biggest benefit here is the increased versatility of individual components and processes used at different stages of vehicle production. 

Challenges of car platform design 

Sharing platforms across car brands and models provides quite a few benefits, including: 

  • considerable financial savings, and thus lower vehicle prices; 
  • reliability associated with the testing of a single platform by multiple manufacturers, which allows more effective detection of any shortcomings in the designs; 
  • versatility, which is an asset for both manufacturers and customers who can adjust the design to their habits when changing models. 

Modular vehicle platforms, however, also entail some challenges for automotive manufacturers. First of all, it is necessary to adapt individual designs to the requirements imposed on the modules. As a result, it may not be possible to realize the complete vision of a vehicle or adapt its design to meet drivers' expectations. Moreover, introducing any changes is often very expensive, which can offset the advantages of vehicle platforms. 

A trusted partner in the production of components for various vehicle platforms 

To meet the challenges of car platform design, it is worth betting on trusted partners. Knauf Automotive provides professional support in the manufacture of various modules for use in vehicles – while implementing projects we always focus on optimizing costs in combination with increasing the value and capabilities of individual products. We invite you to collaborate with us

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