29.1.2016VW's reshuffle gives EVs a boost
Volkswagen has started the new year by giving the company's structure a complete overhaul in readiness for a significant focus on electric vehicles (EVs). After promises to make changes after the emissions scandal broke last year, the first steps are now being made, and EV's are set to play a big part.
VW's line-up has been split up into four groups which bundle a number of different models together. The company now has Small, Compact, Mid-Full size, and BEV sections to the business. New managers have been promoted and brought in to head up the different groups, with separate focuses for each.
The Small vehicles group includes models such as the up! and Polo, along with vehicles planned for the company's expansion into small SUV and crossover markets in the future. Although the up! and Polo are reasonably important to the company, future models give this grouping greater significance to VW, proved by the fact that the new manager is the person who previously headed up product management for the VW Group for the last five years. We can expect to see VW expand its line-up of small and frugal vehicles in the next few years.
VW's Compact section will also be known as the Golf-class group and will be responsible for hatchback, saloon, estate and SUVs based around the Golf platform. The Golf already has a huge number of derivatives - three-door, five-door, convertible, estate, saloon (Jetta), Golf SV (MPV), GTI, GTD, Golf R, e-Golf and Golf GTE - and there isn't much room for expansion. However, the Golf and its many off-shoots are of vital importance to VW and the new version will need to not only become more frugal but feature greater levels of technology too.
The Mid and Full-size models have been brought together into a category and feature vehicles such as the Passat, Sharan and Touareg. A mid-size SUV is already scheduled for development and it is expected that this group will share technology and expertise with Audi - or at least to a greater degree than any of the others.
Finally, and most importantly, electric vehicles get a grouping all of their own in the BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle) section. VW has already announced that a platform designed specifically for electric powertrains is being developed. This will allow cross-model development in the same way that the current MQB architecture allows the VW Group to create the likes of the VW Golf, Passat and Tiguan, Skoda Octavia and Superb, Audi A3 and TT and Seat's Leon cheaply, all with a large number of shared parts.
The electric version of this - called the MEB - will see an electric toolkit that will be shared across the brands, shifting the current line-up of VW e-up!, e-Golf, Golf GTE, Passat GTE and Audi A3 e-tron up a gear by expanding the EV range dramatically. It is expected that the BUDD-e Concept shown at the Consumer Electronics Show will go into production, along with plug-in hybrid and electric versions of a number of other models, including the confirmed Tiguan GTE.
To lead the BEV series group, Volkswagen has brought in Christian Senger, who previously led the Automotive Systems and Technology division at Continental AG. His knowledge of Continental's recent work on connected car technology is likely to prove invaluable to VW's electric car focus.
On top of this portioning up of the company's models, a newly created Strategy and Products Division will be the umbrella development arm for each group to work with. This should allow each model group to focus on its own strengths, while at the same time making sure research isn't duplicated or wasted from being used in other areas.
Chairman of the Board of Management, Dr Herbert Diess, said: "We have to ensure that the corporate responsibility for each vehicle project is clearly assigned. We expect these changes to yield an acceleration boost in development. This step represents a core element of 'New Volkswagen', the new strategic direction of our brand.
"This (the re-organisation) allows us to provide clear structures and responsibilities, which carve out more time for the workforce to focus on their core tasks. Personal responsibility, initiative and team-spirit will be strengthened as a result.
"The new series organisation allows a robust product portfolio to be created that is fit for the future, because it strengthens cooperation across all functions hence increasing the profitability of the brand."
At the same time, Audi has been planning for EV production by moving the model allocation for its plants around. The Audi e-tron quattro, planned for launch in 2018, will be manufactured in Brussels, with the car's batteries also made on site.
The plant currently builds the A1, which will move from Belgium to Seat's Martorell facility - that currently also builds the Audi's Q3 and RS Q3 - while those models will shift to Audi's production facilities in Gyor, Hungary, which produces the A3 saloon, A3 Cabriolet and TT coupe and roadster.
This re-shuffle will see the Brussels site dedicated to building the all-electric Audi, becoming a specialist site within the VW Group, with the potential for further EV production to be shifted there.