8. February 2012
The Volvo Concept You was launched last fall at the Frankfurt Auto Show. There are a multitude of interesting aspects of this vehicle.
One is that it is the inception of a new approach to organizing vehicle development. Volvo is organizing vehicle structure on what it calls “Scalable Vehicle Architecture” (SPA). According to Peter Mertens, senior vice president, Research and Development, Volvo Car Corp., "SPA gives us a fresh technological start. When the first SPA model is launched in a few years' time, about 90% of its components will be new and unique. What is more, we're raising the bar when it comes to quality and technology level in every area. We will be fully on a par with the very toughest competitors."
This will allow vehicles to be developed using a combination of modules, that share interfaces, as well as scalable systems and components. This approach facilitates flexible manufacturing (i.e., common parts with common interfaces allow production of various vehicles on the same line).
Another aspect of SPA is the greater use of aluminum in the structure, as in in the front structure, doors, chassis, and powertrain. Also, high-strength steel is being deployed. Consequently, Volvo says that they’ll be producing vehicles that are from 220 to 330 lb lighter than comparably sized vehicles
Although there is plenty of commonality, Mertens says that it doesn’t inhibit design.
Using a rather unusual analogy, “The proportions can give entirely different appearances even though the components used are exactly the same. The comparison between a donkey and a thoroughbred racehorse is an excellent example: each has a head, a body and four legs. But they are perceived entirely differently because of the proportions of their individual body parts and between their body parts.”
And in another design-related aspect, according to software supplier Autodesk, Volvo designers availed themselves of the firm’s design and visualization software to help reduce the time to display stand for the Concept You, getting it ready for the Frankfurt show.
Apparently, after the success of the Volvo Concept Universe at the Shanghai Motor Show in April 2011, Volvo designers had the charter to refine the Concept You. This required creating a working model with a full interior. So they used Autodesk Alias for digital prototypes, Autodesk Showcase software for advanced visualization (which allowed the designers to precisely indicate what they had in mind).
Clearly, it worked.