VW innovations until 2018

Christian Schulte
VW innovations until 2018
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Model timetable: All brands are upgrading - too against in-house

M it the new Passat has made VW brands such as BMW and Mercedes wonder. So much car for the money? But this arms race is not over: Audi A4, Skoda Superb Combi, Polo SUV and, above all, the Phaeton follow. The catch: The cars are too expensive to manufacture and compete with each other in-house.

This is what winners look like, you could parody the pop star Wolfgang Petry when it comes to the success of the new VW Passat. But the price for it is high: the mid-range series, to which even the premium manufacturers BMW and Mercedes take their hats off in view of their qualities, costs 20 to 30 percent more to customers than its predecessor. No wonder that the return of the VW brand is below three percent.

This brings us to the heart of the matter: In the VW Group's model range, there is little to complain about in classic virtues such as drive, chassis and quality . In other words: perfection has reached such a high level even in lower price regions that one wonders how money will be made in the future. And the luxury class, where other manufacturers are making good returns, also tends to burden the balance sheet. According to analyst estimates, the current VW Phaeton should have a deficit of 28,000 euros per built car.

A new edition of the VW Phaeton will be released in 2017

But although the luxury sedan, which was launched in 2002, is only available in China If the number of pieces is worth mentioning, there will be a new edition in 2017. Even the much younger and lighter Audi A8 is having a hard time against the current Mercedes S-Class, and a successor is only on the agenda for the end of 2016. After all, a common technology platform promises cheaper development and production for both.

Inside, the VW flagship ignites a real high-tech fireworks display around the cockpit with huge screens: gesture control - for example to open and close the sunroof -, parking assistant and parking assistant with automatic driving out of the parking garage, traffic jam assistant up to 60 km /h, motorway assistant up to 120 km /h, a chassis that adjusts itself to unevenness day and night - the big VW offers all these technical finesses, which will also be over 200 kilograms lighter with the model change.

Even the A8 should lose around 80 kg again,also become the spearhead of the group when it comes to autonomous driving. In the second half of its life cycle, it should cover large parts of the route under the supervision of the driver without steering intervention. How far Audi has come in terms of technical development will be shown at the CES in Shanghai: An A7 is supposed to make its way completely autonomously in the dense, confusing traffic.

VW is expanding its Tiguan range, Audi is moving with it new Q models

The group is rightly proud of its technology modules, which save costs and enable many model variants. The fact that a different base is used for the Audi A8 and VW Phaeton than for the Porsche Panamera and Bentley Continental GT shows, however, that there can be people - and vigorously - in sober, engineering-driven houses. Because Porsche was just able to accept the SUV platform from Audi, but not a third-party platform for its own sports sedan - at least for the time being.

The successor to the Panamera will start at the end of 2016 as a descendant of the so-called standard drive system - with hardly any changed dimensions, around 100 kilos less weight and a new, low-button operating concept. In addition, the somewhat slimmer sedan will be followed for the first time by a shorter four-seater coupé.

Full speed ahead is the Group's motto for SUVs: Audi's Q range is getting bigger from year to year and will even include one in the future SUV coupé with pure electric drive. VW is making a whole family out of the Tiguan, is launching another SUV based on the Golf, which has already been shown in the form of the T-Roc study, and is adding an off-road Polo in the four-meter segment. With the all-wheel drive, which is also being offered for the first time for the small car, VW wants to conquer new buyers in Austria and Switzerland.

Back to the Passat segment: The class leader has set high standards, the next A4 (debut at the IAA) difficult to surpass. After all, the new Audi mid-range claims to be the benchmark in this segment with the new two-liter TFSI and the extensive electronic equipment in terms of assistance systems and connectivity.

Even more valuable If you want the lowest possible prices and a huge amount of space, you will find it in this class at the group - at Skoda. Because shortly after the sedan, the third generation of the Superb will also be launched as a Combi at the IAA. Who will win the three-way battle in the middle class? Read more auto motor und sport - the first comparison test gives the answer.

Positive: The group has never been so broadly positioned. Modular longitudinal and transverse modules technically at the highest level

Negative: Rather few changes in design, difficult price-performance strategy between VW, Seat and Skoda, risky SUV offensive

Connectivity: Strongcaught up

From the inexpensive mobile phone connection in the Skoda Fabia to the digital luxury at Audi, the group has a considerable range of connectivity.

For many years, VW was bored with multimedia: The eternal RNS 510 exuded the charm of an ATM at steep prices and is still not completely dead - for example in the Scirocco. However, with the introduction of the current infotainment generation, VW has significantly increased the pace of development. In the meantime, the satnavs not only impress with their sophisticated operation, they also master the most important online functions, from live traffic jam reports to practical Google services.

