MUNICH, Germany – Volkswagen Group CEO Oliver Blume lays out plans stating that the multi-brand automaker will become more “design driven” in the era of electric vehicles after decades of being principally known for engineering and manufacturing efficiency.
Speaking a year after succeeding Herbert Diess as CEO of the German automaker and on the eve of the 2023 International Mobility Show here, Blume explains that design must take a more prominent place as part of a broader 10-point plan aimed at maintaining and increasing market share through the transformation from traditional internal-combustion engine models to electric-powered models.
Reflecting on the Volkswagen Group’s efforts to provide greater differentiation between each of its individual car brands, which include Volkswagen, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Škoda, SEAT, Cupra, Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley, Porsche and Scout, Blume says design will be a critical factor in determining success.
“With sharpened design identities, we create distinctive products and enhance brand differentiation. In exterior, interior and digital presence the Volkswagen Group is becoming a design-driven company," he tells media gathered for the auto show.
Against a backdrop of the Volkswagen brand’s new ID. GTI Concept and Cupra DarkRebel show car (pictured, below), Blume says the Group’s new design-led approach will “aim for high design quality and strong brand differentiation.”
The 10-point plan includes a revised platform strategy to create greater efficiencies across brands without multiple models looking similar and more competitive technology profiles. Blume also delves into advancing the “in China for China” strategy with local Chinese partners, referring to VW’s plan to maintain its strong market share in that vital market, and a growth plan for the U.S. that includes an even greater focus on SUVs and CUVs and a relaunch of the Scout SUV featuring unique designs tailored for the North American market.
Blume, who is also CEO of Porsche within the Group, also says the Volkswagen Group board has developed a “refined portfolio plan for the company’s CARIAD software division. He also referred to the ramp-up of its battery-production division PowerCo and the recent decision to establish a new battery gigafactory in Canada.
Speaking to Wards about the focus on design, the head of the Volkswagen Group’s design operations, Michael Mauer, says efforts are being made to ensure the individual design bosses at each of the company’s brands work closer with their respective CEOs to understand the different businesses and geographic differences.
“Design works because it translates what a brand is at its core,” says Mauer, who is also the design boss at Porsche. “Through direct exchange with the CEO, a comprehensive implementation of design principles for a consistent brand experience will be ensured – from corporate presence to products and digital offerings for each brand. The focus remains consistently on the customer and the product.”
Design makes sense as a key differentiator in the EV era, more so than in the ICE era because performance, for example, is more similar EV to EV. The big differentiators in the EV era will be electric range, interior and exterior design and telematics/connected car services.
The focus on design is seen as a reaction to what one Volkswagen Group insider, who asked not to be named, describes to Wards as “faceless electric cars and the increasing similarity of designs across competing electric vehicle brands.”