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Ulrich Hackenberg isn't yet a household name but if Volkswagen's $70 billion bet on his big idea pays off, he may join the likes of Henry Ford, Alfred Sloan and Taiichi Ohno in the canon of auto industry pioneers.

Since the heyday of Henry Ford and his Model T, the world's automakers have considered the "global car" to be their Holy Grail -- the same basic design that can be built, in subtle variations, and sold in different markets.

Take that fundamental concept, stretch it across many different vehicle types, sizes and brands, then build them by the millions, and you begin to sense the enormity of Volkswagen's rapidly evolving "mega-platform" strategy and its potential impact on competitors around the globe.

Auto engineer Hackenberg nurtured this bright idea for three decades, after early pitches to auto executives were largely ignored, until somebody finally bought it wholesale. The man who bit was Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn.

 


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