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Germany's car industry faces a perfect storm (handelsblatt.com)
108 points by lawrenceyan 22 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 126 comments



About time. I had the "luck" of working for multiple German companies (including Volkswagen) and I'm surprised how these behemoths still function.

As a grunt programmer, it was painful to see how the upper management made decisions based on politics which made no technological sense whatsoever. In my years of working for German companies I saw multiple project reboots, millions of $s thrown out of the window on failed projects and the worst thing is that there is literally no flow of information from bottom to top. No matter how smart you are if someone is above you in the hierarchy you are nothing, no one.

I hope they will fail spectacularly and learn this hard lesson finally.


They won't learn. I work for another euro behemoth and it's exactly the situation you describe. As long as they pay me and support my lifestyle I have no problem, but Im already tired of trying to fight the nonsense.

Sadly Im not a programmer so finding other companies with the same conditions is hard.


Exact my situation. Working for a company with roots in Siemens. The culture is terrible, must fight the nonsense to get some meaningful task. Getting insane money for doing nothing, loosing skills every month, mental health suffers, but family depends on my income. Finding other companies in Germany with similar conditions is hard, looking now in Switzerland.


What are you doing exactly? Come to Berlin :)


I am reminded of a Tom Lehrer lyric/song:

"As long as They, give me my pay, I'll do it Their way!"

There are many ways to live for and against this. These days I'm not sure if there's a wrong or correct answer for most things, though I do still have a rather mobile and grey line that can be crossed.


I'd really like to be able to just sit and do the work and don't care about these things (I'm not talking about you but the ability in general).

I just can't help myself. I'm always trying to fix things but with a company like this it feels like as if I was trying to climb the Mount Everest.


Well, I got to a point that I had to decide. If I hop to another job I'll work more hours, for less money, and I won't be able to stay here, which is nice because I have both my job and the beach on a 5 minutes distance walk.


You're describing all large organisations, pretty much.


I'm not sure. I think this hierarchical nonsense is a German thing. I've worked for IBM and it was a different experience. Still dysfunctional, but in a different way. I never felt at IBM that I was not heard. I also see how Microsoft fixed itself and turned itself around which is an admirable achievement.


That’s surprising about IBM but good to hear - was your experience there before or after Lou Gerstner’s turnaround?


After!


In most corpos your good idea will be stolen, in EU it has equal if not greater chance of being ignored.


[dead]


Do those companies really have a problem with software? I’d imagine most of the software in cars is embedded, for controlling different mechanisms for the brakes, steering, cooling, etc. For those, I would prefer a stuffy bureacratic process rather than a Tesla, SV style move-fast attitude, even if that is more productive. I want software in a car to be finished and tested fully when the car is delivered, and then to disappear, I would consider it a failure if the company has to fix or alter safety critical parts of the software after it has been delivered, and I’d prefer that process to happen through some highly controlled process linked to servicing or recall, and not through random frequent OTA updates which are being thrown out. I really can't see how monthly updates can be properly checked for safety.


Yes, they do. I am working in a huge company (top 50) where the software we use is from ~ 2000 with upgrades that gets it to ~ 2008-2010. I was offered a higher management position in an automotive company in the embedded software division, I have a friend working there in a peer position and I am going to decline based on the information I received not just from my friend, but from the interviewers: it is corporate incompetence at its finest, with managers with no IT knowledge running IT like a plant floor, choosing external suppliers to do key work based on God knows what (definitely not competence, value or anything useful), paying egalitarian salaries to all developers with no differentiation to productivity, skills or experience. Perfect storm is the perfect description of the situation.


...based on God knows what...

My suspicion based on time spent in a different industry would be trips to gentlemen's clubs with all expenses paid by the sales team...


> with managers with no IT knowledge running IT like a plant floor, ...

So why don't you join and try to change things for the better?


Munich?


Most of these companys dont even have expertese in software. Software is something that is produced outside by the cheapest vendor.

All good german software devs are either in the swiss - or in the valley.


