Isn’t it interesting, a couple of years ago, Volkswagen was everybody’s enemy thanks to finding a way to provide a test result – the one that the German Government wanted to see, even though it wasn’t the real answer. It didn’t take long for the revenues to bounce back and with a new focus from new management they are pushing ahead with electric vehicles – just like the rest of the market!
However unlike other manufacturing groups, they are behind the pack with only two models on the market: the e-Golf and e-Up!. They are scheduled to release more electric cars next year and have a grand plan to relaunch the Kombi. Having brought back the Beetle some years ago as a bigger car, the Kombi will be different: it will be all electric. Working prototypes have been seen already.
It has only been five years since the Type 2, as it was officially called, was finally discontinued after a very long run of production – 63 years in all, across several countries. There were other variants after the Type 2 however this vehicle became an icon of the industry. It was called the Type 2 because it was Volkswagen’s second model after the Beetle (strangely called the Type 1)! It was a logical step using a similar layout for commercial use.
The new version will be called the ID Buzz – ID being the family name for their electric vehicles, rather like BMW’s “i” series. The specs quoted in recent reports show 370hp equivalent output with a 300 mile range. Charging, like many other cars, will provide 80% full charge in 30 minutes. The Buzz is expected to be built in the US as well as Germany to meet the demands of two major markets. The company has made a commitment to produce electric versions of all their smaller vehicles.
To take this further, Volkswagen has a division called Moia that is taking on ride-sharing companies by producing a six seater version of the Buzz that will be used as the basis of a car-pooling service. The plan is to remove one million cars off the roads by 2025 – that is great, however if they are that successful, they will surely cannibalise sales of other VW products. It is rather like the technology companies telling businesses to go to the cloud – until they realised that they were not selling enough hardware, so they quietly changed their message! I think we will see VW doing the same thing.
Hamburg is the pilot city for Moia and the services are expected to start later this year and based on a successful roll-out, will then spread to other European and US cities. 200 vehicles will be available at the start with an expectation that it will grow to 1,000 very quickly. I wonder if the US/European trade tariff skirmish will spread to US owned ride-share services such that they are too expensive to use, forcing the drivers and passengers to abandon Uber and sign with Moia?
The VW Group is very bullish about Moia with very high targets such as becoming the third largest ride-share business globally and generating several billion Euros of revenue within a few years. This might be a tall order – the ride-share market is starting to be shaken up not by more entrants, however by Governments realising that they are losing taxi licence and other revenues.
I still feel that if people don’t want to drive themselves, they will dabble with a service and then return to a cheaper form of transport – being public transport networks comprising of buses, trams and trains. The plans by VW could be short-lived, only time will tell.