Fiat's biggest challenge with the new Punto was to create a car that improved on its highly successful predecessor in almost every area, said a Fiat Auto spokesman. And closer supplier ties have helped Fiat achieve that, he said.
'Suppliers worked very closely with Fiat to achieve time-to-market objectives,' he added. 'We wanted to further improve on the previous model's reliability and quality levels, and be competitive on cost.'
Fiat also wanted the new car to have higher specification levels and greater resale values.
Fiat has 150 suppliers of production parts for the Punto. About 40 were involved in joint product development projects with Fiat. Most of the companies supplying parts for the new Punto were also suppliers to the previous model.
Modules account for 20 percent of the value of the Punto, according to Fiat. The major modules are the rear suspension, front suspension subassemblies and the dashboard assembly.
Right at the start of the new car's development, three systems were identified as suitable for co-design projects. These were the electrical systems, cabin soundproofing and the exhaust system. Suppliers were made responsible for product development and pro-duct performance.
The co-designed systems developed for the new Punto form part of a larger component development plan at Fiat. This plan includes a 'census' of all car components and an analysis of the systems they belong to, said the company.
The components of 13 systems have so far been specified.
Ten systems are currently being co-designed and developed for the Bravo/Brava replacement, due in 2001.