Volkswagen Golf Delay Attributed to Software Glitches, Internet Connectivity

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Earlier this year, Volkswagen announced that the launch of the Mk8 Golf would be delayed until 2020 as it continues working on the vehicle’s upgraded tech features. VW intends to launch the car with an entirely digital cockpit, even on base models, alongside perks like permanent internet connectivity and advanced driving aids. It’s all part of a bid to make the Golf even more appetizing when compared to upscale rivals than it already is.

At the time, VW said certain technical issues needed to be ironed out before the next-gen Golf was ready to hit the road, but was adamant that software gremlins were not to blame. The issue came down to the advanced nature of the new technologies, not glitches.

Never take an automaker’s word for it.

While it’s not clear if VW was aware of the claimed glitches when it announced the delay last month, Automotive News reports that the company’s stalled launch of the next Golf was indeed due to software goofs.

“We think it’s better to come early next year with a full throttle offensive. It doesn’t have anything to do with production. It’s a sales decision since you don’t try to put cars under the Christmas tree when no one is paying attention,” said VW brand’s sales and marketing chief, Juergen Stackmann, last month.

However, Stackmann was singing a different song this week.

“We’ve never hid the fact that software, an area of extreme importance for products in the future, is a serious challenge for us,” Stackmann explained. “We have our homework ahead of us, and the teams are under heavy pressure.”

From Automotive News:

Pressed about the exact cause of the software glitches, Stackmann said a lot of the problems faced by engineers were because of the new Golf’s ability to update its software over the air. This also makes it potentially vulnerable to hackers.

Previously the only way someone could gain access to key functions of a car was directly tapping into the controller network, or CAN bus.

As hooking cars up to the internet opens them up to all sorts of new dangers, we’re not inclined to slight VW for making sure its system is fully functional. While the issue could have been avoided by simply abandoning connectivity, we all know that’s not something any automaker wants to consider. Most manufacturers think that always-online vehicles will open up new revenue streams via digital commerce, in-car advertising, and driving-data procurement (which can be analyzed for mobility projects or sold off as marketing data). It’s a brave new world, with new potential for carmakers to accrue capital in new and interesting ways.

“Due to their online connectivity there is a lot more software especially in the area of security, which is a real challenge since the car is no longer a closed ecosystem,” Stackmann continued. “A customer might get angry if their smartphone doesn’t work, but you do a debug the next day. A car is different — if something goes wrong it can become critical, so the security requirements are far higher.”

Over-the-air updates provide additional concerns for VW in terms of homologation. Stackmann said adding content to a vehicle digitally after sale is likely to befuddle some regulatory agencies, and the issue is only complicated by the Golf’s role as a global vehicle. Even though Tesla has issued OTAs for years, many important markets require that a manufacture physically demonstrate that a vehicle’s components are safe.

Now imagine if the Golf, which outsells Tesla by a huge margin and exists in more markets, tried to mimic the EV-focused firm’s remote brake update from last year. Volkswagen could probably get away with it in North America. Europe and most of Asia, however, would have likely have something to say if the company neglected to test the system in advance.

“You’re adding content to a vehicle afterwards, and this is an area where we are working together with the type approval agencies to define these processes. It is new for them as well,” Stackmann commented.

The Golf’s debut, originally for the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, will be set aside to give Volkswagen’s electrified I.D. hatchback more time to shine. Still, the company says the vehicle is on course for a February 2020 launch. North American availability isn’t expected until 2021.

[Image: Volkswagen]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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4 of 28 comments
  • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on Apr 28, 2019

    I'm no luddite, but this seems like a solution in search of a problem... that will create more problems than solutions. Hopefully these delays go out a few more years so I can buy an MK7 GTI brand new.

  • TheBrandler TheBrandler on Apr 29, 2019

    As the current owner of a 2015 MK7 GTI, this makes me sad. I guess I'll be upgrading to a 2020 Mk7.5 instead of a Mk8. The last thing I want is an all digital dashboard and internet connectivity in my car. Here's praying the US version still gets a mechanical dash and that the cell antenna is really easy to unplug.

    • See 1 previous
    • TheBrandler TheBrandler on Apr 29, 2019

      @Dawnrazor Guess you'll be buying out your lease them :)

  • Carson D The automotive equivalent of necrophilia appeals to people who have no redeeming social value.
  • Funky D These cars appeal to such different clienteles that it is completely comparing apples to oranges. I would go for the Mustang, especially in convertible form, but wouldn't mind at all a weekend behind the wheel of a Z.
  • Funky D Take it from an IT professional: ALWAYS have a backup plan! And then have a backup to that plan if possible. And always rehearse the plan every once in awhile.Always keep local copies of your data, or you don't really have a backup. My current company is working on revising our plan now, while we still have the opportunity.
  • 28-Cars-Later [list=1][*]"Nissan is trying to incorporate elements of past Z Cars to create an automotive amalgam. This includes going back to using a twin-turbocharged, 3.0-liter V6 engine. "[/*][*]"Ford has similarly opted to keep around the 5.0-liter V8."[/*][*]"The Ford benefits from having port and direct injection, while the Nissan only uses direct."[/*][/list=1]This isn't even a contest.
  • Lorenzo It's an election year, and Biden will drag down enough democrats without the state going deeper in the budget hole than it is now. Newsom isn't the smartest guy, but he has smart guys to tell him the state is running out of other people's money.