The Phaeton luxury sedan triggered Volkswagen's shift from a platform strategy to modular development, said Werner Wilhelm, program manager for the luxury car that goes on sale in the United States in the summer of 2003.
It also opened new opportunities for suppliers.
When the Phaeton project started in 1998, the development team discussed the program for about six months before deciding that adopting another vehicle platform would not work, Wilhelm said.
"The customer has to feel that no part comes from another car," Wilhelm said. "The second point is that no platform was good enough for this car."
So new systems were designed for the Phaeton. The team started with a list of features and technical systems considered necessary to develop the best car in the luxury class.
The Phaeton development process was different from previous VW cars. The work was concentrated in the automaker's Simultaneous Engineering Center in Wolfsburg, Germany. In contrast, the Passat and Golf were developed with input from around the world.
The team in Wolfsburg worked directly with 30 to 40 engineers from 15 to 20 key suppliers. They included Continental Teves for the suspension, Peguform GmbH for the instrument panel and Johnson Controls Inc. for the seats.
Little of the Phaeton is carried over from other VW group models, said Wilhelm.
"I think 400 screws, and the engine started in series production on an Audi," he said. "Afterwards we had the opportunity to look at what technical systems can work in other cars."
Phaeton parts will appear in the new Bentley mid-sized model, the VW Touareg and the next-generation Audi A8.