For the Volkswagen brand, a new sales record was set with 6,244,900 cars sold despite the economic uncertainties at the end of 2018, the difficult new homologation process in Europe, and the slowdown in China. This shows the resilience of the Volkswagen brand and the deep attachment from customers to its associated values of quality and strong technical content. VW is one of the most respected brands in the world and considered as a leader for volume production.Volkswagen are a huge group, one of the first in the world for automotive production, and the Volkswagen brand is both the historic root of the group and the most important of the group’s 12 brands.
Like other companies, Volkswagen have seen challenging times, for instance during the redeployment after the monoculture of the emblematic Beetle, and more recently after the diesel emissions compliance issue. But each time, they took the opportunity to re-accelerate. And now after a lot of measures to ensure the best governance and to enhance productivity, the Volkswagen group—and the Volkswagen brand particularly—seem stronger than ever, having kept customer confidence. This is demonstrated by sales that at the group level reached a new record in 2018 at 10.9 million cars, an increase of 1.1% over 2017.
Volkswagen’s lighting is emblematic of the brand, first symbolised by the original Beetle bearing the best technology possible at a price affordable for a maximum number of people. Lighting at Volkswagen has also a strong technical content. The new technologies are first introduced on higher-range cars, then spread quickly to progressively lower price classes. Volkswagen take care on a case-by-case basis to introduce expensive technologies only when there’s obvious added value. That’s why laser lighting for high beam range extension was not chosen; this function is now developed with high-performance LEDs at a much more affordable price and is so considered by Volkswagen for all future models.
But despite this attention to costs, Volkswagen’s story is peppered with very interesting innovations. A Volkswagen had the first BiXenon headlamps (on the 2002 Phaeton), and Volkswagens were first in the world with ADB on the Touareg and Phaeton in 2010. Now, Volkswagen are in the process of democratising the best lighting technologies, so extending for instance the application of full LEDs to all models in Europe, North America, and Asia within the next three years, and extending ADB safety in parallel to all models targeting a take rate of 50% in 2025 (the current 30% figure is already impressive).
Safety and style are the two drivers of innovation in Volkswagen, and we can also observe their application for rear-lighting with the interesting “click-clack” system changing the signature from tail to stop function to reinforce the attention of following drivers—an idea in the process of democratisation to all models.
Volkswagen are now strongly preparing for a future of smarter and smarter lighting and driver assistance systems, and of cars becoming more and more autonomous, electrical and connected. For front lighting, a high-definition digital light using micropixel LED technology with thousands of pixels to optimise the light output for safety and communication is being prepared for application within the next five years. For rear lighting, Volkswagen are developing a matrix LED system to achieve very flexible signatures and communicate with text and signs.
During our DVN visit to VW, we saw a strong lighting team under the management of Ricardo Plöger, a team very motivated and developing with passion very interesting technologies that will certainly help Volkswagen to maintain their pioneering spirit and technical leadership for volume production.