Frankfurt auto show: VW wants to take electric car crown by 2018
German giant backs up claim with new e-Golf and e-Up
While Volkswagen may not be unveiling any earth-shattering new production or concept models at the Frankfurt motor show (a preview of the new Golf Plus and the unveiling of the 295bhp Golf R are pretty much your lot), Europe’s richest car maker has thrown down a dramatic gauntlet with a statement from the CEO that it wants to be the leader in electric vehicles by 2018.
“We are starting at exactly the right time. We are electrifying all vehicle classes, and therefore have everything we need to make the Volkswagen Group the top automaker in all respects, including electric mobility, by 2018” Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen said at VW’s traditional Frankfurt show-eve media event.
“We have the most comprehensive approach to tomorrow’s mobility. From highly-efficient, eco-friendly diesel, gasoline and natural gas-fuelled engines to classical hybrids, purely battery-driven vehicles and plug-in hybrids - no other automaker can match the broad range we have to offer.
“The electric car cannot be a compromise on wheels, it must convince customers in every respect.” He said that environmental compatibility and sustainability were increasingly becoming the main purchasing criterion: “From the zero- emission city car, through the plug-in hybrid all-rounder to the three-liter sports saloon: It is our customers who decide for themselves just how much e-mobility they want.”
To back this statement up, VW is showing off, across its many brands, a range of new electric and hybrid production vehicles at Frankfurt. There’s the e-Golf and e-Up pure battery vehicles for a start, and the plugin hybrid Audi A3 e-Tron and Porsche Panamera. And then there’s the headline-grabbing Porsche 918 plugin hybrid supercar.
However, it’s the underlying detail that makes clear VW’s commitment to electric vehicles is serious. 400 EV engineers have recently been recruited while 70,000 existing engineers, technicians and service personnel are undergoing internal training programmes to turn them into electrical experts.
VW will have to spend big to leapfrog Renault-Nissan in electric vehicle expertise, given that the Franco-Japanese alliance has a four year head start and a €4-billion investment already made. BMW has also beaten VW to the punch with the launch of its i3 and i8 electric and hybrid cars. VW will also have to overcome significant public apathy and resistance to electric cars if it’s to make its investment pay off. Given the sluggish sales thus far for electric cars, being the world leader by 2018 could amount to being the king of not very much.
Still, given VW’s recent track record, would you bet against it?