The “reinvention of Volkswagen” is upon us, with Europe’s biggest auto-making group set determinedly on a path of expanding its programs into electrification, digitisation and vehicle autonomy.
These were the words of Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn, speaking tonight on the eve of the world’s biggest motor show in Frankfurt at the annual Group Night, showing the latest and greatest from Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Skoda, Seat, Lamborghini, Bentley and all other subsidiaries.
Winterkorn re-emphasised the group’s pledge to make 20 EVs and plug-in hybrids by 2020 — while in the presence of two new concepts, the Porsche Mission E and the Audi e-tron quattro — and the turn all its cars into veritable “smartphones on wheels” by the end of the decade.
“No commitment to electro-mobility can be any clearer than that.” He said the Group already had the broadest electric fleet in the auto world, and added that Volkswagen considered itself to be at the forefront when it came to the “future-oriented field of digitisation”.
“Our Group already has the largest connected vehicle fleet on the road. By 2020 we will have transformed all of our new cars into smartphones on wheels,” he said. How this goes beyond Apple CarPlay and Andoid Auto remains to be seen.
“At a time of major social and technological upheaval, people expect new answers, new solutions and new directions from us,” Winterkorn claims.
“The Porsche Mission E and the Audi e-tron quattro concept are nothing less than a quantum leap for our industry,” he said, because both vehicles have an all-electric range of 500 kilometres (maybe he hasn’t heard of Tesla).
He went on to say that the “new Volkswagen Tiguan GTE embodies “our determination to systematically take the plug-in hybrid to further classes and segments.”
The Group was also showcasing “‘ and technologies for charging electric cars quickly, such as “V-Charge” (Volkswagen) and “Turbo Charging” (Porsche). Calling on policymakers, Winterkorn said: “We have the right cars. Now what is needed is the right framework for this key technology to really catch on”.
Winterkorn also said the VW Group was “paving the way for one of the most fascinating technologies of our time: automated driving”.
“Audi and Volkswagen are making sure our customers benefit from this technology as quickly as possible: on highways, in stop-and-go traffic, when searching for a parking space.”
Apparently, new digital operating concepts such as gesture control (like that in the new BMW 7 Series) are not just science fiction at Volkswagen, but will “shortly become reality in our cars”.
Bottom line, the CEO or Europe’s major car-maker stated that he could not recall another time when the company had worked simultaneously on “so many and such promising themes as it was doing today”.
“At Volkswagen there is a sense that a new era is dawning”.
Turning his attention to new competitors from the IT industry — code for Apple and Google, no doubt — he claimed that “Volkswagen is staying in the driver’s seat: mobility in all shapes and sizes remains our unique domain and passion in the digital era, too”.
Your move, Silicon Valley?
“Technological leadership is no longer solely defined in terms of horsepower and torque. We are taking the precision, enduring value and quality of our cars into the new, digital world,” Winterkorn said.