Friday, March 5, 2010

Automotive: The dynasty of VW Group.

Everyone knows about VW Group's recent acquisition of Porsche and the eager but less menacing purchase of Suzuki's issued shares. This would mean that, under the VW Group, you have: Audi (Germany), Lamborghini (Italy), Bentley (UK), Bugatti (France), Seat (Spain), Skoda (Czech Republic), Scania (Sweden), Volkswagen (Germany), Porsche (Germany) and soon, Suzuki? (Japan) and wanted-t0-but-too-bad Proton (and that would be Malaysia). Looks like they're all set for world domination. Cheeky buggers.

While, it seems like a very workable and visionary business strategy, but something I read from Autocar Asean (this month) about a certain Cayenne to introduce a Hybrid version. Well, looking at the stake of our future, it's inevitable that 'eco' becomes the general direction of what we call the new-generation fleet. But to read something like, "Developed alongside Volkswagen's Touareg Hybrid, the new Cayenne S Hybrid uses Audi's supercharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine with 325bhp and 324lb ft.", really makes me think twice about this 'world domination' stance.

While the highly positive side of such strategy complementing a strong portfolio of brands is we can 'transfer' technology, know-how and experience seamlessly thus bringing up the quality of lesser known brands, that would mean increasing the overall quality of performance and design for every brand in VW Group's stable. But for a luxurious performance brand like Porsche to use an Audi's engine no matter how many litres or supercharged? Hmm. I'm afraid one day, we will all be experiencing the same driving terrain with an undifferentiated 'feeling'. The only difference is the design and the badge. So, what we are really paying for is the badge that gets stuck on the hood, the heritage of the brand but not exactly the investment of future technologies since it will all be shared. Besides, what is the best way of cutting cost? Transfer of technology obviously. This skips the research and development entirely or substantially, not to mention the nightmare of technical troubleshooting in the future (like our friend, Toyota). But still. Driving a VW with a shared engine and platform like Audi is fine. But a Porsche? Come on.

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