As an unexpected stroke of luck, VW decided to use the touchscreen proven. While touch screens were once identifying marks of inexpensive vehicles, the turn-push front is now crumbling, as the new BMW 7 Series and the Audi Prologue study show.

Audi with the best networking

In general, Audi plays a key role in connectivity. At the moment, none of the major manufacturers can muster the courage from Tesla to load new driver assistance functions into the car overnight via web updates. From the virtual cockpit with fully digital display in the TT to navigation maps that automatically update their data via online connection, to mobile phone apps for vehicle control, Audi is racing for the infotainment crown with BMW.

But VW is also stepping on the gas, as a cockpit study by CES showed: Here, the developers have given the Golf a huge monitor including gesture control. Gesture control will not come until 2017, the current generation of devices, which will soon mirror apps from almost all cell phones (via Mirrorlink, Apple Carplay and Android Auto) on the on-board monitor, but already in the middle of the year.

The smartphone has meanwhile become serious Become competitors of established hardware. Small car buyers in particular have long since given up the satnav ex works and are demanding inexpensive interfaces that allow the legal use of the cell phone pilot in the car - something VW offers in the Polo and its corporate brother Skoda Fabia. However, an expensive screen radio is usually required.

Positive: Logically and distraction-free devices, many online functions for travel and entertainment, some very good sound systems

Negative: In some series outdated hardware, sometimes very high prices, smartphone interfaces coupled to expensive radios

Personnel: hierarchical structure

At VW, management has so far been heavily focused on Winterkorn and Piëch, who had everything under control down to the model level. In other companies, such as BMW, responsibility is distributed more broadly. At Daimler, too, there are series managersPowers that are reserved for the chief developer at VW. Now the supervisory board is said to have given Winterkorn the task of developing a new group structure. For example, the brands Audi, Bentley, Porsche and Lamborghini could be combined into a more independent group. The same applies to the volume brands VW, Seat and Skoda. The boss himself should worry less about individual models and more about the overall strategy.

Matthias Müller or Rupert Stadler as Winterkorn successors

If you want to blame Winterkorn for something, it is that he started the search for a successor late. The question arises whether that is his job or rather that of the supervisory board. He would gain time with a contract extension for Winterkorn beyond 2016.

What options are there in the group? On the one hand there are the newcomers Herbert Diess, previously Head of Development at BMW and from July the new Head of the VW Brand, and Andreas Renschler, Head of Trucks who has switched from Daimler to VW. Other candidates remain the successful Porsche boss and former VW product planner Matthias Müller and Audi boss Rupert Stadler. The latter would especially fit well if the VW Group with its many brands were given a holding-like structure in which a CEO primarily needs strategic and economic skills.

Positive: With Winterkorn, VW has an experienced, successful boss. Internally there are several competent potential successors

Negative: The previous focus on a strong leader makes it difficult to find an equally strong successor

Paragraph: Winterkorn ensures huge growth

During the CEO's term of office, the number of cars sold rose from six to ten million per year. Problem children: North and South America.

On the plus side, VW boss Winterkorn can especially record great successes in China. The VW brand alone grew from a good 800,000 to almost three million cars sold this year.

VW is lagging behind in the US market

The group has to give up South America, where he has not countered the rise of Asian competition with fresh models in recent years. The VW brand is struggling in the newly strengthened US market. The initially successful US Passat should have been replaced more quickly. There are no cheap SUVs.

Positive: Overall, Martin Winterkorn's term of office looks very positive. The VW Group now sells significantly more cars in all important markets than in 2007. In many countries the market share increased

Negative: In North and South America, trends were overslept and the development of Competition not correctly assessed. TheVW Group is heavily dependent on Europe and China

Technology: With the standards ahead

Cars are still to come not without chassis, combustion engines and transmission - and this is one of the Group's greatest strengths.

The only thing left was the twitch of the rev counter. And the changed pitch. No shift jerk, no interruption of traction - with the introduction of the dual clutch transmission in 2002, Volkswagen made it clear for the second time how ambitious the implementation of new technologies is. The first milestone is likely to have been the TDI engine in 1989, the latest evolutionary stage of which with an electric charger is even more efficient, as the RS 5 TDI Concept proves. And the Quattro all-wheel drive? Sure, it came in 1980, and above all helped the image of the Audi brand immensely. For the entire group, however, DSG and TDI play the more important role - and TSI. The small-volume, supercharged engines made it possible for the gasoline engine to connect to the diesel, which was hailed as a consumption and driving pleasure miracle.

