At a much more low-key group night than usual on the eve of the 2016 Geneva motor show, every senior figure within the Volkswagen Group reiterated the bright future the brands are looking forward to, once the diesel emissions scandal is behind them.
That message was reiterated by Volkswagen Group chairman of the board of management, Matthias Muller, with some measure of humility.
“There is a sense of new beginnings,” Mueller said.
Pictured above: Matthias Mueller
“Things have changed, there will be less flamboyance, and less extravagance,” said Hans-Gerd Bode, VP group comms and investor relations, Volkswagen Group. “Our motto is ‘Get Closer’ and we are taking new paths with new perspectives.”
CarAdvice has attended VW Group night functions before every major motor show over the past few years and this was the most low key we’ve experienced - understandable in the wake of the so-called 'diesgelgate' missions scandal that came to light just after the 2015 Frankfurt motor show.
“Now is our chance to show what the brand really stands for,” Muller said. “We can show our customers how we see the future and how we intend to shape it.”
The VW Group is determined to learn from mistakes of the past and regain the trust and confidence of its customers around the world, admitting rules were broken, ethical limits were crossed and the fact it is aware that it has disappointed ‘people who trusted us’.
“We are working hard to re establish this trust,” Muller said. “2016 is the year where we intend to solve the problems of the diesel engines for our customers. We will also build a foundation for a new and better VW.”
“For our customers, we want the recall process to be as smooth as possible,” Muller said. “It’s a major challenge for our dealers, but it is also a chance for us to intensify relationships with our customers.”
It might surprise some to hear that Muller and his team wants the truth brought to light as much as the public does. “We must let the external investigators do their jobs,” he said. “We want to see the truth as much as public, but we must not be paralysed by these diesel issues.”
In the meantime, VW will forge ahead with its work on the car of the future - or at least the future as VW sees it.
“This car will be electric and autonomous,” Muller said. “It will be able to get the latest software updates quickly and easily, it will have a large heads up display, augmented reality, react to voice commands, and even eye movements. This development will change the fundamentals of our business.”
Muller predicts the automotive industry will start to undergo rapid changes like those we’ve seen in consumer electronics. “We can’t be mere hardware manufacturers,” Muller said. “We need to use major technological trends to our benefit, we need to expand our digital competence and skills, thank and act quickly, but pragmatically and with a vision. We want this change and we will drive it forward.”
Key to the acceptance of fully electric vehicles, is the driving range under normal conditions and Muller said the VW Group is closing in on that part of the equation.
“We will soon see genuine electric ranges of 500 kilometres,” he said. “Eventually an electric car will cost less than a conventional car. We a widespread charging infrastructure, we need to walk the walk as time is pressing. Climate targets can only be achieved if a significant proportion of the vehicle son the road are electric.”
Muller said the company has positioned itself to be ahead of the development curve.
“Our Group design structure is repositioned for the digital age,” he said. “We have three new design centres in Europe, Japan and the US to design and develop the digital car of the future. This changes the way we design and develop cars from the outset.”