Buyers of Volkswagen brand's ID full-electric cars will soon be able to upgrade their vehicles with over-the-air updates and transfer their personal settings between different cars, paving the way for lucrative add-on services.
The use of modular software systems in new cars is one aspect of the automaker's Accelerate digitalization strategy, outlined by executives in an online "Innovation Talk" on Tuesday.
"In the future, it will increasingly be the case that customers will make their choices based more on what the software offers, and not necessarily on the car's top speed," said development boss Thomas Ulbrich.
VW wants to give customers the option to unlock pre-installed features or order additional services, ranging from heated seats to navigation systems.
"In the future, our customers will buy, lease, share or rent cars just for a weekend, and we can use software to provide them with whatever they need over the air," VW brand's sales chief Klaus Zellmer said. "The ID family has been designed for further development, with OTA updates to improve the software's performance and tailor it to our customers' needs."
Separately in an interview with Die Welt newspaper, Zellmer said VW could offer autonomous driving on a pay-per-use basis.
"We assume a price of around seven euros per hour. So if you do not want to drive yourself for three hours you can pay 21 euros to get it done," Zellmer told the paper.
Zellmer said he sees the potential for "triple-digit-millions" in sales through over-the-air upgrades.
Both Zellmer and Ulbrich acknowledged the company must develop software faster and become more customer oriented, pointing to the growing pains experienced with software rollouts on the latest Golf and ID3.
"There were software bugs, there's no question about it, but we believe in the potential for the software in these cars," Ulbrich said. "We are going through a transformation phase. There is no such thing as a car without software, and that's why it's at the center of our development activities."
The conversation also briefly touched on VW's Project Trinity self-driving electric vehicle planned for unveiling in 2026, which Ulbrich called said would lift e-mobility and software onto an "entirely new level" and driven by a new software stack, including fully autonomous driving.
"We are all aware the cars of the future have to offer the same convenience that people expect from consumer electronics," he said.
The company plans to offer additional models to augment its WeShare car-sharing service, currently operating in Germany, and open potential new markets in Italy, France, and Spain.