Development of complex, platform-based, and variant-rich products within the automotive industry is in many respects a challenging task. The competitive pressure within the industry requires more and more collaborative development and utilization of systems and components not only within, but also across, product platforms. In such an environment the ability to effectively and efficiently deal with how variability is achieved is an important issue. Many approaches to deal with configuration issues have been subject to extensive research and exploration. In the research presented here the basic idea is to merge influences from established design tools and methods with concepts from research on configuration tasks as well as from product description approaches used within the industry. The presented work has an exploratory nature that aims at increased understanding of the mechanisms, methodology and value of the application of the configurable component concept as a development support tool during platform-based vehicle development. The work presented here has been performed in parallel with a feasibility study for a vehicle cock-pit family. The study aims at investigating prerequisites for enabling a cock-pit solution to be shared as a common solution in several vehicle platforms as well as within each of the platforms. The paper contributes to the understanding of how configurable components can improve the definition and maintenance of design variants and facilitate reuse of these design solutions through the captured trail of design rationale that is achieved through the systematic use of the component definitions.

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