I don't know exactly how it works at VW or BMW, but large enterprises may have a big in-house software engineering unit which is focused on internal software systems (manufacturing management, supply chains etc) and the effort put in it can be even bigger than in the embedded software. This kind of enterprise software may boost or slow down the transformation of the company, depending on how the development and deployment is executed.


As a freelance dev one of my clients is the official distributor (seller) of one of the german giants in another country. They force us to use their erp. Just querying a 1M row table took more than 5 minutes. I inspected the DB and what did I find? Tables in german and english. No indexes for PKs. A lot of PKs that were pure strings... We suffer from bad data, strange bugs and awful performance. Really surprising of a sw coming from Germany


Bmw develops everything external. They do not have internal software competence. The software development center basically is just a hub for creating product requirement document and reviewing functional specification documents for software packages. Everything else is in a eco-system of small competing software developers- this worked great when you thought detail knowledge to be replaceable and you wanted those external devs to bid each other into the ground. Today, the external developer firms are bleeding people to the swiss and the valley or turn to other- more lucrative industires/projects.

Its also why those car software projects always have such subtle bugs and almost never updates. The final integration step of those packages into a whole is basically bitching to the various supplier about unspecified stuff until the time runs out.


I worked for a small SaaS that accidentally DOS’d MB’s entire ERP system, while requesting vehicle specs based on vin via their provided API.


I've seen "The Big Short" movie lately and I was flabbergasted about how the finance industry works. I'm beginning to realize that this pattern is universal in all industries. I also see that we as a species are suffering from the same mechanism. We won't learn until it is too late. I want to understand the pattern so I can find a way out of it somehow.

BTW: where do you work as a CTO?


I think with software specifically it's less dysfunctional in the tech industry.


True, big organisations are always dysfunctional in a way or another. It's surprising to see how successful companies can be, simply by not being too dysfunctional.

That being said, I do believe some of the German automakers are pretty high on the inefficiency scale.


Often success in military affairs translates into who makes the fewest fatal mistakes. I think this can apply as well to business.


> German companies are still working because rest of the world is soo bad in comparison.

Not any more. In the most recent Consumer Reports car reliability rankings German car manufacturers are nowhere near the top. The top three are Lexus, Toyota, and Kia (sic!)


As a German, I am quite happy about this. What you must know is that German organisations are extremely hierarchical, with little information flowing from frontline management to to top management. Hence, change only happens top down and only if the top managers in their ivory towers deem it necessary. But it’s incredibly important that our automakers reinvent themselves. And here we have the necessary angst to drive this long-needed transformation of our automotive sector.


Not all German organizations are like that. The car industry is especially dysfunctional. I've been watching them fail at software for years now.

The problem, as far as I can tell, is as follows: top management is able and motivated to increase the size of the money bag. Developers just want to do a good job for a good salary. Middle management can't change the size of the money bag too much, so it just wants to grab as much as possible for itself. How does a middle manager expand their empire? Certainly not by leading a small, effective organization. The head count needs to grow, so the middle manager wants ineffective developers. It only works because no one above knows enough about software to fairly evaluate the work of these petty empire-builders.

One time I wanted to gauge how far the car industry has come from realizing the problem to implementing a solution, so I typed something like "automotive software crisis" into Google. Among the first few hits a presentation of a German CS professor stating that there is a crisis... and that the solution is model-driven development. It's the exact shit that they are already doing that is not working.

If good software is produced in Germany, it's despite subpar academic CS and dysfunctional large companies. Much of Germany's economy is medium-sized companies - fortunately, I guess.

I do expect the German car industry to fix its software but only when it's really suffering financially. Car industry outsiders will be heavily involved in the solution.


The main reason middle managers hire ineffective developers in Germany and elsewhere is that the job market is in a state of permanent crisis: the demand is so high that now everyone calls "senior" the people who cannot even estimate the performance of an algorithm or didn't bother to learn something new in the last 5 years. This applies both to developers and to managers and is complicated by the fact, that large and medium corporations usually don't speak English (so cannot benefit from European open labor market) and thus cannot easily import talent from abroad.

