This week the world's largest carmaker presented its annual financial results and with them, the trends that it sees shaping the future of the motor industry.
And according to VW, the future will mean more SUVs and crossovers, greater and greater efficiency and use of propulsion methods other than fossil fuels plus internet connectivity as standard on all its cars by 2020.
"As a Group, we already have the largest networked vehicle fleet on the road, worldwide," said Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft. And as a Group, VW counts not just its own cars, but those of Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Seat, Scania Commercial vehicles, and Skoda too; therefore, when Volkswagen talks about the future the industry pays attention.
Automated technology rolling out
This increased connectivity will also enable the group to usher in greater levels of autonomous driving technology. The first Audis with ‘piloted technology,' i.e., the ability to take over during motorway driving or in traffic jam and parking situations, are expected to go on sale within the next 18 months, and during its presentation, VW demonstrated how the platform it uses for building all of its cars from Audis to Skodas, is designed to support next-generation self-driving technology.
So it will lead to mass-market self-driving features very soon. "We will be among the first to successfully market this technology with Audi and Volkswagen," said Winterkorn.
More electric choices
If hybrids are thrown into the mix, the VW group offers the world's largest choice of electrically powered cars, from the plug-in VW e-Up! City car to the Porsche Cayenne S E Hybrid and of course the Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid hypercar.
VW pledged to continue developing hybrids but also to put even more energy into full electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars. In fact, it plans to launch a fuel cell VW, Audi and a Porsche, as well as a full plug-in electric Porsche too for good measure. The battery-powered Porsche will be a new model -- possibly a small five-door car similar to the Panamera.
Models moving with the times
However, that's for the future. For the present, it is increasing production rates for the Macan, the new small Porsche crossover because it's proving so popular.
Matthias Müller, Chairman of Porsche's Board, said: "Until the end of the year, we had delivered our new five-door sports car nearly 45,000 times." So the company will be aiming to build 65,000 a year from now on.
What is proving less popular is ‘quirky'. VW was one of the first companies to explore retro brands and styling with the resurrection of the Beetle in 1997.
It was a massive hit and was soon joined by a similarly retro Mini and Fiat 500. But while the latter two are growing into standalone brands, VW might axe the Beetle altogether to save costs, alongside getting rid of the three-door version of future Polos. Winterkorn said: "The market for three-door vehicles in the compact segment is shrinking fast. In light of this, we are intensively checking whether, for example, we will only build a five-door Polo in the future."
Winterkorn also outlined how reducing the number of trim levels across model ranges - ie offering more equipment or features as standard - costs could be cut further while benefiting customers more.