Rocked by a diesel emissions cheating scandal that has cut Volkswagen’s share price by one third and cost investors billions, Volkswagen head Herbert Diess has restructured the company into four new divisions. “We expect these changes to bring about a major acceleration in (vehicle) development,” Diess said. The new structure “strengthens cooperation across all functions and also increases the profitability of the brand.”
According to Reuters, three of those divisions will deal exclusively with small cars, like the Up!, compact cars like the Golf, and larger cars like the Passat. Each division also has crossovers and SUVs within its mandate. The important news, though, for those hoping VW can pull out of its tailspin, is that the development of all Volkswagens with batteries will now be the responsibility of one group of employees with one general manager.
The person Volkswagen has hired to run the battery car division is Christian Senger, who was previously the head of electronics and autonomous driving technology at Continental, a major supplier to the automotive industry. He began with Continental in 2012, after two years at BMW, where he worked on that company’s i3 and i8 vehicles.
Volkswagen showed off the first concept car built on its all new Modular Electric Toolkit, known internally as MEB, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month. The BUDD-e concept is a re-interpretation of the iconic VW Microbus that became the vehicle of choice for hippies everywhere in the 60’s. The BUDD-e features a 101 kWh lithium ion battery and is said to have a range of nearly 300 miles.
A “toolkit” is industry slang for a common chassis platform that can be used to build a variety of different cars on the same assembly line. That saves time and development costs, which helps a company operate more profitably. The concept was first developed by world renowned and long time Volkswagen/Audi engineer Ulrich Hackenberg, who departed the company quite suddenly last December. The BUDD-e may be several years from production. Certainly, its battery is nowhere near ready for manufacture.
Senger will be tasked with propelling Volkswagen forward into the age of electric cars as quickly as possible, so the company can move on from its embarrassing diesel emissions debacle. Certainly the sooner it can show customers and regulators that it is working hard to redeem itself the better. Will it ever reclaim its title as world’s largest car company? That remains to be seen. But if it accomplished it once, it could very well do so again.