Another part of the problem is that in many industries there's a strong lobby of local companies which like medieval guilds block any new competitors from entering the markets. APIs and open standards still barely exist - you cannot simply plug in your new fancy service into an enterprise environment, but you have to pay plenty of money to some Verband to get some crazy XML specification for file exchange. After all I've seen in IT in Eastern Europe (most of all in Russia) and USA, I'm feeling like I'm still in XX century.


There are quite a few good German developers who know enough about the car industry to stay far away from it because it's so broken. As a lowly developer, you can't fix it - you'll just get chewed up.


I've been working in the car industry for 5 years and the last 2 with a big German car manufacturer which gave us a lot of money to set up something on the side which would work better. Once we showed that we probably can do it (after 1,5 years) they started getting interested in the project and that's where the problems started.

Long story short they are forcing us to do things as they always been done even though they asked us to change them in the first place.


That happens all the time. German car companies are buying working companies and messing them up or starting new daughter companies to "do it right this time" but the contagious rot always kills those attempts surprisingly quickly. I guess that is what another poster mentioned as the changes that are currently happening. But it's not helping yet.


EAitis at its finest.


[dead]


The problem with those Eastern European developers is not that they are bad developers - they are pretty good value for money in and of themselves. The problem is that they are wrapped up in the structures that are killing German automotive software. They are probably the ones that get hired to implement the crap that architects made up and that """only""" needs implementation, no questions asked. Just write the code.

Good software development just isn't structured like that at all.


Can confirm - in many industries regardless whether one works in Germany, Czechia, Slovakia, or Poland, the directory will be German. The difference being in Czechia, Slovakia, and Poland the cost-cutting will be more aggressive and the decision making will be more strictly top-down. Something among the lines "just write this bloody thing, you C/Java/Angular whore".


I can second that.


No, there is. At least the jobs the Romanian gets are the cheap versions of the ones Germans have and the demand is so great that people with no IT knowledge get employed in projects where they do more wrong than right. The good developers are rare these days (most have already emigrated, the rest are in process) and the "cheap by the dozen" ones are not worth considering.


[dead]


The shortage of developers in Germany is exactly the reason why people from Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa are hired in the first place. There's plenty of reports and publications discussing this shortage from last 10-15 years - it's not new and it has never been solved.

Just an example: https://www.handelsblatt.com/today/companies/wirtschaftswund...

I don't know what kind of CTO you are (I'm CTO too), but if you were hiring recently in Germany, you should be able to notice the average time to fill a senior software engineer position is several months. This is the reality in which we live.


Completely wrong: there is no shortage of developers, there is a shortage of competent people. Huge difference. Not a CxO myself, but high enough to feel the pain of hiring good people, especially when HR does not allow to pay them properly - for them all developers are the same, so they all get about the same salary.


Ok, that also fits my understanding of the market - I don’t receive all the applications, because our HR team is good at filtering. Unfortunately, German businesses are very strong in salary negotiations, so it’s a whole big thing to sell the idea of fair market compensation inside the company.


is that not the case everywhere?


Our company is trying to hire 50 more developers until end of the year and its hard, we get them from all over the world, especially India and Africa has a lot of good talent nowadays but also east europeans. But it's still hard to find good people.


Hey I'm a full stack dev looking forward to move to europe; I consider myself "nicht schlecht" as a developer; already lived 1 year in Germany (worked as an intern in VW) and would have to study the language again but could be up and running before the end of the year. Hopefully your company is looking for some C# devs among those 50, email in my profile


> subpar academic CS

There is a lot of really good CS/math research coming from German uni's, I would not call it subpar.


Academic CS in Germany is world-class.


Yeah, which areas?


"model-driven development"


The academic side of things? :)


as someone who worked at a German car company, I agree with this. There's a lot of middle managers who don't really understand what problem needs to be solved first in order to ship high-quality software. There has been a lot of movement internally, though. I sure hope they move fast enough to stay relevant in the next 10 years.


> If good software is produced in Germany

It is not. I worked in 3 people startups, 15 people web shops, 50 people IoT shops, and very very big enterprise software corps in Germany and I can tell you what you say can be copy&pasted into any of them. The only advantage of smaller companies is that they can't afford to have as much middle management. Therefore the "visionaries" are forced to live closer to reality and work with small teams. But they certainly don't like it and move to your model as soon as possible.


