Winterkorn said “Over the next few years, our industry will face one of the greatest upheavals since the invention of the automobile. People’s mobility expectations are undergoing a fundamental transformation. Their wishes concerning their own cars are changing faster and faster. There are fundamental differences between lifestyles and needs from region to region. And digitalization is increasingly redefining the way we live and work. Against the backdrop of these challenges, the automobile industry must not bury its head in the sand but must welcome these developments and take them into account in its long-term strategies.”
Winterkorn added, “One of the main challenges for our industry will be to adapt even faster to the changing needs of customers. Customers will call upon us to react faster and more flexibly in order to offer precisely the right car with the right technology at the right time.” “This will force us to think about whether we may need to significantly shorten the normal model cycles of seven to eight years,” Winterkorn underlined. The fact that the car was more and more becoming a mobile computer would have “revolutionary consequences for future operation.” He said that the new Audi TT with its virtual cockpit gave a foretaste of these developments.
In Winterkorn’s opinion, progressive digitalization will challenge conventional model strategies. “In future, customers may well implement part of the next facelift themselves, via a software update in their own garage. This development could soon place us in a position to offer additional added value for customers, irrespective of previous model cycles.” Against the backdrop of increasingly diverse customer wishes changing at a faster and faster pace, he said that it was necessary to ask “whether every current model would automatically have a successor.” Winterkorn said: “It is more probable that people will increasingly expect us to provide entirely new body variants or designs of which we currently have no idea. These are questions that touch the future of our industry to the core, questions that will call for intensive efforts on our part.”
Winterkorn was confident that the Volkswagen Group and its brands would master the challenges ahead. “With our modular toolkits, we already have the key in our hands. They place us in a position to develop and build our cars faster, more flexibly and more economically than in the past. We can offer even greater variety – as well as producing niche models in a profitable way. Our toolkits also mean that we can roll out all our innovations and powertrains to all segments and brands within a very short space of time.”