VW Group faces comprehensive reorganization of software activities

Business news |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt

New VW CEO Oliver Blume apparently wants to rearrange the Group’s software activities. This could hurt in particular Audi, with its self-driving car project.

According to the German business newspaper Handelsblatt, citing well-informed VW corporate sources, new CEO Oliver Blume plans to present his new software strategy, which is intended to secure the group’s future viability, to the company’s supervisory board on Dec. 15.

A core element of Blume’s strategy lies in shifting responsibilities for the development of self-driving cars. So far, VW’s posh brand Audi has been working on a self-driving car for SAE autonomy levels 4 and 5 under the codename Landjet. According to the original plans, Landjet was to hit the road in 2026; Audi wanted to use it primarily to set itself apart from archrival Tesla, but also from German premium rivals BMW and Mercedes.

According to the Handelsblatt report, software development for L4/L5 projects is to be located in the future at the group company VW Nutzfahrzeuge (Commercial Vehicles), which among other things produces the VW Bus and the pickup models of the Volkswagen brand. The reason for the shift, which is certainly not viewed with pure joy at Audi: Blume – like many other experts – sees better market opportunities for autonomous vehicles in the commercial vehicles and trucks segment than in the luxury car segment.

Even before that, Blume severely scaled back Volkswagen’s ambitious “Trinity” electric car project. This “Tesla killer” was originally to be built in a dedicated, new factory to be built and launched in 2026. One of the planned core elements of Trinity was a new generation of software. Instead, the existing VW software is to be adapted to the state of the art through updates until the end of the decade.

In general, the role of software in model policy is to be redefined in the future: Instead of developing the appropriate software for each car, as has been the case in the past, the software with all its functions is to be developed first in the future. Only then, in a second step, will the model definition of the vehicle follow – a way of thinking that has prevailed at archrival Tesla from the very beginning.

With these shifts in priorities, Blume is also cleaning up the “Diess system.” Blume’s predecessor in the CEO job, Herbert Diess, did not get a handle on the self-inflicted chaos with software development responsibilities, according to observers. Diess had initially founded a corporate unit called Car.Softwar.Org two years ago, which combined all software activities of the Volkswagen Group. The unit, which was renamed Cariad a short time later, primarily caused friction within the large Volkswagen empire, because corporate brands with a lot of software expertise, such as Audi and Porsche, were reluctant to make their human resources available to Cariad. This led to massive internal friction, which ultimately led to Diess’ resignation. Now it is expected that the earlier target of 10.000 software developers for Cariad has also become obsolete.

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