Audi engineers put product ahead of saving money and development time on the Audi TT.
One result is that they missed their target of sharing half the parts with the Audi A3 platform. However, they believe they met the No. 1 goal: 'To create an unmistakable product.'
Team members estimate that they have 20-25 percent commonality with the Audi A3 platform. They wanted 50 percent, to keep costs down.
Cost was important, because to do its job as an image-leader for Audi the car has to be seen on the streets in a relatively high volume.
But product came ahead of cost.
'From the outset we thought that anything that had a negative influence on the character of that car should not be selected,' said technical development manager Stefan Haerdl. 'We wrote that into the specification in big letters.'
Often, compromise helped.
For example, said Haerdl, 'The front lock is common to the A3 and the unlocking mechanism is the same with just a different lever.'
Items like the air-conditioning and switch stalks were carried over from the A3, but almost all the exterior and interior parts are new. The performance ambitions of the car meant that much of the underfloor was also new.
However, another 20 percent of the parts were developed from existing components used for the A3 and other Audi models.
For example, the new front axle on the TT is an evolution of the one used on the A3.
'And the dashboard module has got the same crossbeam, but has been upgraded so that about 70 percent of the investments could be used,' said Haerdl.
'The floor plate is not a part that characterizes a car, but it does account for quite a bit of investment. It's expensive,' said Haerdl. 'We took the part from the A3 and shortened it by 90mm for the TT.'
In total, 40-45 percent of the work did not have to be started from a base of zero. And some of the work that was original, such as in the engines, will end up on other group cars.
The plant in Gyor, Hungary only built engines until it was assigned to assemble the TT. Finance director Peter Abele said Gyor was chosen because it had space. Final assembly lines at Audi's two plants at Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm in Germany are at full capacity.
Most of the value that Audi offers to the car is added in Ingolstadt, where Audi stamps, assembles and paints the body-in-white.
The bodies are plastic-wrapped, loaded onto a train on pallets and shipped overnight to Gyor.
In Gyor, the pallets are taken off the train by a fork-lift and put on the final assembly line. Assembly takes seven to eight hours. Cars are shipped back to Ingolstadt the next night. About 850 people work on the TT at Ingolstadt and 500 assemble it in Gyor.
Gyor started production of the TT in mid-May and will reach full production at the end of the year.
Most of the suppliers are based in Germany. Sets of some parts are sent with the bodies to Gyor to be assembled into the car. Other parts are send to a consolidation center in Austria before being forwarded to Gyor.
Only the seats (Lear), bumpers and cockpit (Peguform), and front-end modules (Mitras) are supplied from plants in Hungary.
For the soft top version, Edscha is also setting up an operation near Gyor to supply the convertible roofs.
The production version of the TT is closer to the original 1995 concept than most people think, said project manager Rainer Thomas.
Thomas, who worked on the Audi RS2 before starting on the TT, said that the concept car presented at Frankfurt in 1995 was one of two that Audi had built. The other already had the rear quarter window in place of the broad rear pillar.
The Audi team decided to present one car at Frankfurt and build the other if the concept got the go-ahead.
The car was also developed in a very short time, said Thomas. The whole program took 24 months from design freeze to start of production.
The structure and approach of the development team followed the usual pattern at Audi. Unusually, Audi outsourced a large part of the development of the TT.
'It was a question of capacity,' said Thomas.
Audi created a small in-house project team to lead the project, and then sub-contracted a lot of the work on the detail to Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik, based in Graz, Austria.
The project management was similar to previous Audi products, with a central team from several functional areas. Under the top team were Audi Fachgruppen, or specialist groups, responsible for different areas of the car. The working teams on the next tier were from Steyr.
Development took place in a triangle between Ingolstadt, Graz and Gyor. The system was surprisingly smooth, said Thomas.
Once common system definitions had been established with Steyr there were no major problems, he said. Problems with the interfaces between systems were no greater than usual.
The project was an engineer's dream.
It was 'a very small and enthusiastic team,' said Thomas. 'They almost worked 24 hours a day.'
The biggest surprise?
'I was really surprised that the car was as good as it is,' said Thomas, 'that we created such a product in such a short time.'