The Volkswagen Group as we know it, could undergo a transformation programme on a scale that may be unprecedented in automotive history. According to Automobile, the auto giant revealed that it will release a whopping 70 new electric vehicles by 2028, up from the 50 it originally announced.

The move will see production of EVs soar from 15 million to 22 million units, and by 2025, the group would have invested over 30 billion euros (RM140 billion) in electrification alone. By 2030, the EV penetration across all brands under the VW Group is set to exceed 40%, and by 2050, it wants to be a fully CO2-neutral carmaker, both in terms of products and manufacturing processes.

Those are ambitious targets, and in order to achieve them, a bold, radical plan would have to be set in motion to make it work. Brace yourselves, folks, this one’s going to be heavy.

Earlier this year, first details of Vision 2030 began trickling down from the board level to several senior managers. Apparently, the proposed rethink is based on four pillars – the restructuring of the global production network, the streamlining of key technologies, the focus on core brands, and the clear emphasis on EVs, autonomous driving, and digitalisation.

According to the report, the unions have already started to fight this policy, which naturally entails substantial cost-cutting. It added that the VW Group is overstaffed, under-efficient, and desperately short of pragmatic forward thinkers. The company is also said to be in short supply of electrical-architecture specialists, software specialists, and digital marketing experts.

Conversely, Volkswagen’s mechanical engineers and assembly-line workers are to evolve into a financial burden, especially when compared to lean start-ups (Tesla is a great example of this) which are devoid of inherited liabilities.

Moving forward, the group will work with three brand new EV platforms, those being the MEB (compact- to mid-size cars; development led by VW), the PPE (mid- to full-size cars; jointly developed by Audi and Porsche), and the J1 (performance car platform; Porsche Taycan, Audi e-tron GT). These EVs will gradually take over the combustion engine portfolio, with engine variations reduced by up to 60%, depending on the brand. Also on its way out is the manual transmission.

VW Group chairman, Herbert Diess said: “In the long run, we want to scale back the portfolio of conventional models and concentrate instead on a fast-growing family of EVs. With the ID model range, Volkswagen is about to demonstrate the benefits of fusing diversification and standardisation.”


Will Bugatti be sold off?

Now comes the tough part. According to sources in Wolfsburg, only Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche are likely to survive long-term in their current forms, whereas other remaining brands may eventually be merged, reinvented, or sold off. Insiders also insist that there are plans to create an additional marque that, like Tesla, would exclusively sell electric vehicles.

That means brands like Bugatti, Bentley, Lamborghini, Italdesign, and Ducati may no longer be part of the Volkswagen Group. Italdesign and Ducati are rumoured to be spun off soon, Bugatti could be gifted to Ferdinand Piëch (former VW Group chief), and Bentley’s future is uncertain as well. Lamborghini, however, may get a second chance under Audi or Porsche.

According to a senior strategist, the Bentley brand combines all the wrong brand values with old world design and conventional engineering. “Why invest on a backward-looking enterprise when you can support a trendsetter? A proud history and excellent craftsmanship alone don’t cut it anymore.”

Although not confirmed, there exists a plan B for Bentley, that is to keep it as is until a suitor, perhaps from China, steps forward and takes it away. The Automobile report adds that neither the PPE nor J1 platforms are part of the Bentley DNA, so the “dowry might be heavy on glitz and light on substance.”

Lamborghini belongs to Audi on paper, but the reality is Porsche is already pulling quite a few strings while Ingolstadt foots the bill. Even though the new Aventador has the board’s blessings, Audi CEO Bram Schot said it’s merely a formality, with Diess adding “I am not prepared to let every sports car have its own bespoke drivetrain.” Sounds like the death of V12 engines to us, but make of that what you will.

Apparently, VW Group honchos currently prefer a trimmed lawn to a wildflower meadow, but rare and exotic species can only survive with plenty of passion in the equation. Return on investment is the top priority, whereas persistent underperformance will lead to uncertainty for the nice-to-haves (cue Bentley and Lamborghini).

When asked whether VW is considering launching a fully electric and mobility-focused brand aimed at young urbanites, Diess said “it would be a mistake not to address the increasingly volatile market with potentially game-changing new offerings. Trouble is, we already have a very full plate, and there is a limit to our spending power.”

The VW Group is currently worth around 80 billion euros (RM373 billion), but Diess thinks he can more than double the value by taking bold decisions, such as shifting the emphasis from classic brands to new fully connected ventures. Insiders say the proposed urban-vehicle architecture ranges from “a little shorter than the Up! to a little longer than the Polo,” and it could allegedly spawn up to 10 different body styles.

However, the biggest challenge is to turn the so-called urban brand into a solid business case, sources say. Although the city cars can make do with smaller batteries and a range of no more than 160 km, VW would need a low-cost production facility (most likely in China, India, or Russia), a strong cooperation partner, and a willing supplier base to achieve the target profit rate of 6%. For now, the venture seems unrealistic, owing to the fact that its car business is currently barely breaking even.

Going back to the trio of platforms (MEB, PPE and J1), several brands within the family will use it as the base for upcoming cars. Those may include the Audi TTE Coupe/Roadster, next-gen Porsche Boxster and Cayman, reborn Lamborghini Urraco, a high-end 2+2 Audi crossover (based on the J1; development to be led by Porsche), an ultra-luxury Bentley grand touring crossover (also based on the J1), as well as a 1,341 hp/1,500 Nm Porsche/Lamborghini hypercar with solid state batteries.

Similar proliferation schemes have been mapped out for MEB- and PPE-derived products. While MEB involves VW, Audi, SEAT, and Skoda, PPE is reserved for the premium and sport/luxury divisions. “These days, risks and opportunities live next door to each other,” says Diess. “Smart timing can make all the difference, especially as far as future EVs are concerned. We can offer the customer great products at competitive prices, but without a fully functioning infrastructure, the prettiest kite won’t fly.”