Here's one of the biggest problems that plague large car manufacturers: If a carmaker has a few dozen different models, most probably it also has a few dozen different platforms that share very little or nothing with one another. In a move to lower development and manufacturing costs, Volkswagen and PSA Peugeot Citroen have gone the modular architecture route, and it looks like Toyota has also embraced this concept.
The Japanese carmaker recently unveiled its Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), a modular architecture that will share common parts and powertrain components between different models. Expect component development cost to be slashed by at least 20%. The cost to prepare a production line for a new model will also be reduced by about 50% compared to seven years ago.
By developing the powertrain to complement the architecture, improvements like vehicle dynamics, fuel efficiency and safety can be better integrated. The platform's lower center of gravity is achieved by relocating powertrain components and using more compact lightweight components. This would help improve the vehicles' handling.
Overall powertrain efficiency has been improved by 25%, while power output has been improved by over 15%, thanks to better engine "thermal efficiency" and transmission "energy-relay efficiency."
Hybrid models' fuel efficiency is anticipated to improve by 15%, thanks to a new hybrid system with smaller electric motors, inverters and batteries. Toyota has also used this as an opportunity to improve the body structure's stiffness by 30-65%. Another advantage to this process is room for better styling.
By 2020, Toyota estimates that about half of its vehicles worldwide will be built on this new architecture. The first is an unspecified FWD midsize vehicle. It will be followed by compact and large vehicles. TNGA will also include RWD platforms, most likely for use in premium Toyotas and Lexus models.
Could this be the modular architecture to break the Toyota brand out of its current mold and attract more driving enthusiasts? Let's wait and see.