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Models and Technology

From mock-up to prototype

Pascal Horn and Christian Rossbach, a pair of developers for the new Polo, explain to inside how they brought the car from the concept stage to production readiness. We look back at 33 months of Polo development.

What will the new generation of the Polo look like? It’s still under wraps, but Polo pair Pascal Horn and Christian Rossbach have known since long before the world premiere.

The big day came in the fall of 2014 when the new generation of the Polo achieved its first major goal. The concept was approved by the decision-making committees, technical data and basic design features were specified. The model was then passed on to Whole ­Vehicle Engineering. Thus began the work of the Polo pair. From here, the two developers were the members of the Whole ­Vehicle Engineering team holding the reins. Their task: to finish developing the new Polo and make it ready for series ­production.

Pascal Horn is an engineer who specializes in automotive technology, and has been on board for a good 15 years working as a developer. He worked on the Lupo city car and had contact with the Polo early on. That was back in 2001 when development was launched on the fourth generation. As an “old Polo hand,” Horn took on the role of the pair’s spokesman for the specialized departments. Horn was joined by model type guide Christian Rossbach, an engineer specializing in automotive construction, and at the time still a youngster of 29. The car was not new to him either. He had been familiar with it from the beginning. Rossbach worked on the new Polo back in the concept stage before transferring to Whole Vehicle Engineering – hot on the heels of the new Polo.

How the new Polo drives – the first press reports

» The assistance systems are just as good as those in its big brother. You don’t see that in any other car in this class. «

For both developers this task was their biggest challenge so far at Volkswagen. “It’s a huge deal to further develop the new Polo,” says Rossbach, who is now 31. “The Polo has to be perfect in every respect. It is the leading car in its class.” His Polo partner Horn agrees. “We faced high expectations right from the start. Every boss was going to come to us with an extra question or two.” Both developers always had to keep their eye on the entire Polo – from the USB port on the central console, to the fenders, and on to the platform, which was also completely new. For in its sixth generation, the Polo is switching to the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB).

Test driving at more than 38 degrees Celsius – national and international journalists tested Polo prototypes in South Africa.

Christian Rossbach

Rossbach (31) trained as a car mechanic before studying automotive engineering in Hamburg. A native of Münsterland, he came to Wolfsburg in 2010, and has helped develop concepts for the Golf SportWagen, Touran, and Polo. He served as the model type guide in bringing the new Polo to production readiness. In February 2017 he transferred to the “virtual validation” department, which guides early model development in the concept stage.

Complete this sentence, Mr. Rossbach.

What I like about the new Polo is … that many things now work differently in the interior but the car remains a Polo.
My most memorable experience with the new Polo was … when our top boss got out of the GTI after a test drive with a smile on his face. That said more than words.
My wish for the new Polo is … that it remains as successful as ever and again pleases a many people.

The two developers also paid special attention to the customer’s point of view. One small example is the best position for the cup holder on the central console. “We very carefully made sure that the driver could reach the cup easily,” says Rossbach, describing an early test drive when the car was still a mock-up. “We were able to find a lot of solutions for the new Polo that are very practical and good for our customers.”

» This is how a Polo drives – and no other car in the subcompact class drives like it. «

» The suspension smoothly compensates for the rough asphalt without appearing soft or spongy. «

The Polo pair made a strong team and assumed responsibility for different tasks. As Horn describes it, he was the “interior minister.” With a background in technical engineering in Wolfsburg, he took care of the diverse committee-related tasks. His partner Rossbach assumed the role of “foreign minister.” He spent a lot of time on the road, accompanying the Polo model on test drives throughout the world. “We’ve always worked side by side and we complement each other superbly,” says Horn. They could also step in for each other if needed. During the crucial pre-series stage, they took turns visiting the Pamplona plant, where the new Polo is produced. There too they worked as a pair to supervise construction of the first vehicles in the production series on site.

Pascal Horn

After studying automotive engineering in Braunschweig, Horn (47) joined Whole Vehicle Engineering at Wolfsburg in 1999. His focus there was on the front end of the Lupo and Polo, and later on the Touran and Eos. He started working with the e-Golf in 2009, and in 2014 became the spokesman for the specialized departments working on the new Polo. He will remain involved with the Polo in his new area of work. Since February, Horn has been head of the “small” project house for the up! and Polo model family.

Complete this sentence, Mr. Horn.

What I like about the new Polo is … that it has grown significantly in both the interior and the trunk. The GTI for me is like icing on the cake.
My most memorable experience with the new Polo was … when I drove the prototype on the test track and could see for myself how successfully it performed.
My wish for the new Polo is … that it gets good reviews in the first benchmark tests by auto journalists and that many people decide to buy it.

» The test drive revealed the newcomer to be truly grown-up and noticeably more mature. The Polo now has the spatial sophistication of the Golf class. «

The test drives were of great importance for the two developers. Every detail of the car was subjected to intense scrutiny and evaluation. And final decisions were also made about the suspension, for example, or the power windows, or the assistance systems. “In the beginning I thought we’d never manage to get the car to the pre-series stage,” remembers Rossbach. “But everything kept improving step by step, and soon we could see light at the end of the tunnel.” One winter test drive in 2016 was especially crucial for making a number of final decisions. Some minor modifications followed. A few weeks later Whole Vehicle Engineering gave the go-ahead. Now the time had come to hand the car over to series production, where the first Polos will roll from the line. The Polo pair had finished its work.

» The larger dimensions are allied to a longer wheelbase and wider tracks. «

The big little one – how Polo became what it is