The Golf-sized ID3 is the first model from Volkswagen Group's MEB platform for mass-market electric cars and a key component in the automaker's goal to become the global industry's EV leader.
Transforming the VW brand into EV leadership
VW brand marketing boss Jochen Sengpiehl, 50, is leading a wide-ranging redefinition of the VW brand identity. It will include a new logo and a new digital hub that will "bundle all touch points." He discussed this and more with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Andrea Malan. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: Why did you start the campaign for the VW ID3 compact electric car a year before deliveries begin?
A: For the fundamental transformation of Volkswagen toward e-mobility, we are pursuing an entirely new marketing approach. We are starting much earlier than usual and are not only talking about the product. Because many people are not as familiar with e-mobility as they are with internal combustion cars, we want to provide information and break down prejudices.
Will the long lead time help VW better understand how customers will react to EVs so it's better positioned to sell them?
We aren't just concentrating on pre-bookings. We want to learn what motivates our customers. Thanks to data-driven marketing, we know where they come from, we know where they go, which content they like and don't like. With our recently launched [digital] ID Hub, we will learn how to improve ourselves. We've never worked like this before. Other companies started selling electric cars many years before us. We have to kick-start our efforts and make sure we do things right.
Who is the ID3's target customer?
Using social demographics and psychographics, we have identified for the first time a global target audience that we call "aspirational middle class."
With all innovations, you have this diffusion curve. The Golf appeals to the masses. Tesla appeals to innovators. After the innovators come the early adopters. We want to target those early adopters. That's why our communication is more edgy than with our conventional cars. If you catch the early adopters, the others will follow.
Are these car buyers younger than VW's typical customer?
It's more a matter of mindset, because people of all ages are interested in electrification. That being said, most of the people are younger than buyers of a combustion engine car. The early adopters earn very good money, work at startup companies, live in urban environments, are well educated and move a little bit faster than the rest.
What does Volkswagen mean when it says the forthcoming eighth-generation Golf will be "digitalized"?
Like the ID3, the Golf 8 will have an operating system that will be on our automotive cloud 24/7. The ID3 and the Golf 8 will be the first high-volume cars that will be updated and upgraded over their life cycles, either at the dealership or over the air.
What is the advantage of having the car connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
It will be like your smartphone. This is what people expect today. With a connected car, you will be able to book products, functions and services. We're working with external partners such as Microsoft to implement this digital ecosystem.
Will this service be included in the car's price, or will a customer have to pay a subscription?
It's too early to say.
Who will own the data?
The question of data ownership is currently still under discussion in Europe. We are transparent about how we use data and ensure that we fulfill the data protection requirements. Data is the equity we have in the future. Everything will transition very quickly toward data-driven analytics and data-driven marketing.
Will VW use the data to provide better services, or could it also sell the data to third parties?
The main goal is to keep the ecosystem attractive for our customers by providing great services to them.
Will you grant total data privacy to the customer, as Apple does?
In the end, collecting data is the fundamental business model for our future, and this includes the move to artificial intelligence. Everyone is trying to get the data. Of course, we stand both for the protection of the data our customers give to us and for transparency in how we use it. It is our absolute philosophy to fulfill all data protection requirements of the [European Union's] General Data Protection Regulation.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.