BMW Group research and development chief Dr Herbert Diess said the strategy, which will cut the number of platforms from five to two, was the only affordable way to continue to grow both brands.
“We could not have such a product portfolio if we had not established architectures for our front-wheel Mini and smaller BMWs and the rear-wheel-drive architecture,” Diess said.
The group’s new front-drive architecture debuted last year under the third-generation Mini and appeared for the first time beneath a BMW model, the all-new 2 Series Active Tourer, earlier this month at the Geneva motor show. The next-generation 1 Series, 2 Series and X1 will also migrate to the front-drive set-up.
The sixth-generation BMW 7 Series will introduce the all-new rear-wheel-drive architecture when it launches in 2016. The luxury limousine will be followed by new rear-drive 3, 4, 5 and 6 Series models and new X3, X4, X5 and X6 SUVs.
Mercedes-Benz research and development boss Thomas Weber said the brand would use just four vehicle architectures going forward, down from nine at the end of last decade.
Weber said the savings achieved through rationalising its platform portfolio were “huge”, and also promised improved quality and faster development times from future models.
Mercedes’ four platforms will include the front-wheel-drive MFA found beneath the A-, B-, CLA- and GLA-Class; rear-wheel-drive MRA underpinning the new C-Class and future E-Class and GLK models; MHA for large SUVs such as ML and GL; and MSA for sports cars such as the SL and SLK.