Well, I know of at least one highly effective development company that twice erred on the side of introducing a new management layer too late because nobody particularly wanted another layer.


I think we actually did a pretty good job at 6wunderkinder with wunderlist.


> How does a middle manager expand their empire? Certainly not by leading a small, effective organization. The head count needs to grow, so the middle manager wants ineffective developers.

I've seen this in every company I've worked in. Importance of projects is measured in how many people work on them; you'd think that creating efficiencies and managing the work in an extra small team would be valued, instead you fall into complete irrelevance.


I wonder what’s the majority of the source code in German like? Is it mostly in English or German?


European English for code. It's sufficiently different from American that it's sort of got its own rules at this point. It's difficult to understand sometimes.

Most docs at my >200 dev shop including contractors are in German though.

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-03-02/the-en...


Based on what I've seen source code is almost exclusively English, apart from a few identifiers here and there that are hard to translate, e.g. legal terms.


Where I’m at, the source code is English even though I’m the only non-German in the company (and I have been learning German for a while). Documentation is a mix of English and German.


Majority I would suspect in English, but there is plenty of "German" source code, including hilarious mixes of both languages in method names etc.


English


Absolutely second that as a German as well. Disruption is desperately needed and I am glad that a 16 year old company kicks the German complacency out of business.

Reinvention? What sort of? They don't get software, they don't get new business models. That's why they stick to politics who should save their models - which is protectionism.

Germany's car makers were never customer first. What kind of innovation did Germany establish besides ABS? The cars still drive forward, backwards and can turn around - AWESOME! This has been done for almost 100 years.

Germany's car makers are great at marketing. "Drive a M5 and feel the power of 500+ horsepower on the Autobahn" - that's exactly why they are struggling with the idea of autonomous driving: how can you reinvent the story from being an Autobahn race car driver to calmness in your car with millions of other people? Same goes for Porsche: "Reinventing the classic" It still has enough HP to accelerate you from 0 to 100 km/h in roughly 4,2 seconds - and then comes Tesla and beats the sh*t out of Porsche without even hard work.

Germany's car industry is like the National Rifle Association. They won't change without hard disruption. And in Germany it finally arrived.


> What kind of innovation did Germany establish besides ABS?

How about: the car (Carl Benz)? And the motorcycle (Daimler)?

All the common (and uncommon) engine types: Otto, Diesel, Wankel.

More recently, always-on four wheel drive (Quattro). I am sure I am leaving out a ton of innovation in engine and drivetrain technologies.

> Germany's car makers are great at marketing

That's a fairly new development. German car companies were (and still are) very much engineering led. See, for example, Ferdinand Porsche or more recently Piëch.

What you are describing is the US car industry, which has been absolutely marketing-dominated since at least the 50s.

In fact, I'd argue that the current problems are, if anything, a result of the engineering-centeredness, which has a hard time dealing with disruptive innovation. A key feature of a disruptive innovation is that it is demonstrably worse than the incumbent, so engineers will dismiss it as "not good enough" and "toy", and be right. They just miss that there are new criteria, at which the new innovation beats the pants off the old.

I am pretty sure that if you discuss the current situation with German automative engineers, they will be able to show to you very convincingly that electric cars are a joke, don't perform adequately and aren't even environmentally superior. And that electric cars and particularly self-driving cars are marketing gimmicks.

But customer sentiment has shifted (marketing side) and technology and engineering will follow.


> aren't even environmentally superior

I’d be very curious to hear how the would argue for _that_.


Lithium ion batteries are the combination of something that needs to be mined in the third world, with fuel shipped from across the world, combined with battery acid. Something like 20ml of that will kill you. It will also kill pretty much every plant and even most bacteria. When it doesn't melt down that is.

Oh and their fuel, the electricity ? Mostly comes from coal power plants which, despite TRIPLE the efficientcy actually still managed to produce more CO2 ...

Electrical cars are heavier because of the batteries, so in practice it's not quite triple the efficiency.

Electrical cars are very environmentally friendly at the location they're used. On balance, they're probably about even or slightly worse than petrol cars.

