Volkswagen is taking the Tesla approach by shifting its EV focus on software

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After the difficulties it faced with software glitches in the ID.3 and the 8th-generation Golf, Volkswagen appears to have shifted its priorities from simply producing electric cars at scale to developing software for its upcoming lineup of vehicles. The shift was evident in the German auto giant’s 150 billion-euro ($178 billion) five-year investment plan, which lists a massive increase in spending on digital technologies. 

Automotive News Europe, citing a source from within the German carmaker, stated that the Volkswagen is “raising the tempo” when it comes to software. The reason for this is simple: the company’s needs in software are greater than its needs in other areas, as represented by the massive issues that plagued the ID.3. Under the new five-year plan, Volkswagen will be increasing its funding for software development to 27 billion euros, double the amount proposed last year. 

Included in this software push is an initiative to increase the amount of work done in-house. Currently, only about 10% of Volkswagen’s software is developed within the company, but with the new plan, this number is expected to increase to 60%. This approach is quite similar to Tesla’s, albeit tempered down, as the American electric car maker develops its vehicles’ own software in-house. Tesla’s vertical integration is so notable that the company designs the chips used in its vehicles’ Autopilot computer as well. 

VW Group CEO Herbert Diess has admitted that the shift towards becoming a digital company capable of operating millions of connected “mobility devices” is more challenging than the shift to electric vehicles. While presenting at the Handelsblatt automotive summit earlier this month, Diess highlighted this point by describing his previous meeting with Elon Musk, which involved the two executives taking a test drive on the ID.3 with the Tesla CEO at the wheel. 

“The price point with which the car goes to market impressed him. He immediately reacted with a very aggressive cost approach to the battery.” Diess also highlighted that Volkswagen still had a lot of ground to make up, in particular when it comes to continually improving the vehicles after they’re sold via improved software pushed to the vehicles over the air. 

Diess also talked about plans to use over-the-air updates for its family of vehicles. Amidst Volkswagen’s current efforts, the VW Group CEO expects the veteran carmaker to offer over-the-air updates at the same extent and pace as Tesla today in a few years. “The new ID vehicles will receive the first updates next year, then we need to increase the pace. By 2023 and 2024 we want to be in the position to offer OTA updates to the same extent as Tesla does today,” he said. 

Volkswagen is taking the Tesla approach by shifting its EV focus on software
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