Has VW Group Gone Too Far On Sharing Design Details Between Brands?

Besides being the world’s largest automaker with 10.7 million vehicles sold in 2017, the Volkswagen Group also has the largest brand portfolio in the automotive world.

More specifically, the companies that operate under the VW Group’s umbrella are Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, SEAT, Škoda and Volkswagen, as well as Ducati motorcycles and MAN and Scania trucks.

For a cost-effective management of all those brands, more and more vehicles use shared technology, like the $60 billion MQB modular platform that currently underpins more than 25 models from Audi, Seat, Škoda and Volkswagen.

Although that is a common practice among large automotive groups, lately Volkswagen has started sharing not only engines, mechanical parts and interior components across different brands, but also design details.

BMW introduced the range uniformity in the late 80s, but other luxury automakers like Audi and Mercedes-Benz took it to the next level, with some of their models looking almost identical to the untrained eye. A prime example of that are the current C-Class Coupe, E-Class Coupe and S-Class Coupe that differ in size and certain design elements, but nevertheless look very much alike to one another.

Even so, recent model launches are proof that this kind of uniformity is slowly expanding among the brands of the VW Group.

To name a few examples of shared design details on VW Groups models from different brands we made the following list.
*Note – we haven’t included cases like the Volkswagen Up!, Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo (2012) or the Seat Exeo (2008) and Audi A4 (2001) because those are rebadged vehicles using the exact same body panels for cost reduction purposes.

Volkswagen Touareg (2019) and Audi Q5 (2017) – profile and rear fenders

The latest generation of the Touareg serves as the flagship model of Volkswagen and shares its underpinnings with the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga. The strange thing is that Volkswagen’s designers imitated the character lines on the profile and the rear fender design (and on the headlights and front bumper intakes) of the smaller Audi Q5 in a quest to differentiate the Touareg from its same-segment premium siblings.

Volkswagen Polo MK6 (2018) and Audi Q2 (2017) – taillights

The square shaped taillights of the Audi Q2 look very similar (although they are not identical) to the ones on the VW Polo MK6, something that was made obvious from the first teaser picture of the model released by Volkswagen last year.

Seat Ateca (2017) and Skoda Karoq (2018) – profile and rear end

Both compact SUVs are based on the MQB platform which means they would have a strong resemblance in their proportions. This statement is a bit unfair because as you can see the cars share a lot of their body panels (doors, fenders, roof etc), however Seat and Skoda designers decided to incorporate similar lines on the taillights and rear ends, sharing them with the larger Skoda Kodiaq (2017).

Volkswagen Golf MK7.5 R (2017) and Porsche Macan (2015) – rear bumper

Last but not least, the “conspiracy theory” that designers from Volkswagen and Porsche often hang out together might not be far from the truth. The resemblance here is not that strong, however you can see that the design details on the rear bumper and rear diffuser of the German hot hatchback bear some similarities to the premium compact SUV from Stuttgart.

I know some of you might think I am pushing it too far, but I am afraid that those signs might lead to an even more generic and homogeneous future for the automotive industry styling-wise. If successful, the  VW Group’s “trend” could be followed by large manufacturers like the FCA Group, Hyundai-KIA-Genesis or Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi.

The main problem I have with that strategy, is that we are not talking about a cost-saving measure of using the same body panels across different models (which is logical and it was always the case in automotive partnerships), but it’s more like a marketing tool to unify styling towards a group-wide application of branding. In the worst case scenario, this move can slowly kill the car designers’ freedom to create unique and intriguing shapes and, as a long term effect, might make our everyday lives a tiny more boring, lacking new and exciting cars.

By Thanos Pappas

  • Loquacious Borborygmus

    VAG: Lost in a sea of styling mediocrity.

    People say they don’t date quickly. True. They tend to look old and frumpy from the start.

    • Daniela Wolf

      Though they grow extremely fast.
      Explain that to me.^^

  • Spyder Hole Fantome

    VW has evolved into the GM of the 80s (however, even worse)… they’ll ultimately lose focus, fail and shrink accordingly.

    • Cobrajet

      They are GM before the 80s, one of the best in the world.

    • I think it’s because the Germans don’t have a ‘design’. The French are known for quirkiness, Italians for beauty and the Japanese for their…hmm…experimental looks. But what do the Germans have? The reason why the designs are evolutionary is because they don’t have anything hereditary or symbolic to call upon.

      When was the last time any design elements, whether it’d be the design of an air vent or the entire exterior, ever echoed something German or core to their own brand. And unfortunately, this has trickled into other brands such as SEAT and Lamborghini.

