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VW grabs a share of the future

Date: 04 September 2018   |   Author: Sean Keywood

The brand is adding a car-sharing platform to its rapidly expanding range of digital services. Sean Keywood reports.

Volkswagen has announced a new car-sharing service alongside an expansion of the German giant's connected-car programme.

The We Share service, which will begin by offering 2,000 electric vehicles (EVs) for sharing in Berlin in 2019, is the latest part of the brand's Volkswagen We digital ecosystem.

We Share will start with 1,500 electric e-Golfs, followed shortly after by 500 e-Ups.It will then switch to models from VW's new I.D. electric car range, due in 2020, and will expand to other major cities in Europe and North America from the same year.

According to VW, the new service will encourage young people living in urban areas to engage with electric cars.

Jurgen Stackmann, board member for sales, marketing and aftersales, said, "We want to motivate young, urban users to engage with e-mobility. We are democratising e-mobility.

"From 2020, We Share is to support the market introduction of our new, all-electric I.D. models and thus make a significant contribution to the Volkswagen brand's e-mobility offensive." 

Philipp Reth, CEO of the VW subsidiary UMI, which will manage car-sharing operations, stated, "The prospects for vehicle on-demand services are very good. The most conservative forecasts for Europe predict annual growth of 15%. 

"We will continue to develop this market and make this form of mobility accessible to an even broader user group."

We Share will sit alongside other We services that are currently being rolled out by VW, including We Park, which allows drivers to find and pay for parking cashlessly, and We Deliver, which allows package deliveries to be made to the boot of vehicles wherever they are parked.

We Park is currently available in more than 20 German cities, and We Deliver was recently trialled in Berlin.

Christoph Hartung, head of mobility services, digital sales and new business at Volkswagen Passenger Cars, said other We services would be aimed specifically at fleets.

He added, "We know many of our vehicles are operated not by individuals, but by fleet managers or fleet operators. 

"They have different expectations when it comes to the connectivity of a fleet, and we understand that, and we have therefore developed a number of services for them."

Stackmann said, "Going forward, our Volkswagens will increasingly become digital devices on wheels.

"The We system complements the Volkswagen experience and enables the customer to take their world into their vehicle."

VW stated that, under its Transform 2025+ strategy, it plans to evolve from just being a carmaker to a mobility service provider with a connected fleet.

Alongside the roll-out of We services, it is introducing a new, simpler vehicle IT architecture that will arrive with the I.D. cars in 2020.

This does away with a large number of separate control units that run on manufacturer-specific software - of which there are currently as many as 70 - and instead moves towards one system, the vw.OS.

VW says that, from 2020, it will connect more than five million new vehicles each year to the internet of things.

Connectivity will allow continuous updates and upgrades to cars, helping with the journey towards autonomous driving.

The new architecture and Volkswagen We services will be based on the cloud-based One Digital Platform (ODP).

This will connect the car to the internet, but can also be used and operated by customers from smartphones, computers, tablets or the car's infotainment system.

Hartung said, "Volkswagen is spearheading the development of the ODP in collaboration with the other VW Group brands, and we are seeking additional external support.

"We will soon be announcing cooperation projects and partnerships."