Twice a year, the evening before the two major European motor shows – Geneva in March, and Paris or Frankfurt in September (they alternate every year) – the Volkswagen Group invites stakeholders, VIPs, and select media to an arena not far from the motor show venue to showcase the latest products from their vast portfolio. Said portfolio, of course, includes the likes of Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Skoda, and, naturally, Volkswagen, to name a few. It’s a memorable event each time, because it showcases not only the immense capability of this automotive powerhouse but it also points towards future trends – which was actually the theme of one of the Group Nights not too long ago.
This year, the theme was ‘On the Move,’ to demonstrate that the VW Group is an automotive giant surging ahead to address the issues that face the industry. Someone referred to the event as dream factory, and they couldn’t have been more accurate in their description. Bentley unveiled the Bentayga luxury SUV – and while we’ll reserve judgement on how it looks there is one particular trait that caught our attention. The Bentayga is the first production car to have a 48-volt electrical system to ensure that the dynamic ride and active roll stabilization system meets the exacting standards of Bentley customers. This is important because we know that a 48-volt system was needed to put electric turbochargers into a concept Audi RS5 not too long ago – so, presumably, we’ll see that technological development in a production car before too long.
And that was just one of the many innovations at the Group Night. The VW Tiguan GTE Hybrid claimed a combined range of an incredible 927 kilometres. The Audi E-tron Quattro concept claimed an all-electric range of almost 500 kilometres. The Porsche Mission E concept had not only style and grace, but also promises a charging time of just 15-minutes to give you a 400-kilometre range (although it requires 800-volts to do so).
By now, you’ve probably guessed what Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn said during his closing speech. Well, for starters, he assured us that the VW Group is working on new solutions to address the needs of this ever-changing environment. He promised 20 new EVs and plug-ins by 2020. Another area he highlighted was digitisation, and said that every one of their cars would effectively be a ‘rolling smart phone’ by the end of the decade. Of course, he pointed out that they were also steadily developing autonomous technologies. He ended by saying that he can’t remember when they were working on so many different and exciting projects at the same time. But what I’m amazed at during every Group night is the sheer depth of engineering ability of the Volkswagen Group. Sure, ‘the times they are-a-changing,’ but the big automotive groups appear to be changing with them…