Volkswagen is launching a 13th brand – Top Gear

Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2016

If you thought the VW Group had a confusing number of nameplates, things are going to get even more sprawling. In November it’s going to launch a 13th brand*

Group CEO Matthias Muller said at the Paris show he hasn’t yet decided on a name. But its role is decided, and in fact some managers are already appointed and the HQ has been decided as Berlin. That’s Germany’s most progressive city.

It will be a mobility services nameplate. VW is investing in a controlling stake in Gett, a taxi sharing service and that’s one of several partnerships that’ll be rolled into the new brand. Muller also said “We could operate sharing schemes, and shuttle services, and then our own ride-sharing fleets once urban autonomous driving is a reality.”

“Many people will no longer own a car. But they can all be a Volkswagen customer.” He says he wants the new brand to be number one in Europe for mobility services by 2025, and top three in the world.

There’s no doubt the Group has had a massive shock since ‘dieselgate’ cracked open 12 months ago. This move towards mobility services is part of a much bigger realignment over digital services, electric vehicles and autonomous driving.

There will be 30 all-new fully electric vehicles by 2025. That’s on top of the 17 PHEVs due in the next two years. And yes, a whole bunch of new diesels and petrols too.

That realignment started before what they coyly call ‘The Diesel Affair’ but it has massively accelerated since. I spoke to several senior managers at the Paris show who say the whole mood in the company is more progressive and agile now.

But interestingly, immediately after Muller had spoken about this realignment, and announced the 13th brand, he handed the floor to head of Group design Michael Mauer.

Mauer spoke at length about the process of designing cars, rather than designing the apps and services that might bring customers to be riding in the cars. He stressed that each of the brands will remain different – perhaps more than ever. Most of all he emphasised that what will make the group succeed is having desirable cars on the road. “I’m convinced design will be a key factor in which car brands survive.”

Ah yes, the question of survival for the Group. There’s a strong feeling from inside and among analysts that ‘dieselgate’ won’t kill it. The profits and share price are now ticking along with the rest of the industry, and even the Volkswagen brand’s sales are only slightly down.

“The question is not whether the Volkswagen Group will make it but how the Volkswagen Group will make it,” said Muller.

*The other 12, pub quiz fans: Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda, Seat, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Ducati, VW Commercials, Scania, MAN Truck & Bus

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