There's a simplification many economists argue for. In our modern world, price is a proxy for energy expenditure, which is what mostly matters when it comes to pollution. Therefore cheapest thing (measured over it's lifetime of course) is going to be the most environmentally friendly. This price takes many more things into account than any analysis ever will and therefore be more accurate. By that measure, electrical cars definitely lose by around a factor of 2 at the moment.


Very good overview!

>> ..German automative engineers, they will be able to show ..

Note that I personally don't necessarily agree, but the arguments are not weak.

Another point is that a good Diesel engine, and they have apparently fixed the emissions problems, is actually amazingly efficient, and on longer distances beats electric vehicles when you take into account the whole fuel to wheel chain for the current grid mix.

When you look at the greater weight (= production costs = environmental impact) of electric vehicles, that has to be amortised over the life of the vehicle. When the vehicle does mostly long distance, it is not going to be able to do that, because the Diesel is actually more efficient.

However, vehicles that primarily do short distances tend to actually not be driven much at all, they mostly sit around taking up parking space. So those aren't going to amortise the greater environmental investment either.

The exception would be vehicles that get driven a lot, but over short distances, so buses and taxis, but that's not a huge percentage of the total fleet. (And gives you a link between electric and self-driving, a link that otherwise doesn't make a lot of sense: converting to self-driving on-demand/rental cars is one of the ways to get electric to have a positive total impact).


While there are probably horrible bureaucratic structures in Germany's car industry, I think this comment isn't quite fair.

Mercedes and BMW are still very nice to drive in. The issue is more that German's generally don't believe in fads, and self-driving cars are one of them.

I just don't want a self driving car, which takes away the last bit of fun of sitting in a metal box: Being in charge of where the damn box goes.

Germans just have a higher bar for "innovation": It has to be useful.


I find it hilarious you're pointing self-driving cars as a "fad". It is such a transformative technology for society, its usefulness is obvious and it's not even deployed, so how then, can it be a fad?


The fad is not the technology but the hype around it. The expectations are overblown. Safe, suitable for mass use, understandable from a legal perspective, self-driving cars most probably won't happen in the next 10 years.


>Germans just have a higher bar for "innovation": It has to be useful.

Somehow they don't find credit cards useful and still pay a lot in cash, when the rest of the world already embraced wireless payments. :)


Alright then, has to be useful whilst not weaponising their lack of privacy.

The rest of the world embraced wireless payments whilst Germans still have a realistic view of privacy impacts. Being at the tail end of that particular adoption curve may still be seen as a feature in Germany. :)

I wish their view were a little more widespread.


I guess if the rest of the world "embraced" it it must be great?

You can pay with credit card for practically anything in Germany. Besides that fact I personally really like to have the option to pay in cash. I don't want literally everything logged by my bank.


They have historical reasons for that. Hard to understand if you don't have the background.


I do have the background, just like people from other countries who lived in the surveillance states and dictatorships. Privacy and anonymity are different things and can be protected in different ways, not necessarily by avoiding leaving any traces in daily life.


Not only privacy and anonymity: in my country there was confiscation. It is harder to confiscate cash than bank accounts. Or to block bank accounts.


Of course they're correct in that particular preference.


> I just don't want a self driving car

Yeah, markets are different. In the US, manual transmissions are almost unheard of these days, in Germany they have a market share of >70% overall and >90% in small cars.


> What kind of innovation did Germany establish besides ABS?

Not sure why you got downvoted, afaik the most important technological breakthroughs when it came to cars in Europe were made by the Italians (Fiat, mostly, but Alfa Romeo too), the French (the Citroen DS is one of the best technological products ever) and the Swedes (Volvo and its emphasis on security). Somehow the Germans navigated the ‘90s and early 2000s a little better, not sure exactly why (maybe because they invested in China earlier?), and that’s why right now they’re seen as the car companies to beat.


> afaik the most important technological breakthroughs when it came to cars in Europe were made by the Italians

Carl Benz - invented and patented the first "motorcar"

Gottfried Daimler - also independently built an automobile the same year as Benz.

