By on April 26, 2019

2018 volkswagen golf family - image: Volkswagen

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]

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28 Comments on “Volkswagen Golf Delay Attributed to Software Glitches, Internet Connectivity...”

  • avatar

    Ah. And the ability to update software over the air (OTA) is necessary why? Or desirable why? Hoping to cut dealer techs out of the loop when you have to reflash faulty software? Planning on a lot of recalls?

    And knowing that a software reflash has potential to cause problems, why would you even attempt to make this happen in the wild, where connectivity and data transfer could go down at any time? I realize that some sort of caching and data validation is probably done before the actual reflash, but then you are potentially multiplying the amount of time the OTA update will take. How about if you are on a day-long hike and you get back to the trailhead and your car has bricked itself? Not very nice.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      Remember: Just as with a smartphone, turn off Location Services. If that doesn’t do it, disconnect the internet box, just like you’d pull the connectors to the OnStar box on a GM vehicle.

  • avatar

    This makes me glad I bought my MK7 GTI when I did. I knew the MK8 was coming with a bunch of stupid tech stuff that would just make it more complicated than it had to be. At least they dropped the mandatory hybrid idea.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m thinking about a MK7 regular Golf towards the end of the year.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think the mandatory hybrid was much of a boogeyman. They were talking about upgrading the electrical system to 48V, at which point the addition of even the tiniest of battery packs would classify the car as a hybrid. Even if all it was doing was spooling the turbo under boost.

  • avatar

    Where I live wifi is not ubiquitous nor is a cell connection all that great, and I’m not about to buy another subscription to a service I’ll rarely use. If I have to to an update, let me download it to a usb drive and I’ll plug it in.

  • avatar

    All electric VW future….cringe at the thought.

  • avatar

    “The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.”

    Attributed to Tom Cargill, Bell Labs

  • avatar

    Electronic equipment – that’s where VW shines! More of that please. MOAR!

  • avatar

    This is European launch, right? The 2020 Golf in North America will still be the Mark VII?

  • avatar

    This isn’t a good idea, for the electrical reliability, hacking, and general tracking reasons cited above. When was the last time Volkswagen built some serious electrical system which lasted a long time without faults?

  • avatar

    I’m getting old, I admit that. But… all this tech stuff drives me nuts. Since this is a car site I know I can get away with saying this here, a car is a car. If you want entertainment and connectivity sit in your living room.

    It also bugs me that most, if not all, manufacturer websites give little technical information but tons of information on the tech goodies. I was looking for the torque rating on a car a few days ago and gave up on the manufacturer’s site. I just Googled it. But the manufacturer’s site gave me lots of information on infotainment.

  • avatar

    People gaily give all their privacy away with smartphones and smart speakers, apparently seduced by low grade rubbish apps and indifferent to the vacuuming up of data to be sold to someone or other for some commercial or nefarious reason. Or maybe because the things re-order toilet paper automatically. Who knows?

    Mercedes just introduced MBUX, so even the most miserable A-Class comes with a “smart” speaker happily gathering data – “Hey Mercedes” is what the thing listens for. VW has had a shock how well the new A-Class sells, and how the general somnolent masses don’t care about privacy but love glitz and TV shows about celebrities that are pure schlock from beginning to end. I believe the delay is to match MBUX in flashy vacuousness, because that is what people buy. Never overestimate the brainpower of the average dolt but make sure you cater to it is the corporate imperative of the day.

  • avatar

    Add to the reservations expressed above the manufacturer’s potential to tighten control over all maintenance. No more pesky indies undercutting your dealers.

  • avatar

    Fortunately I have enough ordinary, manual transmission vehicles to last the rest of my life, and then some. This data-gathering and subscription-buying [email protected] is for the birds.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      I am facing the same dilemma with a ’17 A6 next year when the lease is done. It looks like the new generation A6 has gone all-in with LCD displays and glossy touchscreen fingerprint magnets to control everything, with no option for analog displays and controls. They also eliminated the nice red backlighting (almost an Audi trademark at this point) in favor of the same garish cool-white everyone else is using.

      The ’17 has about the best interior I’ve ever experienced in any car, and the excellent balance between analog and digital controls/displays is a huge factor. Within about a week of taking delivery, I concluded that I would be 100% happy and content if I could have THAT interior in every vehicle for the rest of my life.

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