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Toyota’s flexible platform to cut costs, reduce recalls

Time saver: Toyota could save 20 per cent of development costs by sharing components and engineering, as well as reducing investment in new factories.

First Toyota model to use flexible architecture concept could be next Prius

30 Mar 2015

TOYOTA has followed the lead of its German rival Volkswagen Group by confirming a new global vehicle architecture that will be used across a broad range of vehicle models.

The Japanese car-making giant has outlined how Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) will use a single flexible platform to cut development and tooling costs, allow shared components, particularly safety equipment, and allow new variants to be built quickly on the same platform.

It announced development of TNGA in its 2012 annual report and now plans to produce more than half of its models – including from the luxury Lexus brand – using the architecture by 2020.

Toyota executive vice president Mitsuhisa Kato said the first vehicle to be built using TNGA will be a mid-size passenger car, such as the Prius.

The next-generation petrol-electric Prius is expected early in 2016.

“The entire company is working on a structural reform so that we can grow in a more sustainable way,” Mr Kato said at a company briefing on TNGA last week.

"The aim is not just cost reduction. It is making better cars." Toyota said TNGA would only require smaller production lines, which would help reduce capital investment in new factories by as much as 40 per cent.

It will expand the practice of using the same components over a broad vehicle range to buy from suppliers in bulk and therefore reduce the price.

TNGA also allows standard “hard points” – or the major structural intersections and mounting points – that leads to making common parts.

For example, fixing the seat mounting points for a wide vehicle range means the same seatbelts, airbags and pedal-boxes can be used.

Perhaps more timely, reducing the number of components will increase durability and reliability – a sore point for Toyota that has been battered with expensive and embarrassing vehicle recalls in the past decade.

Toyota’s 2012 annual report ended with: “The TNGA will be implemented over the coming years as we successively introduce new vehicle models.” Volkswagen Group calls its platform MQB for transverse-engine vehicles and MLB for vehicles with engines mounted longitudinally. Started in 2012, it allows production to be standardized for small, medium and large vehicles including SUVs.

The MQB platform underpins a number of vehicles from various Group brands, including the Volkswagen Golf, Skoda Octavia and Audi A3.

It has already cut costs and by offering cheaper vehicles, has improved Volkswagen Group’s global sales.

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