Mercedes-Benz has moved to a more modular engineering philosophy in order to enable faster deployment of upcoming models based on newly developed platforms.
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Speaking with the Australian media at the Detroit auto show this week, the head of group research and Mercedes-Benz Cars development at Daimler AG, Thomas Weber, said that the current modular strategy has allowed Mercedes-Benz to develop products faster than ever before.

“The whole Mercedes-Benz family is now built on a clear platform or architecture strategy and each and every single component is part of our modular strategy,” Weber said.

He gave an example that in the past Mercedes-Benz essentially had a different steering wheel for each model, creating enormous variety and part complexity that in turn slowed the development process. The decision has been made to significantly reduce that type of complexity.

“In the past we decided each steering wheel case by case for each car. In the meantime we have a modular strategy in place where it’s clear [that for] a sporty car a chief engineer can decide which out of two different options [he could pick].”

The limited options may seem like a cost-cutting measure at first, but Mercedes-Benz says its “nothing but the best” philosophy ensures those options are the absolute best of their kind. Consequently, cars such as the entry-level A-Class, which launches in Australia next month, benefit from the look and feel of their more expensive stablemates.

Weber says that this modular strategy has enabled Mercedes to deploy the A-Class, B-Class and CLA-Class in such a short period of time.

“That’s the benefits [in order] to manage complexity, the degree of maturity is better because the chief engineer can select a proven concept [and] we are faster with the development process.”

Mercedes still spends a great deal of time and resources on developing new platforms, but the time taken to building different models on those platforms has improved significantly thanks to its new modular engineering approach.

The German giant has got big plans for 2013, with the launch of the A-Class, updated E-Class, GL-Class and CLA-Class in Australia and the S-Class globally (Australia to follow in early 2014).