Siegfried Marcus - 131 patents, first petrol-powered vehicle.

etc.


Many early automotive technological breakthroughs attributed to Germans are Czech or Austrian actually. It's the enormous power of German automotive industry which absorbs all relevant innovation, and washes off any bad flaws.


Which of the names listed are Czech or Austrian?


The Tatra case and VW copying their design is pretty well known, and when you’ve literally got Hitler pulling out strings for you then you cannot hide behind late-19 century inventions anymore.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatra_97#Resemblance_to_Volk...


Did you ever drive a German car (not necessarily a Mercedes, even a simple VW Polo) vs a non German car? Seriously, that's the reason. Quality.

You can be as innovative as you wish, but if you are cheap and provide low quality products, that's what you get. Eventually someone is able to provide the same technology and then quality wins.


That was true for a while, but not any more. Now Japanese and even Korean car makers have better quality (if you compare vehicles of similar price).


My VW CC is not a quality car; it's got nice fit and finish, but it's probably the most unreliable car I've ever owned, and I say that having owned a Fiat Mirafiori in the 80's. My CC has chronic design flaws, assembly flaws, and leaves me on pins and needles when I think about having to rely on it for another 4 years.


They have design and feel figured out. Somehow the rest of the world mostly doesn't produce cars with as nice interior and exterior design or that are as fun to drive.


You never hear such stories about the French car industry. Didn't you?

I know engineers how left Opel after the merger with PSA because PSA is that what you describe. At Opel it was much different.

It used to be also different at Mercedes. Engineers are leaving right now Mercedes because they "streamline" their engineering. Which basically means cutting cost in terms that engineers who worked for the next generation cars now have to develop as well for the series production. THAT is killing innovation. Because developing for series production means developing with cutting costs in mind, like can we spare this resistor or that memory.

Al the engineers I worked with are not working for the series production but always thinking 10 years ahead and planing, developing and testing new ideas.

Apple killed its "automotive business" not without a reason. Because automotive is very much different than IT software. Automotive systems are highly connected embedded device. The next BMW 7 series released in 2021 will have 20 different CAN bus based networks. Automotive development means also development with preventing bugs in the first place. Because finding bugs by testing in these highly complex systems is next to impossible. This development style makes development slow. Because it is not the mind set "we can fix that later". Updates are expansive. Previously it meant they need to pay the service stations. Today with OTA it means to pay the telecoms.

Automotive development means also thinking about obsolesce. Yes, people get every 2 years a new phone. But what it with old once. An iPhone 4 these days is almost completely unusable. While some people have their cars new every 3 years, the average car usage is 16 years, in the US, IIRC. That means the average car is older than the smartphone as we know it. Automotive development means to develop with predicting the future 15 to 20 years ahead. Parts needs to be available, because people want to have their car serviced.

I just want to remind that Teslas with AP1 don't get no more updates. That is breaking his promise that all Teslas, all as in ALL, will improve by OTA. That is how old?

I know that other OEM are going the same route. But I don't see this as a disruption or innovation at all. It just means more land fill and is an environmental disaster.

BTW: My truck for pleasure is over 44 years old with no electronics at all. My car is a 18 year old Volvo, the first were Volvo introduced CAN and LIN, and I know the engineer who where responsible for that at that time.


> I just want to remind that Teslas with AP1 don't get no more updates. That is breaking his promise that all Teslas, all as in ALL, will improve by OTA. That is how old?

This is simply incorrect. Their Autopilot software doesn't really get updated, but the majority of recent feature additions are probably not Autopilot-related. All of these changes are still provided to Teslas from 2012, for instance.


[dead]


>In Germany, there is no way for an engineer to become very wealthy through entrepreneurship.

Yet Germany is often held up as the example of valuing engineers and scientists. Isn't the current chancellor a Scientist.

>Even if you bought a house, you can't make much money from it through renting or appreciation.

That is a good thing.

>Because whole country is optimize for cheap labor.

Which is why the country is in such a strong position within Europe now, IIRC they are the only country in the EU with a positive balance of trade with China.

