On Tuesday, General Motors confirmed Apple’s Mike Abbott as the executive vice president of its Software division — an important role considering that the automaker is betting large on shifting revenue toward connectivity. The company has been stressing the importance of integrated mobile services for years and recently announced it would be dumping Apple CarPlay so that drivers would be required to interface with its proprietary operating system.
Last week, Volkswagen’s supervisory board reportedly told management that it needed to work on improving the company’s software division. Though that should hardly be surprising considering how often digital glitches have delayed product launches and forced the automaker to issue sweeping recalls.
Software gremlins stymied the launch of numerous ID-badged EVs, the Mk8 Golf, and a handful of other vehicles from VW Group’s many subsidiaries. But the issues have persisted, with customers citing electrical troubles and noting that the automaker’s novel touchscreen interfaces are brutally unresponsive. Some of the problems were deemed so heinous that the company eventually recalled literally every current-generation Golf sold within its native Germany. But it’s going to have to do a lot more if it’s serious about leveraging computer code as the cornerstone of an evolving business model and the board of directors seems keenly aware of that fact.
Toyota is allegedly on the cusp of launching a comprehensive driving software that incorporates everything from temperature control to autonomous driving. The Arene operating system (OS) will be proprietary to the automaker and assume duties that exceed multimedia management systems like Mercedes’ MBUX. Toyota’s software is supposed to be all-inclusive, much like the operating system found in Tesla products, and set itself up for hands-free motoring.
However, it would be a lie to claim that really matters, since automakers cannot help but promise that any new line of code is another step closer to driverless vehicles and chock full of artificial-intelligence goodness. For example, Volkswagen’s new software stalled the launch of multiple vehicles and resulted in an unresponsive, buttonless interface that has continued causing problems on its latest products. But VW will be the first ones to tell you it’s the only pathway toward widespread electrification, vehicular connectivity, self-driving, and commercial enlightenment.
Software updates. Precisely when we had to start having a conversation about software updates – over the air or otherwise – in an automotive context isn’t something I can answer. We didn’t have them for about 100 years. Then, we did. What’s more, it seems like everyone is more or less OK with that, but should they be? Are these software updates really making your car better, or are they slowly throttling back your car’s performance and functionality in a bid to frustrate you into buying a new one?
Let’s take a few minutes to explore the possibilities.
Volkswagen Group, the largest automotive manufacturer in the world, is reexamining its relationship with high-performance subsidiaries as it continues pouring money into electrification. Burned by a diesel emissions scandal of its own making half a decade ago, VW leadership now views electric cars as the only path forward — especially in regard to its more mainstream brands. While they aren’t getting identical treatments, VW, Audi, Seat, and Skoda are all presumed to be adding EVs to their production lines over the next few years.
Porsche’s long-term strategy also seems heavily dependent on battery power, but the road ahead is much less clear for ultra-premium brands like Lamborghini and Bugatti. With volumes and lineups order of magnitudes smaller than the core brands, Volkswagen would be incurring a gigantic expense to develop upper-echelon performance EVs that might not appeal to their existing fans. The same goes for upscale motorcycle brand Ducati as the two-wheeled world has become divided on electric and gas-powered bikes. Volkswagen’s management board and directors have decided the situation calls for an all-hands meeting in November to decide what should be done and how to remain financially prudent in a period of economic strife.
On Thursday, Toyota Motor Corp.’s research division announced it would create an $800 million global investment fund. While important news, Toyota’s dispatch was expected. The business had previously mentioned it was assembling a new holding company called Woven in July, noting that the entity would be focused on heavily upon software development and finding new partners for its most advanced projects.
Most of those seem to be in support of the “mobility as a service” concept that seeks to remove customers’ ability to own vehicles. The rest are interested in promoting alternative energy solutions or social engineering how we’ll be living in the future via “smart cities.” The fund also seems to be helping replace Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development (TRI-AD). In fact, the Japanese R&D arm was actually the one that announced the $800 million “global growth-stage investment fund” that officially creates Woven Capital.
With regulatory bodies the world over forcing the automotive sector to prioritize efficiency over mightiness, industry rhetoric has gradually shifted away from the powertrain. While every brand still wants to squeeze out all available power from ubiquitous four-cylinder motors, providing excess is only a priority in a handful of cases catering directly to enthusiasts.
The idea of a big, brutish luxury car with a monstrous engine still exists, but it’s being supplanted by technology-driven features catering to tech-focused minds and the green movement. Modern luxury is based in connectivity, applications, and distancing one from the experience of driving altogether — or at least that’s what the automotive industry now seems to believe.
And they may have a point. While we’re well aware those advocating “mobility” desperately want it so that they can tap into your data (to enhance revenue using the same grimy business tactics favored by big tech firms), carmakers also need something shiny to dangle in front of consumers so we’ll buy the latest and greatest product. The tech sector is also booming right now, and the industry’s dying to get investors back on its side after seeing the Wall Street performance of EV companies — especially Tesla Motors.
Even the traditionalists at Toyota are buying into it, announcing an important push into software development as they attempt to craft the next industry-standard operating system for cars. It’s also the song Volkswagen Group has sung ever since Dieselgate. Meanwhile, Audi recently explained its own commitment to software after its parent company (VW) tasked it with ensuring the botched launches of the ID.3 and Mk8 Golf don’t become commonplace.
Toyota announced the creation of a new holding company that will oversee its software development initiatives this week. While our default response is to gripe about the nebulous concept of “mobility companies” and the industry’s obnoxious emphasis on shifting data, we also understand that it pays to have someone on hand who knows their way around a line of code.
