From Vision to Reality

In order to minimize development time and costs, Škoda engineers at the Cesana Development Center in the Czech Republic applied the frontloading concept when designing the new Superb. Two factors that were instrumental in the success of this approach were the early exchange of information and the highly realistic virtual simulation of the vehicle long before the first prototype was produced.
Realistic virtual simulation at the Desana Development Center in the Czech Republic (graphics)

To understand how the new Škoda Superb combines striking design with unique technology, you only need to look at the vehicle’s tailgate. Apart from the large company logo that takes pride of place in the center, it is the two-part rear lights that catch the eye. These optically extend the tailgate at the sides so that it seems to merge into the wings, and also light up in the shape of a “C” in the dark – the typical Škoda night design. Opening the tailgate then reveals a worldwide first: the “TwinDoor” can be opened in two different ways – as a small boot lid or as a large tailgate. “With the new Superb, you can see that we have come up with a whole new take on the traditional saloon”, enthuses Eckhard Scholz, the member of the Board of Directors of Škoda Auto responsible for Technical Development. “Thanks to the TwinDoor concept, the Superb combines superior usability with undeniable elegance.”

Although the TwinDoor is the standout feature of the new Superb, the flagship model of the Škoda fleet also has a whole host of other technical innovations on offer. For instance, the new “Adaptive Front Light” headlight system increases safety when driving fast at night by allowing the driver to widen the beam to light up the edge of the road more effectively. As well as this, the choice of engines that are available for the current Superb sets new standards in terms of acceleration, top speeds, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. However, as even the most innovative technology is bound by time and budget constraints, the Škoda engineers looked to the frontloading concept when designing the new Superb. Frontloading involves the digital modeling of functionality, performance, technical features and other vehicle attributes early on in the development process without having to conduct tests with prototypes beforehand. This simulation-based approach means that key product decisions can be validated using virtual tests, thereby keeping costs to a minimum. “This allowed us to shorten the entire vehicle development process and, of course, to reduce costs at the same time”, explains Karel Švábek, Head of the TF Engineering Department responsible for this development work.

Karel Švábek, Head of the TF Engineering Department and Roman Havelka, Project Manager for the Superb. (photo)

WORKING HAND IN HAND (FROM LEFT): Karel Švábek, Head of the TF Engineering Department and Roman Havelka, Project Manager for the Superb.

“During the development stage, we examine thousands of parameters until the final shape of the model is created.” Karel Švábek, Head of the TF Engineering Department (quotation)

As the Czech development center is to assume important functions within the Volkswagen Group going forward, it is currently being expanded substantially. Škoda is investing a total of €45 million – for example in order to fit out the laboratories for vehicle electronics, chassis and engine development with state-of-the-art equipment and to increase the size of working areas by 70 percent. Because the trend is towards shorter and shorter development cycles, Škoda used the new Superb to begin streamlining processes with a view to avoiding inefficiencies during development work. For instance, frontloading involves collecting and evaluating as much and as detailed information as possible in the early stages of vehicle development. “In practice”, stresses Karel Švábek, “this means that – right at the start of the development process – we are in a position to pinpoint the individual targets that we wish to achieve with the new vehicle’s features and to check their feasibility on an ongoing basis.”

Nevertheless, frontloading on its own does not guarantee a successful outcome. If targets are to be met, the first requirement is for an early and intensive exchange of information between all departments responsible for development, design, marketing and brand strategy. They need to work together to continually evaluate and coordinate their requirements for the optical and technical features of a new model. In addition, technical questions relating to production play a central role. What are the actual cost limits for producing a vehicle? And how long will it take? Thanks to modern information technology, both ideas and information can be exchanged more quickly. Sophisticated methods and powerful computers are capable of calculating and graphically visualizing highly complex geometries, airflows, or crash scenarios; this gives virtual insights at an early stage into how the vehicle would actually appear and behave. All of this is done at such a speed that the search for optimum shapes and combinations is no longer hampered by the sheer volume of input data. As Karel Švábek explains: “During the development stage, we examine hundreds and thousands of parameters until the final shape of the model is created, and this is then followed by the first real prototype.”

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