      Another detriment to VW is when their products overlap too closely together. Take the new Ibiza and Polo. When they’re that similar, can you actually differentiate them? Same for the interiors of other MQB vehicles. Sharp creases and straight lines aren’t enough to define a design, so stretching that over 7 different brands doesn’t work.

      • Gustavo Adriano

        I think the last car that was really inspiring was the R8, after that, just same thing. I love VAG you know, but I agree totally about this subject, and it has only got worse.

      • Marty

        Of course the Germans have a “design” to call upon!

        They have the Bauhaus school, functionalism and individuals like Dieter Rams who have defined how we look upon product design. Companies like Apple would be nothing without German product design.

        This legacy is quite obvious through the history of VW and Audi. The problem is that many customers want more “emotional” and trendy design, so VAG are trying to move away from their roots.

        But I totally agree on the other big problem: that they have failed to differentiate between their brands.

  • haudit

    Does each VW brand actually have its own dedicated design team based in the brand’s country of origin, or are they all designed centrally in Germany by the same people?

    ‘Good morning Hans, you’ll be working with the SEAT team this week, and Škoda next week!”

    • Matthijs

      I actually do think its kinda run by the same people. Just like with their promotional photo’s. Every brand of the group show the similar style in editing and use of photoshop

  • Nordschleife

    The rear bumper of the Macan/Golf was teaching but I agree with the rest. That’s what happens when you have so many vehicles.

  • PK

    so basically. volkswagen is thanos and it’s childrens are audi, porsche, lambo, bentley and bugatti?

    • Сафиуллина-Мохамед Рамазанов

      Half of the Avengers will die then

  • dojevu

    The large number of models is confusing, VW sould use Audi as reference and unify model naming.
    I.e. VW Audi available in sizes A1 to A8, VW Seat available in sizes A1 to A8, VW Skoda available in sizes A1 to A8 etc…

    • Mr_Fanta_Pants

      Oh hell no

  • Shtekeris

    Ha! Totally. I saw the new Q2 today and wasn’t sure at first if it’s the new Polo or that Audi thing from the back.

  • Rocket

    Yes, it’s a problem. But at least Bugatti is maintaining some separation. For now.

    • Miknik

      Wait until they get their SUV aka. Audi Q7 restyle…

  • MarkoS

    I would say it is beginning to, especially with VW and Audi.

  • wintergraan

    Sorry but I can’t agree that the Touareg shares most of its design with the Q5. Maybe the crease above the rear fender looks somewhat similar, but that’s about it.
    The same accounts for the Q2’s and Polo’s design – they both have square shaped taillights but other than that don’t look similar at all. So in both cases it’s just one tiny design cue that appears to be identical.
    It’s a whole other story when it comes to the Ateca and Karoq because they’re literally the same car. They not only share the same platform but most notably most body panels (as stated in the article).
    Overall I don’t think that VAG needs to differentiate the design of its brands even further. VW has its distinct design language, as does Skoda, Seat, Audi and Porsche. However I wish each brand would move away from the “matryoshka” design-philosophy and make their model lineup look more different 🙂

    • erly5

      Couldn’t agree more. Audi’s saloons and avants could certainly do with a bit more differentiation. Also the forthcoming SEAT 7 seater SUV is basically a VW Tiguan Allspace with a SEAT grill up front.

    • OdysseyTag

      Perfectly said.

      What’s more, I think the fact that people don’t realise half the brands that exist in VW’s portfolio speaks more to how well they maintain their identities.

    • GE90man

      I agree. The Touareg and Q5 don’t look anything alike, nor do the Q2, Polo, or Gold and Macan.

  • SOME OF THESE ARE A STRETCH. GIVEN THAT THEY ARE A PART OF THE SAME PARENT COMPANY. IT MORE UNDERSTANDABLE THEN WHEN THE MERCEDES DOG BONE BUMPER SHOWS UP ON DIFFERENT MANUFACTURERS CARS OR THE NISSAN C-PILLAR KICK-UP BEING USED ON ACURA AND MANY OTHER CARS. LET’S NOT FORGET THE EVER PRESENT FLOATING ROOF.

  • OdysseyTag

    If you’re speaking towards its core brands, then perhaps. But the group in general is surprisingly diverse.

    It’s core division (the 4 brands you see lined in a row in any VW parts bin) consisting of Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda I’d imagine are deliberately kept as intra-connected as possible but are far from clonish.

    It’s exclusive division consisting of Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugutti is left pretty much semi-autonomous so they maintain their design languages. Italdesign and Ducuti also fall under here.

    It’s commercial division – Volkswagen Commercial (Nutzfahrzeuge), MAN, and Scania also maintain unique identities.

  • You can’t say this applies to the Skoda Roomster……….

    • Mr_Fanta_Pants

      ??

