New ideas for the future – innovations at Audi
Audi space frame, quattro, matrix LED headlights, and numerous patents related to e-mobility – the list of Audi innovations is long, and will become even longer in the future. Oliver Hoffmann, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development at Audi, knows that the coming years will bring further highlights. “In the age of new mobility, we not only define “Vorsprung” as world-class engineering, state-of-the-art design, and a captivating digital experience. We don’t just think in terms of vehicles. In the future, the focus will increasingly be on holistic mobility solutions, including the surrounding infrastructure,” he explained.
Through the “Audi DNA” project, the new Head of Development intends to place a strong focus on innovations that customers can experience. In this context, the company is taking a deep dive into technical details such as steering angle requirements, hand torque, and acoustics in order to develop a one-of-a-kind Audi feel for its customers. “We need to give our products a clear, unmistakable DNA. In the future, we will be very explicit in our definition of what driving an Audi should feel like. This also applies to highly automated driving, by the way,” Hoffmann noted.
Like the entire company, Technical Development is undergoing the greatest transformation in its history – the most challenging decade in the automotive industry lies ahead. This includes the steadily increasing focus on software in the vehicles and autonomous driving. Alongside e-mobility, focal points of the Volkswagen Group’s strategy include enhancing connectivity, digital services, and expanding the use of internally programmed systems.
In the future, customers will be able to upgrade their vehicles and update or install subsystems as needed. Owners of vehicles with combustion engines in various countries will also receive exceptional service over their entire life cycle. “Our vehicles will be even more customer-centric, individualized, and sustainable thanks to intelligent hardware offered through our after-sales business,” said Hoffmann, explaining the decision.
In the new 2030 strategy, CARIAD plays an important role. The group’s software arm will develop a scalable software platform with a standardized operating system and cloud connectivity for all Volkswagen Group brands by 2025. “The E32.0 software platform will serve as the enabler of the synergies and innovations of the future, including autonomous driving,” explained Duesmann. While CARIAD is responsible for the technical implementation of software-based solutions, integrating them into the vehicle will be carried out by the respective brands in coordination with CARIAD.
Jürgen Rittersberger, Member of the Board of Management for Finance and Legal Affairs, explained at the Audi Media Days event just how he intends to lay the financial foundation to drive innovation within the Audi Group. “Here at Audi, there’s a specific mindset behind each and every technical innovation: we want to think holistically and always keep the societal and social context in mind.” To ensure that innovations remain affordable, the company continues to optimize its processes and costs. “In order to tackle a transformation such as the one Audi is currently undergoing, we must and indeed will free up the appropriate financial resources. This is the only way to ensure that we remain competitive and viable over the long term,” declared Rittersberger. In addition to results-driven volume management and strong operating performance, leveraging hardware and software synergies within the Volkswagen Group plays a key role in the company’s success. The first half of 2021 has shown that Audi is on the right track – a record number of vehicles shipped and significant volume growth in battery-electric vehicles prove that the brand with the four rings is committed to sustainable and profitable mobility.
Through its Berlin-based innovation unit Denkwerkstatt, Audi has been developing new ideas for the future for around five years. In the meantime, Audi Denkwerkstatt is widely recognized as one of the leading innovation units operated by a German company, and with its start-up atmosphere, is a “speedboat” used by Audi to develop innovative business models in agile teams. In addition, Audi’s intrapreneurship program sees employees from various divisions develop business ideas in just a few weeks. At the end of each stage, a jury of experts evaluates whether a project should be continued or stopped on the basis of predefined criteria. “Our goal is to quickly transform new ideas into customer-relevant innovations. Audi Denkwerkstatt plays a major role in this process,” emphasized Hoffmann.
At the same time, Audi is aggressively working on efficient manufacturing processes and smart technologies in production. In the Audi Production Lab, for example, the company is driving the development of cutting-edge manufacturing solutions. To this end, the team draws on a network of institutes, start-ups, and global suppliers – and above all else, relies on the expertise and creativity of its employees. Meanwhile, the Audi site in Neckarsulm plays a pivotal role as a pilot factory and real-world laboratory for the digital transformation. IT solutions and input from technology partners such as Amazon Web Services, SAP, and Capgemini are being incorporated into the Industry 4.0 project to create a fully connected factory here.