>You worked hard at university and became engineer? Well someone fucked up and become highschool teacher yet makes same wage as you. Suck it up and that's what kill motivation of engineers.

You might well look down on teachers but education is far more important than most of the crappy startups people here are working on.


[flagged]


Teacher lobby! Good Lord, that's a new one. But could you please not break the guidelines?

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Throwaway account with malicious disinformation, what's not to like


Perfect storms aside, I think Volkswagen will be the biggest producer of EVs within 3 years. They're targeting the high end with the Porsche Taycan, the Porsche Macan EV, and the future Audi e-tron GT which will be based on the Taycan's platform:

https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/porsche-double-taycan-ev-...

https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/porsche-macan-electric-on...

Volkswagen's MEB platform targets mid-range vehicles and will be used for models across the VW, Audi, Skoda, and SEAT brands:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_Group_MEB_platform

https://jalopnik.com/the-fascinating-engineering-behind-vws-...

And Volkswagen is looking to license the MEB platform to other manufacturers:

https://jalopnik.com/volkswagen-wants-other-automakers-to-us...

Ford will probably license the MEB platform for their EVs.


While I respect VW's ability to produce I think the limiting factor will be battery production. They've made some aggressive moves into it but I wonder if they can keep it going.


Especially if LG manages to block VW's future battery plans:

https://electrek.co/2019/02/21/lg-vw-battery-cell-supply-ev-...


It was shocking that LG trying to block them from building their own battery supply became public. I think if they don't get serious about battery production in the next couple of years, it will take a decade to catch up. tesla's lead and ability to make their own batteries with panasonic is a massive advantage. i went the auto companies to make their own batteries too. there will be a shortage of battery productions for 10+ years. And this was all predicted, i can't believe the legacy auto dealers didn't do a better job of investing in it just a little bit.


I hope something drastic takes place. Batteries are the only piece of "hardware" without any new discoveries in decades. Li-Ion I had in high school and it still drives my phone today.

Whoever finds a better alternative is going to completely change the automotive industry and mobile. I just don't hear about many researches being made in this field.


The next step for batteries is making solid-state batteries work commercially for their superior energy density and safety:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9-cNNYb1Ik

24M has developed what they call a semi-solid-state battery and have delivered batteries with a capacity of 280 wh per kilogram:

https://xconomy.com/boston/2019/02/26/24m-lithium-ion-batter...

They think they can get to 350 wh/kg by 2020, which is a dramatic improvement over current EV batteries.


Tons of optimisation has happened and is happening in Li-ion tech. Musk is no stupid to go all in with it. He knew all other so called revolutionary battery technology are at least couple of decades away. At the same time, there is still tons of space for optimisation in Li-ion tech. The future for at least couple of decades, if not more, is Li-ion for sure.


All these Tesla competitors ... they are not really competitors unless they offer access to the Super Charger Network or provide something similar. More than anything the Super Charger is a game changer. Even though I very very rarely uses it, it enables the occasional long distance trip, making it practical to own just an EV and not need a 2nd car (or rent one)


Volkswagen owns Electrify America and Electrify Canada:

https://www.electrifyamerica.com/

https://www.electrify-canada.ca/

And as another poster mentioned they co-own the Ionity network in Europe with other car manufacturers.

The Porsche Taycan can make use of 350 kW chargers for 80% charge in about 15 minutes:

https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/28/porsche-taycan-owners-will...

https://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/hybrid-electric/a21239...


well they do, just with another brandname https://ionity.eu/en/about.html, BMW,Daimler,VW,Ford sharing resources on this just makes sense


Do you pay to charge?


Exactly. This is what makes Tesla so unique. It is not only about the cars it is also about the power supply - and don't forget Tesla's solar roof so that you can charge your car at home almost for free.


If you live in a place with net metering, once you've committed to buying a solar roof (Tesla or otherwise), using it to charge an electric car (Tesla or otherwise) has almost the exact same marginal cost as it would without having the roof. (The only difference is the imperceptible increase in electricity supply, and thus similarly miniscule decrease in cost, from your roof being connected to the grid.)


Since both CCS and CHADEMO are viable (and I think better than supercharger) and have support, building chargers is embarrassingly paralel if you have the capital, you could cover whole of US in a couple of months.


