For a long time, VW had given no time to launch the ID.3 due to software problems. Now the electric car is to be delivered in September.
Ralf Brandstätter does not like to talk so much about his new role. It was only on Monday that the Volkswagen Supervisory Board appointed him to be the new CEO of the VW brand. “I’m happy about this trust” is the only thing he wants to say.
The cars around him that Volkswagen engineers had parked on the test site at Wolfsburg’s main plant are much more important to him. “This is a much more important message: take the positive side of this car with you,” emphasizes the new VW brand boss.
Brandstätter means the almost a dozen new ID.3 type electric cars that Volkswagen first presented to the public on Wednesday. After months of internal quarrels about software problems and other equipment deficiencies, it should actually be that far: The Volkswagen Group will start selling the new ID.3 this summer. The golf-sized electric car is to herald the turn to the e-age in Wolfsburg. Volkswagen plans to become the world’s largest manufacturer of electric cars in the next five years.
On Monday, the VW board decided that delivery of the new electric model can begin. At the beginning of September, the first customers will receive their cars in most European countries.
According to VW, there are around 35,000 pre-orders in Wolfsburg. These customers will get a special edition of the new electric model at the start of sales, the so-called “First Edition”. In the next week, the new ID.3 can be bindingly ordered from the dealers in order to turn the pre-orders into real orders.
The more complex new software in particular had repeatedly caused problems for Volkswagen developers. For a long time VW managers only spoke of the fact that the car should be sold “in the summer”. Nobody in Wolfsburg has yet decided on an exact start date. At the beginning of September, Volkswagen now complied with its announced target, but is moving fairly towards the end of the specified period.
The more complicated ID.3 software, with which Volkswagen wants to initiate a paradigm shift in order to become a veritable provider of vehicle software, is causing problems for the Wolfsburg-based company until the end. So speech recognition in the new electric car still does not work 100 percent. VW electrical director Thomas Ulbrich is certain that the last hurdles will be corrected in time in 14-day “correction loops”. “We’re on the home stretch,” he says.
Electronics chief resists criticism
If you want to pick up your new ID.3 from the dealer in early September, you have to be prepared for a few restrictions. Volkswagen will no longer have two digital functions ready in time for the start of sales. This is not how the “Augmented Reality” unit works for the windshield. This means that important data from the navigation system for the driver can be reflected in the front window in a vivid view. In addition, the VW App Store (“App.Connect”) in ID.3 is not yet working.
“We only failed to complete two of the 256 announced functions in time,” justifies electrical director Thomas Ulbrich. Volkswagen can, however, fulfill most of the promises it has announced. There can therefore be no question of persistent and serious software problems.
The corona crisis also played a major role in the delays. Volkswagen is working with the South Korean electronics group LG on the navigation system. After the outbreak of the pandemic, LG had called off its development teams from Wolfsburg and brought them back to Korea.
Afterwards, VW and LG developers could only exchange information via video conference and no longer work directly on the car. With “App.Connect”, there was simply no time at the end to get the apps in time through the approval process from Apple and Google, Ulbrich continued.
Volkswagen plans to add the two missing functions after the sales launch in September. The computer programs should be written by the end of the year. ID customers then have to go to the workshop again to have the new software installed. According to this, software updates (“over the air”), such as for smartphones, should also be possible. If you don’t need your new electric car immediately in September, you can wait until the end of the year for delivery. Volkswagen then promises to deliver a finished car with all functions.
Tesla becomes a role model
New providers such as the US manufacturer Tesla have a little less problems with the software than traditional car companies. “Tesla is usually at the forefront,” says Stefan Bratzel, professor at the Center of Automotive Management (CAM) at the Bergisch Gladbach University of Applied Sciences. Tesla had rethought the car all around, central software functions had been of greater importance in the development of the vehicles from the beginning. But providers like Volkswagen also have good prospects of catching up with Tesla’s lead. VW is on the right track.
But it’s not just the software that leads to one or the other inadequacy of the ID.3 that customers have to adjust to. The car is offered with three different battery sizes: with a range of 300, 400 or 500 kilometers. In the model with the largest battery and the longest range of 500 kilometers, only two passengers can sit in the back seat.
“The permissible weight limits must not be exceeded,” explains Silke Bagschik, who is responsible for the marketing of the new electrical series. The variant with a range of 500 kilometers was not originally planned because the developers initially assumed that the larger battery would not fit in the car. A further development of the largest ID.3 will result in weight reductions that also allow a fifth passenger. Customers would be informed about the smaller seating offer.
According to VW, there will be no cuts in carbon dioxide compliance. “Compliance is doable,” emphasizes Thomas Ulbrich. Volkswagen will produce enough ID vehicles this year to meet the stricter EU climate requirements. The values of electric cars can be offset against those of conventional combustion models. Electric vehicles decisively depress the average values of a manufacturer like Volkswagen. They are considered zero-emission vehicles.
Volkswagen does not say how many units of the new ID models will be produced this year. Originally, 100,000 vehicles were planned to roll off the assembly lines at the VW plant in Zwickau. However, due to the corona crisis, the group will no longer be able to create the planned 100,000 cars. However, VW will also sell fewer petrol and diesel engines because of the pandemic. If the sales figures for all drive types decrease to the same extent, carbon dioxide compliance is maintained.