Volkswagen Plans to Sell 300,000 Electric Cars a Year by 2018


VW Could be Global EV Leader?
Last night, in the runup to the first day at the Geneva Auto show, Volkswagen unveiled its electric vehicle strategy for the next 8 years. The plan, announced by the company's chairman Dr. Martin Winterkorn, aims to put three electric VW models onto the market by 2012, and to have 3% of global deliveries (estimated to be 300,000 cars) be EVs by 2018--which, the company projects, would make VW the market leader in EVs.VW's Electric Vehicle Strategy
After the announcement, I sat down with VW rep (product communications rep) Christian Buhlmann to discuss the plans. VW aims to take the title of the world's largest automaker from Toyota by 2018. Part of the company's strategy is to ramp up production of electric vehicles--here are VW's EV plans as announced last night, with further details filled in by Bulhmann.

2010 - Introduce the company's first hybrid electric vehicle, a version of the 2010 Touareg that uses parallel hybrid tech.

2011 - Produce 500 electric Golfs (the company's most popular car in Europe), and introduce them to select customers in different markets to conduct customer research.

2012 - Introduce the Jetta hybrid electric to the North American market, and the Golf hybrid to Europe.

2013 - And here's where things finally get interesting. VW plans on introducing three EVs to market--most likely versions of the Jetta, Golf, and the Up. Research is still underway, and it's unclear whether these will be hybrid electric plug-ins, or pure electrics, according to Buhlmann.

2014-2018 - Expand market of EVs, until they reach the projected target of 300,000 units delivered per year in 2018, constituting roughly 3% of global deliveries.

A notable aspect of VW's approach is that its banking on offering the EV as an option on already available and recognizable models, as it has done with TDI diesel options. Instead of developing all new models to channel new tech into, as with, say, the Prius or Volt, VW seems intent on phasing new tech into an already familiar cars (with the exception of the new Up, which is aimed at European markets). This approach certainly has pros and cons--the effect of seeing someone driving a new Volt come November will be hard to replicate if the EV zooming by were to look just like the rest of the Jettas out there. It perhaps does less to rally the public's attention to the feasibility of EVs. Then again, it may persuade longtime fans of the model to try an EV when they otherwise may have been put off by its alien-ness. Also, it should cut costs that would be necessary to develop and produce new models.

As for the rest of the outlined plan, let the debate begin as to whether its under or over ambitious--but at the very least, VW has staked out a distinct role for EVs in the company's future, even if details remain vague. At the best, VW could be instrumental in propelling EVs into a significant role in the marketplace sooner than many naysayers would've thought.

Note: To cover the company's unveiling of its first hybrid electric vehicle, the Toureg 2010, Vokswagen, invited me along to check it out at the Geneva Auto Show. So, here I am. I'm not the resident car pro at TH (that, of course, is the multi-talented Michael Graham Richard), but I'll be covering the EVs, hybrids, concept cars, and other weird and efficient forms of transport revealed here over the next two days.
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