In what was by far the worst post-war year for the auto industry, Volkswagen’s global sales fell relatively slightly by 15.1%. Plug-in hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles accounted for 12.4%, compared to just 2.3% in 2019
Ralf Brandstätter heads the electric transformation of Volkswagen. But making EVs is just the start, he tells us
Ralf Brandstätter is a life sentence from the Volkswagen Group. He joined the company 28 years ago, working his way up the management ladder in relatively low-profile purchasing and sourcing roles. So when he was named the new CEO of the Volkswagen brand in June of last year, especially with reports that his predecessor Herbert Diess – who remains CEO of the Volkswagen group and president of the Volkswagen brand – was ousted from his role in an internal power struggle, it seemed Brandstätter’s mission was to maintain the status quo.
After all, even with his appointment in the midst of a global pandemic, Brandstätter took the leadership position in Wolfsburg in a much better position than his predecessors. Matthias Müller had to guide the brand through the immediate fallout from Dieselgate, before Diess oversaw the development and launch of the MEB EV platform and the ID family.
The first ID cars are now on the road, sales and profits are strong, and Volkswagen is weathering the Covid-19 storm with remarkable resilience.
As Diess leads the group’s shift towards electrification, it seems all Brandstätter really needs to do is get on a steady course and keep the proverbial tanker pointed in its current direction. Except that he’s blazing a daring new path – while simultaneously trying to change the powertrain of the tanker. It goes beyond transforming Volkswagen from a brand that sells mostly ICE cars to mostly electric cars (which changing laws will soon force all brands to do anyway). As part of the new Accelerate strategy, Brandstätter is working to make Volkswagen carbon neutral, reinvent its production network, fundamentally change its business model and develop a new generation of electric, connected and autonomous cars. He even wants to turn Volkswagen from an automaker into a software development company.
“The real disruption is still to come,” he says. “If you think that with electric cars alone we have already arrived in the future, you are wrong. Digitization is the key. The car is now a software driven product. “
This belief that software will be the dominant differentiator for future cars is the reason why, despite major problems with the software of the ID 3 and the new Golf, the group continues its project to develop its own operating system. (BONE). Think of Apple: its smartphone hardware is getting attention, but its business model is built around its OS and its App Store. In the future, Volkswagen will offer cars that are largely standardized, with additional features then sold as software updates, allowing it to earn income from the cars throughout their lifetimes.
The embodiment of Volkswagen’s software reinvention will be Project Trinity, the long-distance electric cruiser ready for autonomy scheduled for 2026. It will use the group’s new SSP platform (which combines the lessons of the MEB and Audi-Porsche PPE architectures ) and a new generation of bespoke OS from Volkswagen.
However, Volkswagen “won’t wait for Trinity to become a software company.” Live software updates for identification cars will start to appear in the coming months, and Brandstätter says: “With this new ideas for business models will be created. It’s a “magic loop”: every 12 weeks we want to create a software update and also emotions. Yes, we can do reverse fixes with updates, but the emotional part is you’ll notice that you get additional features that are developed over the life of the car. “
Emotional appeal is central to Volkswagen’s plan to continue growing sales of electric vehicles, especially as regulations requiring manufacturers to electrify create a need to reach drivers who aren’t simply drawn to the possibility of driving a “ green ” car. That’s where the new ID 4 GTX comes in, giving Volkswagen’s EV family its own version of the legendary GTI badge.
“We have a successful history with GTI, so we want to try to turn this idea into our identifying family,” says Brandstätter. “Supporting sustainability and mobility is one thing, but we [also] want to show that with electric mobility you can combine responsibility and pleasure. “
The GTX lineup (the next ID 5 coupe-SUV will be its next member) is not just a hot sub-brand. “It also allows us to demonstrate the potential of MEB,” says Brandstätter. “The GTX is the first ID with all-wheel drive. It shows how we are continuously improving the technology. “
Yet, is Volkswagen so strongly committed to expanding sales of electric vehicles because there is real public demand, or is it solely driven by regulation? “It’s both,” Brandstätter insists. “On the one hand, it is a question of regulation, but the [public] acceptance is …
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This notice was published: 2021-05-22 05:01:26