Financial Times calls “Volkswagen a long-time sceptic about hybrid and electric cars.” However, the pink sheet announces that Wolfsburg “has officially shifted gears.” That VW had been a sceptic is an understatement. Despite green initiatives for public and political consumption, internally, they laughed about hybrids and electrics. Their private position was that the consumption and emissions of a hybrid could be achieved with their low displacement supercharged engines and some weight savings. Pure plugins? Ach du mein Lieber. People have their next vacation in mind when they buy a car, and last VW looked, there were no charging stations on the Brenner Pass to Italy.
The official gear shifting occurred at last week’s Geneva motor show, where Volkswagen announced an “unprecedented” drive into electric vehicles.
To underscore the electrical drive, the nearly forgotten Seat brand showed a sporty all-electric “concept” vehicle, the IBE. Porsche showcased the 918 Spyder, a hybrid gasoline-electric concept car that could deliver 78 miles per gallon (not as per EPA) and would help Porsche get around their CAFE problems, if the car finishes on time, and if people buy it. Porsche is hell-bent on building the thing. “Rarely has Porsche shown a prototype that wasn’t built later,” said Porsche chief Michael Macht.
In Geneva, VW’s Winterkorn said that „Volkswagen brings electric cars for everybody. Cars that are friendly to the environment, suitable for everyday use, and affordable.” Germany’s Focus magazine was suprised that Winterkorn “even delivered a timetable.” This year will see hybridized Touaregs, Cayennes, and Audi Q5s, along with a test fleet of pure plug-ins. Next year will bring 5000 electric Golfs, for testing purposes also. In 2012, there will be a hybrid Jetta, and a small series of the pure plug-in Audi e-tron. In 2013, there will be an E-Up, an E-Golf and a E-Jetta. Suzuki will also play its part.
What was lacking in cars was filled with hubris. “Electric cars will be the second load-bearing pillar” of Volkswagen, announced Winterkorn according to Die Zeit. Before the auto show started, Winterkorn announced that “our target is to be market leader of electric cars by 2018.” (Never mind that Daimler announced the same. They can be lucky if they are still around by 2018.) 2018 is the target for everything at Volkswagen. By that year, Volkswagen wants to be the world’s largest auto manufacturer, wants to build and sell more than 10m cars worldwide (that’s more than the U.S.A. consumed last year).
And how many electric cars by 2018? Electric cars, that second load bearing pillar, are budgeted to amount to 3 percent. By 2018. Three percent. Maybe, the skepticism of lore hasn’t been totally expunged yet. Possibly, some electroconvulsive therapy would help? Said to be as beneficial against depression as for mania.