Reality bytes for VW 2.0
Volkswagen has wowed crowds at consecutive motor shows with EV concepts and finally the first production version has broken cover. John Challen reports on a pivotal moment in the OEM’s future.
Keen to draw a firm line under “Dieselgate” and consign it firmly to history, Volkswagen arrived at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show with an announcement about a new logo, a heavily disguised and inaccessible new crossover addition to the ID range, and the production version of its first long-range EV. In reality, the first two items on that list could be described as nothing more than marketing stunts—or distractions to divert the memories of a turbulent few years. But the third item was a significant step for the 82-year-old company, which is looking to reposition itself as a technology and software company, instead of a straight vehicle manufacturer.
The ID.3—the “3” signifying the third major chapter for the company following the Beetle and Golf—is a huge deal for the company. Not only does it mark the beginning of VW’s journey to the target of being the number one OEM brand around the world by 2025, but it also features a brand new software system and EV platform called MEB.
Christian Senger, member of the board of management for digital car and services at Volkswagen, laid out the plans for the ID division in Frankfurt, which involve the recruitment of 10,000 software engineers between now and 2025, the workforce being founding members of what is currently being referred to within Volkswagen as the Car Software Organization.
The work on ID.3 effectively started in November 2015 when Senger, preparing for a move to Brazil, received a call from Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess, telling him about the company’s plans to create a range of EVs and connected cars. Realizing it was too good an opportunity to turn down, Senger revised his plans and four years later, the fruits of a lot of labor were unveiled.
“There was a lot of hard work to ensure the electromobility business would work because we had to get it right,” he said. “The unveiling of the ID.3 was a very big moment for me, personally, as well as the company because it was renewing the brand and the result of lots of things coming together. ID.3 is more than a new car, it is the opening of a new chapter.
Having used previous motor shows to unveil a succession of concepts such as the ID.Crozz, ID.Vizzion and ID.Roomzz, Frankfurt was the show that saw those dreams become a reality. ID.3 is the first in a series of models that will be launched on a yearly basis (the aforementioned ‘hidden’ car possibly the ID 4 or ID 5 that is set for North America, a market that will not take delivery of the ID.3).
“The ID.3 is an all-rounder that is suitable for everyday use,” said Silke Bagschik, head of sales and marketing for the ID. family. “It is compact, as such offering the maneuverability of a small car with the interior space of a mid-range vehicle.”
From launch, the ID.3 will be made available with three battery-size options. The base model offers 45 kW·h and provides a range of up to 330 km (205 mi)—according to WLTP. Next in the lineup is a 58-kW·h model with a 420-km (260-mi) range, and finally the highest powered ID.3 has a 77-kW·h battery and is good for up to 550 km (342 mi). Bagschik confirmed that, in each case, fast-charging capabilities will ensure that ID.3 can attain a range of around 290 km (180 mi) after 30 min of charging. At the German show, Volkswagen also confirmed that prices for the ID.3 would start at less than €30,000.
While the concept is seen as a landmark in the company’s history, the interior—thanks largely to the long wheelbase and short overhangs of the MEB platform—offers lots of space. Elsewhere inside, new digital display elements and controls have been introduced that claim to be more user-focused and straightforward. A 10-in touchscreen display positioned at the center of the dashboard has also been introduced.
“ID.3 is more than just a new car for Volkswagen, it is the opening of a new chapter,” said Senger, who also hinted that more was big technological leaps would follow soon. “We have created a new electronics setup with ID.3 but to be used throughout the group. It features three main ECUs that are continuously updated and always connected, which allows us more reliable connectivity. In the coming weeks we will be able to present further ideas for autonomous vehicles, where this level of connectivity is vital in order to succeed.”