The start of Car.Software.Org went completely wrong. The Volkswagen software unit was launched in early July. After less than two weeks, Christian Senger, who had built the flagship project over months and most recently served as VW board member and CEO of Car-Software.Org, has to go.
Audi CEO Markus Duesmann is a new strong man. As part of his responsibility for research and development, the Volkswagen Group Executive Board should also take on the subject of software. Dirk Hilgenberg is to become the new CEO of the Car.Software organization, most recently Senior Vice President Manufacturing Engineering in the BMW Group.
With the new software division, VW is pursuing ambitious goals. With VW.OS, the people of Wolfsburg want to develop their own software platform for their vehicles. By 2025, the company’s own share in the software is expected to increase from ten to 60 percent. Only a few weeks ago, Senger had set that as an ambitious goal. “We can and want to develop our software platform ourselves,” said the manager. The main thing is to keep control over the added value through data and to accelerate innovations.
However, tasks and challenges are great, Senger also had to concede. After all, there are no best practices and you basically have to start from scratch. That takes time and money. The VW Group plans to invest seven billion euros in development by 2025. 5,000 employees are expected to build the new software platform in 2020.
How Volkswagen plans to become a software company
The “Handelsblatt” recently reported that Senger not only made friends with the project. Especially the mighty brand princes feared for their influence in the face of an independent software division, it said. Duesmann thanked Senger for his pioneering work. This has made a decisive contribution to putting the Volkswagen Group’s strategic vision of a software-driven mobility company on its feet, said Duesmann. “Under his leadership, a powerful software unit was created, which can now go into the operating phase after successful installation.” But Senger doesn’t seem to be more than the right manager for this. Whether this “new responsible tasks” in the Volkswagen Group could take over, is currently being examined.
With the rearrangement of responsibilities, an internal power struggle at VW seems to have ended, which Senger has apparently lost. It is only logical that Duesmann also takes on the subject of software as part of its Group-wide responsibility for research and development, it says in a message from the car manufacturer.
Duesmann is the new strong man in the development department that is so important for VW. The Audi man cemented his home power with new staff. “With the gradual handover to Dirk Hilgenberg, we will win a CEO for the Car.Software organization who has extensive international experience in the integration of software products and technologies,” said Duesmann. “In close cooperation with him, I will press ahead with the topic vigorously and at high speed.” Hilgenberg, like Duesmann, comes from VW competitor BMW.
The demands remain high. VW speaks of a tight schedule for the next few years. “We are currently ringing the biggest revolution in the automotive industry,” said Duesmann. In a few years, the operating system of a car and its networking with a highly secure data cloud would make the decisive difference. “That is why the strong positioning of the Car.Software organization as a cross-brand unit for software development in the Volkswagen Group is the decisive step into the future.”
Audi now seems to take the lead. The full range of functions of the VW.OS operating system, which is responsible for the Car.Software organization, is to be used for the first time in an Audi lighthouse model. Duesmann spoke of a new agile unit called “Artemis”, which is to “enormously” accelerate development processes in close cooperation with the Car.Software organization. “With my team at Audi, we see ourselves as a premium brand with a special responsibility,” said the manager. For many customers, premium is already defined primarily via digital technologies. “Our aim is for all brands in the Volkswagen Group to benefit from this pioneering role.”
Organizationally, something seems to be changing at Car.Software.Org. Skills should obviously flow back to the brands. In addition to Audi and Artemis, this also affects the VW core. In the course of the increase in personnel in the Car.Software organization, the “Digital Car & Services” department of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand will in the future become part of the core brand again, it said in a group announcement. Personnel planning also suggests that the central software unit’s powers are being curtailed. It was originally planned to increase the number of employees to 10,000 this year. Today VW speaks of only half.
According to VW, the Car.Software organization should focus on developing standardized software for all brands and markets in the group. The main focus is on the vehicle operating system VW.OS and the connection to the associated Volkswagen Automotive Cloud. In addition, the technological platform solutions for data-driven business models and innovations are to be bundled in the Car.Software organization in the future.