Volkswagen's Elektroshock

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
volkswagen s elektroshock

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.

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  • Brettc Brettc on Mar 09, 2010

    I've heard about VW and their diesel electric prototypes as well, but never read anything about it until now. Popular Science now has all their magazines online through Google Books and the link below has some content from 1990 about a hybrid Golf that could get 95 MPG. Not bad for 1990! I'm surprised VW is actually getting into hybrids, but I think they kind of have to for the U.S. market at least. But 3% of sales is a pretty low number.

    • Tricky Dicky Tricky Dicky on Mar 10, 2010

      3% was for BEVs, not for hybrids. AFAIK they haven't published a sales target for hybrids. Given that the Touareg HV is going to be priced 38% higher than the diesel equivalent here in Europe, it doesn't seem to me like it's of great strategic importance to them. I think they just want to support their environmental image by saying "jah, ve hav zem too!"

  • Johnny ro Johnny ro on Mar 09, 2010

    My new audi has sophisticated electric mgt, it turns off electric functions with declining voltage (i.e. failiure) to keep things running till you get it fixed. I wondered why they would do this but it looks like its part of electification overall.

  • Jeff S Still a nice car and I remember these very well especially in this shade of green. The headlights were vacuum controlled. I always liked the 67 thru 72 LTDs after that I found them bloated. Had a friend in college with a 2 door 71 LTD which I drove a couple of times it was a nice car.
  • John H Last week after 83 days, dealership said mine needs new engine now. They found metal in oil. Potential 8 to 9 month wait.
  • Dukeisduke An aunt and uncle of mine traded their '70 T-Bird (Beakbird) for a brand-new dark metallic green '75 LTD two-door, fully loaded. My uncle hated seat belts, so the first time I saw the car (it was so new that the '75 models had just landed at the dealerships) he proudly showed me how he'd pulled the front seat belts all the way out of their retractors, and cut the webbing with a razor blade(!).Just a year later, they traded it in for a new '76 Cadillac Coupe de Ville (they had owned a couple of Imperials in the '60s), and I imagine the Cadillac dealer took a chunk out to the trade-in, to get the front seat belts replaced.
  • CaddyDaddy Lease fodder that in 6 years will be on the 3rd owner in a poverty bound aspirational individual's backyard in a sub par neighborhood sinking into the dirt. The lending bank will not even want to repossess and take possession of this boat anchor of a toxic waste dump. This proves that EVs are not even close to being ready for prime time (let's not even talk about electrical infrastructure). EVs only exist in wildly expensive virtue signaling status-mobiles. FAIL! I know this is a Hybrid, but it's a Merc., so it will quickly die after the warranty. Show me a practical EV for the masses and I'll listen. At this time, Hybrids are about the way to go for most needing basic transportation.
  • Jeanbaptiste The bubble free dash on the R32!