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How our cars are becoming
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Christoph Hartung is the man behind our online services and responsible for future-related issues such as the first Volkswagen operating system, which ensures the vehicles in our brand are permanently updated and the best they can be. In this inside interview, the 44-year-old gives us an insight into his world.


Mr. Hartung, you are now running two different departments side by side. Why is that?

On the one hand, I am Head of Mobility Services for the e-mobility series, while on the other, I am responsible for marketing new, digital lines of business. This is how we ensure that our ideas for the series can be implemented quickly. It’s massively important in the digital sector to work in short cycles and get in front of customers quickly.

So what specifically are you working on?

We take care of four key areas that shape the car of tomorrow, and we start by asking ourselves which services are essential for people to have in their vehicles. One such example is the on-board assistant, which essentially serves as the driver’s PA. We also ask ourselves which services people need outside of the car, such as the ability to deliver packages in the trunk. Then there’s the subject of the charging process for e-vehicles, as we look at how this could be paid for automatically. Another avenue we are exploring is what we have to offer customers going forward to make sure they stick with the brand – even if they don’t have a car any more. Car sharing is one answer we’ve addressed so far. But it’s important for us to always consider how to include our business partners. After all, we are also set to see some changes when it comes to marketing the I.D.

So what does that mean? 

It’s becoming easier and easier to configure electronic vehicles. Just think about how many smartphones are now on the market! How do you narrow down your choice? You look at the model, storage capacity, color, and maybe the accessories. It’s not quite as straightforward as this just yet for fully electric cars, but we aren’t far off. A fully electric Volkswagen based on the modular electrification toolkit (MEB) is set to bring a whole new feeling of mobility. This is where we make sure that we are always focusing on our customers: What do they need both during and after their driving experience?

As a customer, what do I need on a typical working day?

First things first, your smartphone is hooked up to the car, where it checks the weather and traffic every morning. The vehicle can even be pre-heated or cooled to suit your preferences, and it can also suggest which routes to take. The most important thing is for you to feel comfortable. Other little touches include your playlists continuing in the car right where they left off in the house. When you arrive at your destination, you will receive details on where your first appointment is taking place, along with the question of whether you would like your car to be air-conditioned or pre-heated for when you return.

Now that sounds comfortable! So does the brand offer these services in its cars around the world, then?

Generally speaking, yes, and we also have experts in place locally to take care of particular preferences. After all, our customers are based all over the world – they aren’t all in Wolfsburg. This is why we work closely with our regional teams.

So how do you know what customers are going to want in the future? Presumably there will be services that haven’t even been conceived yet.

Exactly. It’s not as though we have a crystal ball. This is why it’s more important for us to focus on developing an efficient operating system so that we can respond to people’s needs as quickly as possible. We call it vw.OS. This allows rapid software updates and upgrades to be made to the vehicle system that make the car better in the long run. In doing so, this should enable us to forge a strong bond with our Volkswagen drivers, as we are demonstrating that we take them seriously by continuing to develop their cars.

There’s a lot of talk about the electric vehicles of the future. But what’s happening with diesel and petrol cars?

A completely new way of thinking within the digital ecosystem is set to launch with the I.D. from 2020. But generally speaking, our digital services are also available in vehicles with diesel and gas engines. There are currently 3.4 million Volkswagen vehicles around the world featuring Car-Net technology. The new Golf and Passat vehicles are going to provide an essential interim stage on the way to establishing these services on a wider scale. This is why, even before 2020, it is going to be possible to acquire functions and services post-delivery of the car and enable these via the vehicle’s online connection. And why is this? Simply because our cars with conventional engines are just as important to our objectives as the MEB vehicles of the future. Success in the digital sphere requires a wide-ranging, relevant approach, which means lots of customers and services. And the only way for us to achieve this is by including all engine types.

What is the advantage of Volkswagen when it comes to e-mobility?

With the MEB, we are setting standards that we are using to produce a large volume of innovative, attractively priced vehicles. In association with other brands, the size represents an advantage when it comes to both procurement and development. The subject of e-mobility belongs right at the heart of our society, and Volkswagen is promoting it like no other manufacturer.

Christoph Hartung (44) studied Industrial Engineering in Karlsruhe, Germany, and Computer Science in Massachusetts, USA. He started at Daimler in 2000, where he held several managerial positions. In 2017, the father of two boys joined Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, where he is now Head of Mobility Services, Digital Marketing & New Business.

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