Volvo Car Corp. suppliers were involved far more with the new S80 sedan than any previous model, according to project manager Hans Wikman.
Suppliers were critical to the company's efforts to shorten development times and quickly ramp up production, he said.
'When the merger with Renault was stopped in December 1993, we had lost two years of development,' said Wikman. 'The goal for the project was to take back one year.'
To achieve this, the definition of customer and the design goals were done quickly. By May 1994, Volvo knew what it wanted from the car. Wikman's target was 'grown-up people who have passed the family segment, and want a nice car - young grandfathers who had Volvos when their own family was younger, but whom Volvo has typically lost as they got older.'
By design freeze in November 1994, the project was only 6 to 8 months behind its goal. That needed to be made up during the development process. With the help of the tooling suppliers for the body and doors, the team was able to gain four or five months.
Unusually, Volvo didn't take the tools home for try-out, said Wikman.
'We let the manufacturer of the tools run them in and prove that the tools could make good quality parts.' GM's Opel subsidiary supplied the door tools and German tooling supplier Laepple the sides.
The car's final development time was 40 months from design freeze to start of production, and the S80 involved only 150 core suppliers, compared with 300 for its predecessor 850 model. Sixty percent of the outsourced components now arrive just-in-sequence, compared with 30-35 percent on the predecessor.
'Quite a few suppliers are new to Volvo,' Wikman said, 'especially in areas like the electrical systems, where we had to have new knowledge and bring in suppliers who were familiar with this technology.'
GM's Delphi Automotive Systems and Motorola worked with Volvo on the electrical systems. Volvo worked very closely with a dozen core suppliers, said Hans Gustavsson, senior vice-president, research, development and sourcing.
There has also been a big move to modules. Sixteen major modules are supplied for the car, half of them from the new supplier park at Arendal. The rest come from major suppliers like Autoliv or Lear Corp. that were established locally.
Production started in late May. Full production of 600 units a day is planned for mid October. The S80 line is currently laid out to build 75,000 cars a year but, with little extra investment, the plant could produce 100,000.
Most S80 suppliers will supply all the models on the platform. This means, says Wikman, that for many large components, Volvo is getting the economies of scale of 300,000 plus units a year.
As a result, the new S80 is 15 to 20 percent cheaper to produce than the S90.