    • emjayay

      But it’s not going to be replaced, leaving a bunch of VW/Skoda typical designs.

      • The replacement was going to be a rebadged Volkswagen Caddy with the front end of a Skoda Fabia……

  • TheBelltower

    VW brands have an issue with their lower end models. It’s mostly very mediocre. But they do a great job with the pricy stuff.

  • donald seymour

    Well, can solve the problem with the mass lineup with a simple snap of a finger.

  • pcurve

    I don’t find it as offensive as what car companies are doing with car engines these days. Same engine, more turbo, more money. Volvo is the worst culprit, but Germans are catching on. Hyundai/Kia has more interesting engine lineups than most.

  • driv3r

    What kind of nonsense article is that again?
    Design at Volkswagen is done at each brands headquarters independently from the other brands. The only real issue I agree with is that the Skoda Karoq and Seat Ateca look pretty similar and are both compact SUVs on the same MQB-platform.
    None of the other examples shown compare cars competing in the same segment or even being loosely based on the same platform.

  • MarketAndChurch

    I don’t think it’s a problem in the US. It’s probably a problem in Europe because you have VW, Skoda, and Seat all sharing the same styling elements. The problem is when lower brands, such as VW, Skoda, and Seat, share design elements with luxury cars such as Audi, and even Lamborghini. But even then, it isn’t a problem unless you’re an Audi buyer that doesn’t want your Audi’s looks on cheaper VW’s.

    I actually think it’s healthy for the industry because it helps VW to popularize design elements that it is pioneering. Not every brand can cover every possible design direction and its good that the market has offerings that look like what VW is putting out. Kia and Hyundai are doing their own thing. Dodge looks bold, Jeep looks patriotic, BMW and Mercedes are doing their own thing, GM and Toyota offer something different too, in the big picture of things, it’s not that bad.

  • wintergraan

    Isn‘t that the case? They only share the infotainment system, but that‘s a good thing 🙂

    • Wandering_Spirit

      The point is that they turned the Italian style that characterized Lambos into a German bad copy of what a Lambo should be. Sales skyrocketed of course. But they are selling Audis with more geometrical forms, tensed lines and so forth. Take the last gen of Italian made Lambos and these and you’ll see no connection at all with the design. They look more German than Italian.

      • wintergraan

        What exactly makes a car look italian/german? Lambo’s design has always been characterized by square like shapes and sharp edges, maybe except for the Miura.
        The only Audi I can think of that looks somewhat similar to a Lamborghini is the R8 – and I‘m only talking about the proportions.
        When it comes to the interior, Lamborghini is highly dependent on Audi however using their own distinct style for buttons, air vents, infotainment interface etc.
        And unlike in the old lambos you now get a very luxurious, well built and technically advanced cockpit.

        • Wandering_Spirit

          What exactly makes a BMW different from an Alfa Romeo? What exactly leads a buyer to buy a VW rather than a Fiat. What made Lancias so elegant and different from most of the rest? All share somewhat similar lines…however all brands have their own design language that tells you what their origins are.

          If i see a Lambo now to me speaks Audi/VW. The sharp edges changed after the transition to the VW group, and became less Italian (Countach) and much more “Transformer” like (German)…too clean, too neat too simple in their complexity. That is not Italian style. The latest Giulia to me takes cues from German cars to be liked by a broader share of potential buyers but has lost a lot of what Alfa Romeos used to be (still being fully Italian). And yes, Lambos and Audi R8 look somewhat similar. That is because both speak Audi’s language, not Ferruccio’s language
          I agree on the last sentence. You get very luxurious, well built and technically advanced cockpits. LIKE EVERY OTHER GERMAN CAR. They are not bad cars. Indeed very good ones i guess. Just they lost that Italian thing. Not only. Those design cues, make them boring to me. While i never get bored of a Countach.

          • wintergraan

            I think I’m starting to understand what you mean 🙂 But I wouldn’t say that it’s a certain design theme that makes a car look italian or let’s say different from a german car.
            For me, italian cars always had a certain quirkiness and character that you’d never find in a german car. Built quality and user friendliness for example were never no. 1 priority but rather driving experience and emotionality.
            In the past italian brands came up with technical solutions and ideas that german brands probably would have never accepted. But times have changed and modern italian cars have lost most of their quirkiness. And I think that applies to the germanized Lamborghinis as well as to “real” italian cars such as Alfas and Ferraris. They are now more technically advanced and well screwed together, but also cleaner, neater and less “emotional”.
            The only thing that makes them – at least for me – italian is their heritage and long history. And that’s why I would never say that a Lamborghini is less italian than a Ferrari or an Alfa.

          • Wandering_Spirit

            Just the badge my friend. Just the badge. You’re buying a social construct pushed by marketing. At that point I go full German and buy a Porsche.

