We’ve officially entered the era of uncomfortable change.
One thing’s certain about the current state of the auto industry, that nothing about its future is set in stone. Automakers, especially the big ones that must move with foresight and can’t react on the fly, are faced with pressures to adopt alternative powertrains, incorporate huge technological advances that will change the way we get around, find a way to make money in the process, and pull it all off in a short span of time.
As Automobile pointed out in a comprehensive report on the future of Volkswagen, 2030 is more than a decade away…but only just barely. By that point in time the Volkswagen Auto Group, which houses VW, Skoda, Seat, Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, Ducati, and design firm Italdesign, will undergo major changes to set itself up for a fruitful future.
Those changes are being brought about to meet Volkswagen’s Vision 2030 plan, which calls for the release of 70 new EVs by 2028, for 40% EV penetration across all brands, and puts the company on track towards becoming a carbon-neutral carmaker by 2050. As you might imagine, that kind of shift costs a lot of money. VW will spend no less that $33.6 billion on electrification alone by 2025, meaning the company will take drastic cost-cutting measures so it can pay the tab and stay profitable in the process. Most alarming is how Vision 2030 calls for a thinning of VW’s heard that will start with technology and platforms before extending to models and ultimately, entire brands.
VW will begin the consolidation effort by reducing the variety of combustion engines it has, cutting out 60% of them before standardizing its plug-in hybrid lineup across three separate performance classes. To aid the move to electrification, VW will also redesign all of its transmissions to accommodate electric motors.
What follows is ugly because it involves axing platforms not widely shared among the brands, like the proposed SPE architecture Porsche was going to develop for future EV sports cars. "Complexity is the biggest thorn in the side of efficiency,” said Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess. "One secret to success in the car business is total modularity and scalability.”
Among the remaining EV platforms will be the compact to midsize MEB, mid to full-size PPE, and Porsche Taycan-carrying J1 platforms. Some combustion engine-friendly platforms, like MQB that underpins the Golf, will likely remain intact. Others, like the Audi A4 and A6’s MLB platform, have uncertain futures.
But the floor doesn’t lie there, VW could push forward with the cost cutting by offloading low-volume halo brands like Ducati, Italdesign, Bentley, Bugatti, and possibly even Lamborghini. The former two are already poised to be spun off, and Bugatti may be shuffled over to ex Volkswagen chairman Ferdinand Piëch. Lamborghini’s future may be safe with Porsche or Audi if either of the two decides to take in the Italian brand, but there's a strong chance that Bentley is sold off to Chinese buyers by the time 2030 rolls around. The reasoning behind getting rid of Bentley, as a senior strategist told Automobile, is its lack of forward thinking. "Why invest on a backward-looking enterprise when you can support a trendsetter?” they said. "A proud history and excellent craftsmanship alone don’t cut it anymore.” In its place could be a new brand by VW that will sell only electric cars, much like Tesla. To state the obvious, this will leave Volkswagen AG looking a lot different than it does today and will break our hearts as the reshuffling could leave some of our favorite brands in states of precarity. But hey, nobody said change was easy.