Volkswagen CEO Ralf Brandstätter in interview
“Rapidly expanding electric and hybrid offerings”
You launched the era of e-mobility with the ID.3 and ID.4. How have the first few weeks gone?
The ID.3 represents a new era at Volkswagen. It will be the Golf of the electric age. As always at Volkswagen, our goal with this vehicle was to offer innovative technology on a broad scale for drivers. With all the advantages that e-drive offers: Driving dynamics, space, positive effects for the environment and full connectivity. An ambitious task due to the high cost of the core component of the e-vehicle, the battery. With the new MEB e-platform, we have achieved a breakthrough here, laying the foundations for the entire Group. We have developed the car from scratch and are delighted with the good demand, with over 35,000 orders: Around 20,000 cars are already with customers, and orders for the ID.4 are already in the four-digit range.
2020 is also a turning point for Volkswagen’s classic, the Golf.
Right. The Golf is and will remain the core of the brand. That’s why it also provided the gene code for the ID.3. In the coming years, it will form the bridge in the transformation toward emission-free individual mobility. Never before has the Golf been so digital, so eco-friendly and so electric as with the current range of mild hybrids, plug-in hybrids and highly efficient combustion engines.
The Golf-like ID.3 launched the Group’s electric MEB platform.
The challenges facing the automotive industry have never been as great as in the phase of ongoing transformation. Is Volkswagen moving fast enough?
The environment demands that we act responsibly. There is no alternative to the sharp CO2 fleet targets. Should Europe adopt the Green Deal, the pressure to act will be even greater. Hence the consistent switch to zero-emission e-drives. However, we must be aware that this will only work if we are also able to charge sufficient amounts of renewable electricity. Here, we are well positioned with our modern combustion vehicles and the ongoing e-offensive. The second, the digital transformation, means a revolution for the car. The strategic course has been set in the Group with the establishment of the Car.Software organization. Here, too, the Group now occupies a leading position.
You have now been CEO of the Volkswagen brand since July. What are your priorities as CEO?
My task is to steer Volkswagen through the transformation toward e-mobility and digitalization. In doing so, we have to nurture our traditional values just as much as we have to drive innovation forward. It is crucial in this phase to take the entire workforce with us and do everything we can to ensure a good future for jobs. Our traditional values also include remaining true to our quality standards. Volkswagen is “Top of Volume,” which means we offer our customers the best cars in the volume market.
What does that mean exactly?
Volkswagen builds cars with competitively superior driving characteristics and state-of-the-art technology. In addition, I also aim to offer the value of our automobiles at the top level. With the ID.4, for example, we have achieved this in the best possible way with an intuitive display and operating concept and high-quality, appealing materials. I think the ID.4 conveys the atmosphere of a feel-good lounge.
How does the brand promise affect the product range?
Volkswagen covers a broad spectrum of the market with a wide variety of customer segments. But we want to make things easier for the customer in all dimensions. That applies to controlling the car just as much as it does to the configurator, for example. A Volkswagen must be configurable with just a few clicks.
With both the Golf and the ID.3, the transition to the digital world was rather bumpy. How did you respond to that?
With the change from the seventh to the eighth generation, we digitized the Golf in one big step and thus made a fundamental technological change. We also had to make new experiences. Many of the little things that didn’t quite work out at first have already been changed in the Golf VIII. This will also be the case for the ID.3, our first car that gets better with every software update. We’re sticking to the path we’ve chosen.
Are you thinking about new sales models?
We are working on that. Of course, we also want to serve those who don’t want to own a car. Our business is mobility.
We are currently talking about a possible second shutdown. What impact will the Corona crisis have on your plans?
The top priority is the health of our workforce. That’s why we will once again step up our health protection measures. At the same time, we need to steer Volkswagen through this crisis with financial stability. As a company, we are doing everything we can to avoid a second shutdown. So far, we have come through the crisis relatively well and have even been able to slightly increase our market share in deliveries to customers worldwide despite the severe impact of Covid-19.
Born in Braunschweig in 1968, trained as a fitter, studied industrial engineering. 1993: Joined the VW Group, various positions in procurement. 2015: Executive Vice President, then appointed to the VW Board of Management, from August 1, 2018 management of the VW brand as COO, since July 1, 2020 Chairman of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand.