At the Paris Motor Show, we had the opportunity to sit down with Jürgen Stackmann, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand with responsibility for Sales, Marketing and After Sales, to discuss the way forward for the German carmaker.
If Jurgen Stackmann is concerned about diesel-gate, you’d wouldn’t know it by his demeanor. He walks into a room full of Indian journalists brimming with confidence and energy, and starts off by explaining that he’d like to give us a brief before getting into a short Q&A. Without batting an eyelid, he delves straight into the diesel scandal – which is appropriately termed the diesel “issue.” He says that things are stable in the Volkswagen universe, sales are flat year-on-year, and the image of the brand is bouncing back very rapidly – and especially in the US market.
They are already implementing a software fix for 5.6 million cars in the European market, where customers are said to be satisfied with the action the company has taken. The fix for the US market is more complex, but, again, they’re working to ensure that they have a solution identified by the end of this year. He even joked that their newfound fame in the US market would create extra awareness for a new Ford Explorer-sized SUV that they plan to launch at the start of next year – an SUV, which was described as the “most American VW ever.”
VW is also developing two new SUV’s under the Tiguan, and a small car on a new platform – all of which will be very relevant for the Indian market. Contrary to some rumours, this vehicle will retain the VW badge and probably won’t make it to our market before 2018. But, in addition to finding a fix for their diesel engines, and developing a new range of traditional models, VW is also working very aggressively on electric mobility – as evidenced by their I.D. concept that debuted at the Paris Motor Show. Stackmann went on to say that the I.D. – an electric car with a 400-600 kilometer range, which will be in the price bracket of the VW Golf – reflects the future of the VW brand. “We took the decision to dedicate our resources, and future resources, for a full electric platform. So the car that you see out here, the I.D., is not a typical show car. It’s actually a car that signifies where the brand is heading in technology, and where the brand is heading in its commitment to create a full family of cars that are 100% clean.” By 2020, VW will have a full line up of electric vehicles, and by 2025 they aim to sell at least 1 million electric vehicles a year. They also plan to invest heavily in the R&D and manufacturing of batteries.
But their ability to develop such a wide range of products and technologies simultaneously can only happen if there’s a drastic change in their corporate culture. And, along with EVs, this seemed to be the buzzword at Paris. The day before our interaction, Daimler AG Chairman, Dr. Dieter Zetsche – dressed in jeans and a jacket – while announcing the launch of their new electric vehicle brand, said that Daimler Benz was also focusing on changing its corporate culture to be more flexible and put itself in a better position to respond to the challenges of a changing landscape.
At VW, as part of the changing corporate culture will be a conscious effort to decentralize control – which means that more decision making and development could shift to India. Stackmann ended by saying, “India is the toughest market on earth. If you get India right, you can fix the rest of the world.”