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New Head of Software: The First Interview

In office since March: Board Member Christian Senger (44) has big plans for the new Digital Car & Services division.

Christian Senger (44), the first Member of the Management Board responsible for software in the history of the Volkswagen brand, took up his new role at the beginning of this month. inside caught up with him for an interview.

Why does Volkswagen need a board member for software? Or, to put it another way, why are hardware and software separate?
The digital complexity of our vehicles is increasing year on year. Our vehicles are turning into “tablets on wheels.” This means that, in future, we will be introducing more and more digital functions and services in our vehicles. For example, we will need up to a billion lines of code for fully autonomous cars. By way of comparison, today’s Golf has 50 to 100 million lines of code.
At present, the development of software and services in the company is very much distributed across all brands and a large number of stakeholders. This results in hardly any synergies. The rapidly growing volume and complexity of software requires group-wide software solutions and intelligent mobility concepts in order to be effective and future-proof. By bundling them into one software supply chain,
we improve the overall digital experience for our customers and users. It is already clear that the new cross-brand Digital Car & Services division is the only one of its kind in the automotive industry. The combined forces of Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen make us an attractive choice for experts and talents in digitalization and software.

What are you doing in your first 100 days?
My team and I are working flat-out to develop and implement the necessary structures and working models for the new department. However, we are not building the new organization from scratch, because there are already a large number of well-functioning units in the company. In the first 100 days, the main task is to stabilize the functionality of currently critical projects and to avoid jeopardizing this functionality by the reorganization. At the same time, we are working on establishing a new joint software organization under which we will bundle our vehicle-related software activities. Necessary measures in inventory organization must be designed in such a way that current production launches are not jeopardized. This requires a high level of discipline and willingness to change from all participants. This will be a great challenge, but I am sure that we will overcome it as a team and put our company in a strong position with the new department.

It is your job to shape the group’s software activities. How will the brands collaborate in the future?
We are setting up a joint software organization, particularly from within the main brands Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen. There, we will create a common software platform for all brands, which will be used in a binding manner. This organization will be at several locations, making it possible for colleagues to work at their home locations for this common software stack.

Will all software be created in the Software division in the future?
The goal is to increasingly separate hardware and Software from each other.
In the future, the Software division will be primarily responsible for producing the software that is used for digital products in our vehicles and mobility services. This also includes the software for vehicle-to-vehicle communication, backend, and cloud solutions, for example. Hardware-related software will continue to be developed in Technical Development.

Christian Senger (44)

has been the Member of the Volkswagen Management Board with responsibility for the Digital Car & Services Division since the beginning of March. The mechanical engineer started his career in 1997 at BMW in Munich. He held various managerial positions there, including Head of Energy Management and Head of BMW i Product Concepts. In 2012, he moved to Continental in Regensburg, where he was Head of Automotive Systems & Technology. When he moved to Volkswagen in 2016, Senger became Head of the e-Mobility series. He established this area and made a key contribution to advancing the brand’s electric vehicle offensive.

In what way is Volkswagen engaged in competition with Apple and Google?
Google and Apple are of course the big players in the digital business. At the moment, however, neither one is an expert in our field, namely building outstanding vehicles. Our goal is to keep the vehicle and mobility operating system in Volkswagen’s hands. This is the only way we can remain a valuable partner for individual mobility in and around the vehicle for our customers and users.

By which results would you like to be judged?
Our aims are clear:

  • to set up a new cross-brand and cross-regional software organization,
  • to significantly increase in-house competence and performance,
  • to respond more flexibly to vehicle requirements,
  • to deliver and regularly roll out attractive software solutions,
  • to get projects off the ground in a timely manner,
  • to increase the value of the company.

These are important measured variables. But the satisfaction of my employees is also a key indicator. With our new department, we have a great opportunity to focus not only on the customer and the user, but also on our employees. We want to give them a high degree of personal responsibility. They should be able to make important decisions, and to identify with their products and their work. Quite simply, my employees should enjoy creating something extraordinary and look forward to coming to work. What we are planning is decisive for our future. Let’s take on the challenge together! I’m looking forward to it.

"The amount of software in cars is increasing rapidly, and represents an ever-larger share of the total value added, and is thus a significant factor in the performance and characteristics of our vehicles. That is why, at Volkswagen, we intend to fundamentally strengthen software development. Christian Senger will press ahead vigorously with this
in his new position"

Herbert Diess on the new software division