Volk­swa­gen bets fu­ture on elec­tric peo­ple’s car

ID.3 hatch­back first ve­hi­cle to be built on firm’s new stan­dard­ized elec­tric car tech­nol­ogy

The Peterborough Examiner - - Business - WIL­LIAM BOS­TON

WOLFS­BURG, GER­MANY—Volk­swa­gen AG lifted the cur­tain on the first of a new gen­er­a­tion of ve­hi­cles it is bet­ting will take the elec­tric car out of its tiny mar­ket niche and make it the new car for the masses.

At a pre­sen­ta­tion at the com­pany’s design cen­ter on Thurs­day, VW ex­ec­u­tives took the wraps off the ID.3 hatch­back, the first ve­hi­cle to be built on its new stan­dard­ized elec­tric car tech­nol­ogy. The car goes into pro­duc­tion in Ger­many in the com­ing weeks and will be of­fi­cially launched in Europe at the Frank­furt Mo­tor Show next month.

The self-park­ing ID.3 shows how big-vol­ume car mak­ers are un­leash­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of tech­no­log­i­cally advanced ve­hi­cles that will al­low them to wres­tle back lead­er­ship of their in­dus­try from up­starts like Tesla Inc.

The launch is a mile­stone for VW, which has in­vested heav­ily in the tran­si­tion from com­bus­tion en­gines to elec­tric ve­hi­cles de­spite the slow­down in global car sales that has hit man­u­fac­tur­ers badly.

To­day, the elec­tric car is a niche prod­uct and largely dom­i­nated by up­scale and ex­pen­sive brands such as Tesla, Jaguar and Audi.

But in or­der for the in­dus­try’s huge bet on elec­tri­fi­ca­tion to pay

off, car mak­ers will have to sell mil­lions of the ve­hi­cles to mass­mar­ket con­sumers, not just an elite group of wealthy, en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious con­sumers.

The ID.3 is meant to sym­bol­ize VW’s am­bi­tion to pro­duce an elec­tric ve­hi­cle that be­comes as ubiq­ui­tous on the world’s high­ways as the orig­i­nal Volk­swa­gen, the Bee­tle, was in the years af­ter World War II be­fore be­ing over­taken

by the com­pact Golf, the com­pany’s all-time best-seller.

VW is po­si­tion­ing the ID.3, and eventually a fleet of 20 models built on the same tech­nol­ogy, to fill those shoes.

Ul­ti­mately, it ex­pects to build one mil­lion elec­tric cars with this tech­nol­ogy by 2025 and a to­tal of 15 mil­lion be­fore up­grad­ing the ve­hi­cle’s core tech­nol­ogy.

The new model is also meant as

Volk­swa­gen’s ex­hibit A in its ar­gu­ment that it has left its dirty diesel past be­hind it, hav­ing learned its lessons from the 2015 diesel emis­sions cheating scan­dal that tar­nished its im­age and cost the com­pany around $30 bil­lion (U.S.) in fines, penal­ties and con­sumer com­pen­sa­tion.

VW has even gone as far as chang­ing its iconic blue and white badge. In­stead of the 3-D logo VW has flat­tened it, mak­ing it sharper and bet­ter to view on dig­i­tal de­vices.

Bumper to bumper, the ID.3 is about as big as the Golf. But with­out an internal com­bus­tion en­gine hog­ging space up front, the in­te­rior is spa­cious, of­fer­ing as much space in­side the car as the Golf ’s up­scale cousin the Pas­sat.

The car, which is packed with advanced driver as­sis­tance tech­nol­ogy and con­nected to the in­ter­net, is al­ready on sale in pre­orders in Europe, starting at around 30,000 eu­ros ($33,000).

The ID.3 won’t be sold in the U.S. In­stead, Volk­swa­gen plans to be­gin pro­duc­tion of the ID “Crozz”, an elec­tric SUV using the same tech­nol­ogy, at its plant in Chat­tanooga, Tenn.

The idea for the ID.3 was born in Oc­to­ber 2015 in the weeks af­ter U.S. au­thor­i­ties dis­closed that Volk­swa­gen had rigged mil­lions of cars to cheat diesel emis­sions test­ing and car­ried out a decade­long coverup to hide the scam from en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tors.

Com­pany ex­ec­u­tives showed an ad­ver­tis­ing spot for the ID.3, flash­ing a suc­ces­sion of images of the car and its follow-on models—in­clud­ing the ID Crozz SUV and a retro knock­off of VW’s fa­mous hippy van—and even an im­age of Swedish cli­mate change ac­tivist Greta Thun­berg.

“We are on the road to cre­at­ing emis­sions-free mobility for every­one,” said Jür­gen Stack­mann, the com­pany’s sales chief.

GOR­DON WELTERS THE NEW YORK TIMES FILE PHOTO

The launch of Volk­swa­gen’s ID.3 hatch­back, to go into pro­duc­tion in Ger­many in the com­ing weeks, is a mile­stone for the au­tomaker, which has in­vested heav­ily in the tran­si­tion from com­bus­tion en­gines to elec­tric ve­hi­cles, de­spite the slow­down in car sales.

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