The new Toledo reflects Seat's growing independence. Parent company Volkswagen was heavily involved with previous projects at the Spanish carmaker. But this time VW gave Seat much more responsibility to develop the new car.
The Arosa was extensively engineered in Wolfsburg, Germany, before being transferred to Spain. The old Toledo was developed in the late 1980s with the help of outside contractors.
But the program for its replacement was managed completely at the Seat technical center in Martorell, Spain.
The new Toledo was developed on VW Group's A platform, also used for the Golf, Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia.
'We spent three or four months discussing the concept of the new car,' said Vincente Aguilera, head of technical development at Seat. Design studies started in 1995 and styling was completed by the end of the year.
But then Volkswagen decided that Seat should have a new corporate image to reflect its repositioning as a sporty, Mediterranean brand. So the Toledo was revised before final styling was frozen in March 1996.
About a fifth of parts, mostly on the exterior, were changed in some way.
Aguilera said the project management approach adopted by Seat for the Toledo's development was 'a big step forward' for the company.
'It was a relatively complicated project,' he said. 'We organized a strong project management system with 11 modules. Every module team was responsible for the engineering, finance and timing.'
Some suppliers - including Peguform (bumpers), Valeo (rear lights) and Sommer Allibert (dashboard and door covering) -worked alongside Seat's engineers at Martorell.
'They developed the components sitting together with us at computer-aided design stations,' said Aguilera.
Seat is considering manufacturing a second body variant of the Toledo in Martorell starting in 1999.