Tuesday, 15 September 2015

The man who changed Volkswagen?

Martin Winterkorn clearly wants to be remembered as the man who changed the face of the Volkswagen group.

“We are in the process of reinventing Europe’s largest automaker, laying the technological, economic and structural foundations,” said the chief executive officer of Volkswagen AG, Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, told journalists on the eve of the 66th International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt am Main.

The group chairman announced there would be 20 more electric cars and plug-in hybrids by 2020 – from compact cars to the next Phaeton and Audi A8.

“No commitment to electro-mobility can be any clearer than that.” He said.

He claimed the group already had the broadest electric fleet in the automobile world, and added that 

Volkswagen was also 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 declared.

According to Winterkorn: “At a time of major social and technological upheaval, people expect new answers, new solutions and new directions from us.”

Volkswagen was facing up to these challenges, he said, for example as regards electro-mobility, and show cast this at the IAA.

“The Porsche Mission E and the Audi e-tron quattro concept are nothing less than a quantum leap for our industry,” he claimed.

Both vehicles have an all-electric range of 500 km.

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 is also showcasing forward-looking concepts and technologies for charging electric cars 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 commented that digitisation, the second big future field, had already been part of Volkswagen’s DNA “for a long time”.

“Connectivity and state-of- the-art infotainment have already made their way into all our brands and classes,” he added: “Our group already has the largest connected vehicle fleet on the road. But we are not stopping there: by the end of this decade we will have transformed all of our new cars into smartphones on wheels.” In so doing, he said, the Group was also “paving the way for one of the most fascinating technologies of our time: automated driving.”

Winterkorn 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”, he pronounced.

“With ‘Future Tracks’ we were the  first to make the transformation in the auto industry the number one topic – and that is paying off now,” he claimed. 

Turning his attention to new competitors from the IT industry, he made clear 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,” he promised.

Winterkorn commented that the Group was working on all of the new topics with the same intensity and passion that it brought to top-quality finishing and the best combustion engines.

“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.

COMMENT. As one listened to Winterkorn, we could think of another period in the history of the automobile.

At the age of 18, Ferdinand Porsche boarded a train in North Bohemia, now the Czech Republic (the home of Skoda), and headed for Vienna to embark on his first job. Despite no formal engineering education, Jacob Lohner, at his Lohner-Werke, employed Porsche to develop an electric powertrain for his coaches.

Porsche's prototype car boasted a low-friction drivetrain, due to the hub-mounted electric motors directly driving the wheels. That was in 1900 when each of the car’s internal-pole electric motor was capable of 2.5 to 3.5 hp (1.9 to 2.6 kW) peaking to 7 hp (5.2 kW) for short bursts.

'Change' was being attempted, even in 1900.

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