It wasn’t all that long go that Volkswagen was bragging about taking software seriously, only to be publicly shamed by the media when bunk programming screwed up the launch of numerous physical products. The cynical side of the brain knows this could have been avoided by ignoring unnecessary connectivity features and a potentially ill-conceived attempt to digitize the entire cabin.
We’re sympathetic to the nature of competition and the appeal “newness” has on customers. The automotive industry has seen the sea of riches amassed by tech companies harvesting data and knows which way the wind is blowing. No brand wants to be seen as technologically inferior, even if many of the newer features in modern cars aren’t really in service of anything other than marketing. Yet the “software first” mentality that has started presiding over vehicle development seems somewhat counterproductive, and Toyota may have just bought into it hook, line and sinker.
Then again, maybe it’s a great play and we’re just not seeing the big picture. So let’s dive in and see what we find.
While the summer months are normally the perfect time to take a road trip, New York has mandated that any jaunts out of state require a 14-day quarantine upon return — and any location one might want to visit on a lark has a strong likelihood of being closed to visitors.
Seems like a lot of hassle with very little payoff for yours truly, so I’ve been escaping into old films and television shows before they’re cancelled for being offensive. Video games have also become a staple of the modern pandemic lifestyle and, if you read my review of the Ford Simulator franchise, you’ll recall that my tastes skew toward terrible, automotive-themed DOS programs from the late 1980s.
Today’s entry is actually pretty decent, however — or at least it would have been at the time of its release.
Volkswagen Group plans to transfer software development leadership to its Audi division following an embarrassingly high number of technical glitches on some of its upcoming products.
With the industry committed to making sure tomorrow’s cars more closely resemble today’s phones, some automakers have decided to do the brunt of their coding in-house. VW decided to increase the share of its software it’s responsible for — targeting 60 percent of all the code that goes into its products by 2025 — but problems cropped up en route to its destination.
Volkswagen Group is moving Porsche CEO Oliver Blume over to the core brand, necessitating a broader employment shift within the company to ensure other nameplates aren’t left without leadership. German outlet Auto Motor und Sport indicated earlier in the week that a management shakeup was afoot that would see Blume take over the VW brand in order for group head Herbert Diess to focus on managing the bigger picture.
Blume is rumored to have been tapped to help the company address rampant issues with its upcoming electric vehicles. If you’ll recall, VW has struggled with software issues and production holdups for some time. Last we checked, VW’s plan was to launch the ID.3 with less-than-ideal computer code that it intends to fix later.
Sounds like a bad one.
We don’t know what’s going on with Volkswagen’s software, but if the automaker doesn’t sort it out quickly, it runs the risk of becoming infamous for it. Technical glitches have plagued the launch of Volkswagen Group’s most recent models; so much so, it’s starting to become a trend.
Obviously, there were “software issues” that allowed VW to circumvent emissions testing before the Dieselgate scandal kicked off in 2015, but few people actually believe that was the result of rogue computer code, rather than a corporate attempt to dodge strengthened environmental regulations.
These new issues appear to be generalized glitches stemming from the company’s jump into vehicular connectivity. With the upcoming ID.3 EV, Volkswagen opted to keep its summer 2020 launch and handle existing software glitches (the car had already entered limited production for first-edition models) with a software fix offered at a later date. Yet the more we learn about it, the worse the overall situation appears. Rumors suggest the ID.3 may have a slower-than-anticipated roll-out, with fewer features than originally advertised.
We’re now learning the same might be true for the Mk8 Golf — another new model experiencing technical glitches. This generation saw the model swap to a digitized interface offering enhanced connectivity, in line with the industry’s push to make cars more modern. Sadly, these changes haven’t panned out ideally for either the automaker or its customers. VW has had to stall deliveries of the new Golf to address another round of software issues.
Series production of the Volkswagen ID.3 began last November, but examples have yet to reach paying customers. The compact electric hatchback, seen as a people’s car for a new, greener age, is the vanguard of a massive EV product offensive from the auto giant. VW had hoped to give the model (which we won’t see here) a big, showy sales launch.
That launch, scheduled for Europe this summer, may not go ahead as planned. A report out of Germany claims the car contains so many bugs, an army of over 10,000 technicians is now tasked with fixing it.
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- Probert No, they're not the future. BEV sales are growing every year, and, along with sound energy policy, result in cleaner air, lower CO2, foreign policy not based on oil, and will continue to drive like a smooth powerful nearly silent turbine. Some 19% of new car sales in 2023 were BEVs - this will continue.
- Mishab Agree with you. Thanks for sharing this insightful update about the upcoming Mini Cooper models! It's fascinating to see Mini's shift towards electrification and the unique design elements they're incorporating into the new John Cooper Works edition.Speaking of Minis, if you're a Mini Cooper owner in Sharjah looking for spare parts or considering common repairs, you might find this article on 7 common Mini Cooper repairs quite useful. ( for reading it). It covers some of the typical issues Mini owners might encounter and offers valuable insights into maintaining these iconic cars.Looking forward to more updates on Mini's electrified lineup and the exciting changes they're bringing to the automotive industry
- Redapple2 Love/lust a 110 diesel defender. Should buy one since the INEOS is gas only (and double the price). Had a lightweight in Greece. Wonder how this rides.
- Ajla There is inventory on the ground but as pointed out it is generally high dollar trims of high-dollar models and at least around here dealers still aren't budging off their mandatory nitrogen tires and Summer weather protection packages.You aren't paying '21-'22 prices anymore but it's still a long way to go.