          • wintergraan

            So true, it’s all about the badge. Alfa’s, Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s marketing department really seem to stress their brand’s italian heritage. They build upon their history and emotional connection with their buyers.

  • Craig

    Fact is [at least as far as I’m concerned] VW’s, Audi’s and Porsche’s have never been great looking cars.

    • Mynameis Taylor

      definitely an opinion… and Audi and Porsches are some of the best looking cars on the road. so much so, that other automakers COPY their designs

  • Frase

    A couple of those comparisons aren’t the best choices, but I still agree. VW’s design sharing is becoming worryingly apparent. It’s a shame, since I remember Skoda in particular used to be the brand that tried to stand as the odder, wackier, so to speak, option in the family. Admittedly we still have Lambo and Bugatti to keep things from getting too uniform, but when it comes to the affordable brands it feels like there’s not only a parts bin to go through, but a sketch bin as well.

  • Marty
  • Well good morning to you too. Maybe you should check gm’s lineup from uk, europe and australia (vauxhall, opel and whatever the aussies are calling their’s). And this is just one of thousands. But I’ll let you get your coffee and realise how deep was your sleep if these resemblances only now just struck you.

  • nauticalone

    Personally I like the design language of VAG. Well, except where the use of fake exhaust outlets are used!

  • autosharero

    one of the stupidest articles on this website. Of course they share tech and design between them, they have been for the last 3 decades at least. WTF is new?

  • Tumbi Mtika

    Wow. VAG products looking too similar? What a hot take.

    Hope you stretched before that reach.

  • Ben

    Bit of a stretch. The Touareg and Q5 are not all that similar. I hate the Q5, love the Touareg.

  • emjayay

    Isn’t Skoda replacing some of its wierdo models like the Yeti with typical VW style clones?

  • Autoexperte

    monkey gassers

    • DMax

      virtue signaler

  • Wandering_Spirit

    The brands have long been deep into mediocrity territory (not only in terms of the design. So much so, the sole models worth buying are those from SKODA. Audi’s style in VW quality at Fiat’s prices.

    The rest is a soliloque of mediocrity for door-to-door sellers who dream of a “solid, reliable car” (another myth by now).

  • Ron

    What I find interesting is the new VW designs look more high end than Audi.

    • Yishay

      True

  • Сафиуллина-Мохамед Рамазанов

    So what that makes

    PSA
    RENAULT NISSAN ALLIANCE
    GM
    FORD
    FCA
    HYUNDAI
    SUBARU
    MAZDA
    SUZUKI
    HONDA
    TOYOTA

    • PK

      peasants. humans.

  • Blanka Li

    Designers have to meet stringent regulations as well as seceding to the laws of aerodynamics to maximize efficiency. The best they can do for style is to alter a headlight or taillight – but the bean counters even take that away. Unless you get into exotics, automotive design is slowly dissolving into a water-dropped shaped bar of soap.

  • Matthew Boyd

    Guilty as charged…

  • Matthew Boyd

    I’m not proud, but guilty as charged.

2020 Toyota Supra Driver Floors It, Crashes Right Into A Tree

The driver was probably trying out some kind of mod, but lost control of the Supra and crashed into a tree.

2020 Audi S8 Offers Supercar Performance Wrapped In Comfort And Luxury

The S8 has a rather discreet styling, but with 563 HP and a plethora of safety and comfort features, it’s very tempting.

Holden’s Project Monaro Is A Wonderful One-Off – And You Can Win It

The one-off Holden Monaro in question is painted Panoramo Blue Suede.

2019 LA Auto Show Preview: A-To-Z Guide To All The Debuts

Here’s a full list of all the world and North American vehicle premieres happening at the 2019 LA Auto Show .

Bad Driver Gets Instant Karma After Near Collision

Following the close call, the driver cut off a cop and got pulled over.

2020 Mercedes GLA Will Debut In “A Few Weeks”

Mercedes will reportedly skip auto shows and debut the 2020 GLA online.

1954 Jaguar XK120 Needs More Than A Dust-Off To Be Brought Back To Life

The classic Jaguar XJ120 will be auctioned off online between November 20 and 27 for an estimated $32k-35k.

Is This The Steering Wheel From The 2021 Corvette Z06?

If so, the Z06’s steering wheel will have carbon inserts and a red center line marker.

Consumer Reports Names The Chevrolet Camaro And Colorado The Least Reliable Cars In America

Chevrolet had the worst models, but Cadillac was rated the least reliable brand.

Customers Dumping Chevrolet And Ford Following The Death Of The Cruze And Focus

Cruze and Focus owners are now buying Civics and Corollas.