VW Group boss Martin Winterkorn predicts shorter car life-cycles and greater flexibility will be crucial for manufacturers to thrive in the future

New cars will have to be launched at a greater rate and with greater innovation than ever before – with updates available via downloads – if the industry is to thrive in future, according to VW Group boss Martin Winterkorn.

Speaking on the eve of the Geneva motor show, Winterkorn highlighted the Group's relationship with Google as an example of how car makers will have to be "faster, more agile and more open to new ideas than at any time since the advent of the car".

In particular, Winterkorn claimed that car makers would have to reduce model cycles well below the current rates – typically seven years – be more willing to introduce all-new models and variants of existing models and offer customers a high-tech ownership experience.

"People's expectations are changing and the digital revolution is realigning how we all live," he said. "The auto industry must not close its eyes to these developments. We must embark on new actions.

"For instance, we must consider the consumer expectations. Model cycles must be much shorter. We must react faster to trends and be more flexible in what we offer. At least part of a facelift, for instance, might be downloadable while the customer is in their garage.

"Cars will become mobile computers. That will be revolutionary for how we operate in future, but gives us an opportunity to add value to our vehicles. These are questions at the core of our industry."

Winterkorn stressed that he felt the VW Group was ideally placed to benefit from the shift in customer demands, highlighting the strides the company has made with its modular platform strategy.

"Let me be clear, I am not fearful of this change," he said. "The modular system is key to managing our future, which is in our hands. It makes it possible to offer more variety and profitably build nice models or offer all types of powertrain across all cars. It gives us opportunities."

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5

6 March 2014
I assume that if model cycles are to shorten, we will be expected to buy new cars more often, even though their longevity is now quite remarkable, especially when compared with cars from the pre 80s. If that does happen (and I'm not sure it will, especially in Europe) more cars will cascade through the secondhand market with perfectly serviceable ones ending up in scrap yards. Seems a bit wasteful in this environmently conscious era.

7 March 2014
streaky wrote:

I assume that if model cycles are to shorten, we will be expected to buy new cars more often, even though their longevity is now quite remarkable, especially when compared with cars from the pre 80s. If that does happen (and I'm not sure it will, especially in Europe) more cars will cascade through the secondhand market with perfectly serviceable ones ending up in scrap yards. Seems a bit wasteful in this environmently conscious era.

Have to agree. As models multiply and regulations constantly change and get stiffer the only way to shorten lifecycles is to do more in parallel -which increases cost. Or sacrifice quality.

I can see downloading new software for the dashboard but that's it right. I mean we are not going to be downloading a new bumper to our 3D printers and clipsing them on ourselves...

Or are we?

6 March 2014
I think Winterkorn is wrong. We don't want more "digital". We want more "basic". Look at the success of Dacia. Only thing is it might not be too profitable for VW to do basic.

6 March 2014
... Mr Winterkorn should tell this to himself since he controls the biggest share of the (European) car market among the Volkswagen subsidiaries. Any step that the VW Group takes in this regard will not only affect the whole market but also force the other car makers to replicate it. He's got the numbers to speak well for him but shows little in the way of market leadership.

6 March 2014
Cars would have to become cheaper if we are going to treat them like mobile phones, but there definitely needs to be more access to be able to upgrade systems or tech on cars for nominal amounts rather than having to get bent over by your dealer to do the same.

"We" dont want more Dacia's. They for fill the needs of the fringe of society that view motoring as necessary evil. Dacia is a backwards product. Backwards in technology but forwards in filling a niche in the market.

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