Volkswagen AG board chairman Professor Martin Winterkorn has announced a 'Future Tracks' initiative that aims to prepare the group for the upheavals ahead in motor retail.
Directly before the opening of the Geneva Motor Show, Winterkorn said the 'Future Tracks' initiative intends to break new ground and to reorient the group's thinking and action. It will bring together the best developers, production experts and strategists for this purpose.
Winterkorn said "Over the next few years, our industry will face one of the greatest upheavals since the invention of the automobile. People's mobility expectations are undergoing a fundamental transformation.
"Their wishes concerning their own cars are changing faster and faster. There are fundamental differences between lifestyles and needs from region to region. And digitalization is increasingly redefining the way we live and work.
"Against the backdrop of these challenges, the automobile industry must not bury its head in the sand but must welcome these developments and take them into account in its long-term strategies."
He said changing customer demands will impact on the industry's traditional model cycles, so the automotive sector must adapt even faster and more flexibly in order to offer precisely the right car with the right technology at the right time.
"This will force us to think about whether we may need to significantly shorten the normal model cycles of seven to eight years," Winterkorn underlined. The fact that the car was more and more becoming a mobile computer would have "revolutionary consequences for future operation."
In Winterkorn's opinion, progressive digitalization will challenge conventional model strategies. "In future, customers may well implement part of the next facelift themselves, via a software update in their own garage. This development could soon place us in a position to offer additional added value for customers, irrespective of previous model cycles."
Against the backdrop of increasingly diverse customer wishes changing at a faster and faster pace, he said that it was necessary to ask "whether every current model would automatically have a successor."
Winterkorn said: "It is more probable that people will increasingly expect us to provide entirely new body variants or designs of which we currently have no idea. These are questions that touch the future of our industry to the core, questions that will call for intensive efforts on our part."