Audi A4 with new TFSI engine

is celebrating with the next Audi A4 a four-cylinder unit with a new combustion process premiered, which is similar to the so-called Miller cycle. So it has greatly reduced intake times (140 instead of 200 degrees crank angle), but higher boost pressure. At full load, however, the engine works with a 170 degree crank angle. In addition, the inlet valve closes well before bottom dead center, which lowers the mean pressure and increases compression. In addition, there is an additional injection in the partial load range. The result: 190 hp, 320 Nm at 1,450 rpm, less than 5.0 l /100 km - says Audi. By the way: the engine has a displacement of two liters. The turbocharged 1.4-liter, high-power engines were found to be vulnerable. In addition, the DSG variant DQ200 caused a major recall campaign - the other side of the coin. Thanks to the combination with the well-designed chassis and the large selection of assistance systems, many of the Group's models still represent a convincing package.

Positive: New technologies such as DSG, TSI and TDI were used early and consistently rolled out; balanced chassis settings

Negative: susceptibility to defects such as gasoline engines with turbo and supercharging and individual DSG types

Mobility business: There is clearly more possible

Car sharing is not the VW Group's thing. The idea of ​​sharing takes some getting used to. BMW and Mercedes have made further progress.

If you find out how VW's car sharing service works at web.quicar.de, you can't avoid a smile: while BMW has many with Drive Now German metropolises and in San Francisco /USAMercedes is represented with Car2go in 30 international metropolises and reaches over one million registered users. Quicar from VW is only available in Hanover. The model range extends from the Up to the Golf and Caddy, Passat and Sharan to the nine-seat T5, which can also easily handle moves. The others don't offer that. In addition, Volkswagen Financial Services AG has bought a stake in the Dutch market leader Greenwheels in order to benefit from their know-how in this growing sector and to expand the range in a targeted manner.

Audi is testing the Audi Unite car sharing concept

The premium subsidiary Audi also initially found the idea of ​​car sharing very difficult - and is taking completely different paths than Mercedes and BMW. Under the heading Audi Unite, the brand is testing a car sharing concept in the Swedish capital Stockholm in which five people can share a car for either one or two years. There is a choice of models from the A1 to the R8 sports coupé, with sharers using the app to see where the car is and how much petrol is left in the tank. The monthly costs are between 160 and 970 euros per person. At Audi select, you can choose one (for six months), two (for one year) or even three vehicles (for one year) from a pool of young used cars. For example, if you choose an S3 Sportback, you pay 988 euros per month for six months. A third pillar is being created in San Francisco, where RS and R8 models can be rented for one to two days including concierge service.

Positive: VW has a wide range of models , new ideas for car sharing offers at Audi

Negative: Far too few regions, few stations, no international experience. The competition is clearly ahead of the pack here


The VW Group does most of the right things - yes Weaknesses remain. The classic virtues such as chassis and engines are mastered at a top level. In addition, there is an interior quality impression admired by the competition, which currently only Mercedes can match. Audi is the leader here, but VW has also achieved a status quo that is far above what other volume brands offer.

However, this shows a major problem area. In terms of technology and quality, the sister brands Seat and Skoda have in some cases moved so close to VW that internal competition makes it difficult for dealers to justify the higher price level of VW models to customers. In addition, the model changes, for example in the compact class, happened almost at the same time, so that the economies of scale due to the modular construction kit come into play quickly. On the one hand strategically understandable, but not happy with the model cycle.

VW group is reluctant to take part in car sharing projects

In terms of multimedia and connectivity, the group has made massive progress in recent years and closed the gap with the best . In Wolfsburg, on the other hand, it is difficult to deal with the new business areas such as mobility services and car sharing.

What about the criticisms made by ex-supervisory board chairman Ferdinand Piëch? VW cannot be blamed for dramatic errors in e-cars However, competitors such as Tesla or BMW have sold the topic better to the public. The i-models from Munich are a great image success, but not yet a profit maker. Tesla has not earned any money so far - and accuse South America. After the success of the US Passat, there was no refueling in the USA.

There is a lack of inexpensive SUVs. In South America, the group has made high returns with old models for years but the Asian competition is now pushing ahead with new cars, to which VW has not yet responded. In fact, it is difficult for the group to oppose low-cost providers - for example on the important Chinese market. After the cooperation with Suzuki, which is successful in India, for example, has failed, a cooperation with the Chinese car maker Great Wall is now on the agenda. However, all of these problems can be irrelevant to the German customer. For him, the VW Group has a number of interesting irons in the fire in the coming years - and that in all price ranges.


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