Since taking the R&D helm at Volkswagen in late 2015 – under the dark cloud of the then recently broken Dieselgate scandal – Frank Welsch has embarked on the biggest overhaul of the brand in its lifetime. Welsch’s work on the MEB modular platform and subsequent ID family of electric models – the manifestation of billions of pounds of investment in electrification – has led the industry in terms of its bold commitment to EVs.
Of course, that’s not Welsch’s only project. All in all, the development of – deep breath – 55 cars falls under his responsibility. When you consider the breadth and brilliance of those vehicles, there’s no one more worthy of the Mundy Award.
What are his favourites in 26 years of working at the VW Group? “The Touran was my very first favourite,” he says. “It was a totally new car on the street that was small on the outside but large on the inside. It was very practical. It has the best efficiency, the best for your money, best for family, best for normal cars.
As the world has changed, Welsch has identified the need to improve the environment as core to VW’s goals: “All of Volkswagen Group excluding trucks account for 1% of global CO2 emissions – and so we have made a very clear move to electric vehicles to play our part in reducing global warming.”
His biggest challenge, he says, is making people understand electric vehicles are the future. “People think they should buy them because they are better for the environment but this cannot be the reason. They have to buy them because they are better for their needs,” says Welsch.
He also recognises the importance of being a more software-driven firm. “Having good cars is not enough. Online, we have to have a lot of do: updateability, upgradeability, cloud management, data management, functions on demand. It’s hugely important for the automotive business.”
In years to come, when Welsch looks back at his career, what does he hope to have achieved? “I’m a car guy. I want to look back and see cars with my fingerprint on.
“When I’m 80, people should drive a lot of electric cars and maybe I can lean back and think I had a little influence on this with my ID family and the MEB platform, bringing affordable EVs to the people.”