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Head strategist Döllner: Strong platforms ensure success

Interview with Gernot Döllner, Head of Group Strategy

Electric drive, digitalisation and autonomous driving are fundamentally changing the world of mobility. With the new strategy “NEW AUTO – Mobility for Generations to Come”, the Volkswagen Group is taking the transformation to the next level. Gernot Döllner, Head of Group Strategy, explains the realignment.

In a nutshell: What will “NEW AUTO” change in the Volkswagen Group?

Our electric offensive is in progress – the next big step is the extensive digitalisation of our products. With “NEW AUTO” the corporation is focussing on this rigorously. We’re establishing new competencies and laying even better foundations for Group-wide platform solutions.

Which platforms?

In terms of hardware, the brands will use a standardised kit from the A0 to the premium sector in future. In terms of software, under the leadership of CARIAD we are developing a shared electronics architecture for the whole Group. One platform for batteries & charging will reduce costs massively and make Volkswagen a leading battery manufacturer, and will offer customer-oriented charging solutions. The fourth major platform bundles the mobility services of the Group’s brands and makes them available via a mobility app.

Will Volkswagen be more of a mobility provider than an automotive manufacturer in future?

Vehicles will remain the core business – but digital offerings are becoming increasingly important. Until now, the focus has been on delivering a finished product. This will change radically. For example, buyers will be able to update and upgrade the software in their cars regularly. For us as a corporation, this means massively expanding software expertise. By 2025 the Group will increase the percentage of internal software development in the car from the 10 percent it is at today to 60 percent.

“Vehicles will remain the core business – but digital offerings are becoming increasingly important.”

Gernot Döllner

The Volkswagen Group has many strong brands that are following their own strategies. How will the Group strategy and brands work together?

A future-oriented and bold Group strategy and strong brands complement each other very well. The brands maintain the relationships with customers. They offer their captivating models and mobility services to the market. The Group has two central roles: Firstly, it is responsible for the model portfolios of the brands producing the optimum overall offering. Secondly, it ensures that the brands use shared platforms. This doesn’t mean that the Group has to develop these platforms itself. It can also be done under the auspices of a brand – but it has to happen. Strong platforms develop synergies and contribute to financing the transformation. They ensure the success of the Group.

Can you explain this by way of an example?

To date, we have been using two platforms in the Group for our electric cars – the modular electric drive matrix (MEB) and the Premium Platform Electric (PPE). The next generation of all-electric cars will be developed on a standardised platform on which we will bundle the central cutting-edge technology. We’re talking about the Scalable Systems Platform (SSP). The SSP allows us to innovate rapidly and is the key to autonomous driving. At the same time we are boosting huge economies of scale, since more than 40 million cars from all brands and segments can be built based on SSP over a life cycle.

“NEW AUTO” is set up – what does a Group Strategist do day to day?

There’s plenty to do (he laughs). We will use the coming months to define metrics and milestones for the implementation of “NEW AUTO”. We will also develop additional Group initiatives for important markets and regions before the autumn. And the strategy department is also undergoing a transformation along the way: Unlike my predecessor, I am responsible for both the corporate and Group product strategy at the same time. This enables us to position ourselves more holistically and more effectively. I also want to make working on strategies more accessible and open to talents from within the corporation. Anyone with good ideas is invited to collaborate on projects.

How do you envisage your personal mobility in 2030?

For me, the car is second to none when it comes to fulfilling the need for individual freedom. That will still be true in 2030. However, I think that I will use cars differently than I do today: When I feel like it, I will take hold of the steering wheel myself. On long journeys I will often let the car do the steering, while I relax or use the time to work. I will use my mobility platform of choice to book cars for special occasions as required – be it a robot taxi in the city or a convertible when I’m on holiday.

About Gernot Döllner

Gernot Döllner has been Head of Group Strategy, Head of Group Strategy Product and Head of the General Secretariat of Volkswagen AG since 1 May 2021. Before that he was responsible for the areas of Product and Concept at Porsche AG. Döllner has been working for the Volkswagen Group since 1993.

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