Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Volvo dives into modular future with SPA

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August 17, 2014

Volvo's Scalable Product Architecture will spread across the Swedish manufacturer's range

Volvo's Scalable Product Architecture will spread across the Swedish manufacturer's range

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Many of the world's car manufacturers have decided that flexible, modular platforms are the way of the future. Volkswagen's MQB underpins everything from the VW Golf to Audi's TT coupe, and there are more MQB-based cars to come. Volvo is keen to get in on the action with its Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), which will debut in the upcoming XC90 SUV and then extend across the Swedish manufacturer's range.

Volvo's scalable platform was developed totally in house and is the result of four years of work. Like VW's MQB, SPA allows Volvo to use the same platform as the basis for all of its powertrain, suspension and electrical systems, granting the potential for hybrid models throughout its range.

The economic benefits that come with scalable architecture are clear: Volvo doesn't have to develop a standalone platform for each of its new cars, which saves on development and manufacturing costs through economies of scale.

But the benefits extend beyond that, with Volvo claiming SPA allows designers more freedom to play with the overhangs and wheelbase, which leads to a better stance on the road. According to Volvo, its new platform also contributes to a better weight distribution, which will assist with handling. Being a Volvo product, safety was a focus for SPA, with high strength boron steel used extensively to allow a strong, compact structure.

The XC90's body structure

Volvo is just weeks away from revealing its XC90 SUV. While Volvo has been teasing us with details about its hybrid drivetrain, interior and safety systems, we are yet to be been given a look at the car's styling.

But we now know what at least one small part of the XC90 will look like, and it involves Thor. You might be wondering how the Norse god of thunder is relevant to a Swedish SUV – we certainly were – but Volvo says the XC90's daytime running lights are based on the mythical character's hammer. Have they pulled it off? We'll let you be the judge.

Volvo's designers claim the XC90's headlights evoke 'Thor's Hammer'

The new XC90 is set for a full reveal in Stockholm later this month.

Source: Volvo

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4 Comments

This philosophy should not only be applied 'horizontally' across a manufacturer's range, it should also be applied 'vertically' over the length of time that models run. It cannot be sensible that an otherwise fully functioning motor vehicle has to be scrapped because a vital component fails and it is impossible to find a replacement. If these components were used where possible in newer models, then they would still be available.

Whilst such a policy would not be to the benefit of the manufacturers, we have to realise that as a species we are facing economic contraction, or at best minimal growth, with many resources at or near their peak of extraction. Making things last has to be an important feature of an age that is best described as 'post consumerism'.

Mel Tisdale
18th August, 2014 @ 05:07 am PDT

Must for all automakers esp GM, due to recalls alone

Must do & expand on SPAs alone.

Stephen N Russell
18th August, 2014 @ 08:35 am PDT

I think Mel Tisdale's comment on commonality of components through time is an interesting one, but as "the whole" is developed as an improved unit, this must apply to individual components too? If a more efficient (and probably smaller) gizmo is developed it can't be ignored to maintain commonality of components. As always the far reaching effects of previous developments (pollution, climate change, war, new materials etc) will dictate the direction best taken in the future. Though I don't hold out much hope as far as learning from our mistakes regarding any of those examples!

Roger Dutton
18th August, 2014 @ 12:23 pm PDT

Failed 1960's state Automobile corporation British Leyland exploited the economies of scale produced by making many parts of their range common. It proved a drag on innovation and more nimble competitors produced more exciting cars.

Innovation and production efficiency ( and thus price and profit) are often enemies of one another in industry.

Dirk Scott
20th August, 2014 @ 12:27 pm PDT
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