> Perfect storms aside, I think Volkswagen will be the biggest producer of EVs within 3 years.

What makes you think they stand a chance against Chinese manufacturers who face huge demand in their home market (whereas in Germany, EV are still looked down upon)? It looks like 60% of global PEV sales in 2019 will be in China - just look at all these models and manufacturers:

https://cleantechnica.com/2019/02/24/china-electric-vehicle-...


Because the world car market is bigger than just China, because Volkswagen is the world's second biggest car company, and because VW is big enough to spend its way out of trouble (which is what it's doing now).


If the world worked that way, Microsoft would dominate the mobile OS market now. They had plenty of money and were the 2nd largest (by sales, 1st by market cap) software company when they gave up trying.

The Chinese car market is the largest in the world and due to EV popularity, by far the largest and most important EV market. If VW doesn't prevail there, they aren't likely to come anywhere near the position of "biggest EV producer". Perhaps tariffs will save the EU/US markets from getting dominated by Asian EV makers, but the Chinese market is decided for now.


Your analogy is flawed. Battery EVs are just another type of car. All the major car manufacturers make many types of cars (petrol, diesel, hybrid, hydrogen fuel cell, and full electric).

In 2018, 4 of the top 10 selling cars in China were Volkswagens:

https://focus2move.com/best-selling-cars-models-in-china/

In the future they'll just so happen to be battery electric Volkswagens.


Or Intel would dominate the mobile market for that matter. Instead they just ended up spending $1 billion a quarter for a few years without moving the needle.


"The German industry was hit by slump in sales in the third and fourth quarters of last year"

Oh really? I asked the shipping time for a Polo (2017 model) and I've been told 160-180 days. I'm not surprised if they don't sell many cars.


My friend got "up to 270 days" on a Skoda Superb.

The wait for a very specifically optioned Prius in my country, in which barely several hundred of these vehicles are moved annually, is at most four months from commission to getting the keys.


VW is trying to reconstitutes their entire fleet onto a 'single platform' or at least something resembling that. This is a core part of their long term strategy that's oft not talked about [1]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volkswagen_Group_MLB_platform


I was surprised to find OP didn't cite what I believe to be an even more existential threat: the rise of Tesla's bit-based cabin vs. the atom-based tradition of legacy makers. Compare the Model S with its elegant, minimalist, understandable layout vs. the latest Mercedes-Benz S-Class cabin, which resembles a miniaturized version of the space shuttle: countless dials, screens, buttons, switches, levers, and lights above, in front of, below, and to the sides of the driver.


You imply that traditional dashboards are too complicated. However, Tesla is merely hiding that complexity behind one or a few screens an a few buttons. I like the approach to minimalism, but in my opinion there has to be a balance between pragmatism and beauty. The learning curve and ease of access is just lower in German (or traditional) dashboards in general. I am not sure if Tesla found that particular balance. I hear a lot of hate towards the giant screen and no love, but that is just anecdotal. I assume Tesla went so radical in the Model 3 to save costs, rather than to stay minimalistic.


I agree with the parent. The UX of the Tesla Model S seems like a cohesive design from a coordinated team. The 2018 Audi S4, lacks the cohesiveness and the UX is a bit overwhelming.


I worked for a car company and that is at least there the result of internal politics and power structures.


A company can not invent away from theire main field - in this case combustion engines. Every time the weather changes some of those in Old power will backstab the internal upstarts.


It is about mobility. Why limit yourself to cars? Why not offer e scooters, bikes? The whole concept of owning a car is wrong. With German cities becoming more and more like megacities, it is important to focus on mobility and not on selling cars.


It's the linear mindset that's the main problem. None of these guys would even dare the gaben bezos dream of becoming the market. There is no open appstore in any of these cars.


Is it even possible for the these behemoths to exist when the demand for cars is decreasing and alternatives are exploding with the advent of batteries and electric motors powering every mode of transportation from bicycle(I love my Ebike) to skateboards? And is it possible for the suppliers to survive when you have so many fever moving parts compared to ICE cars? For me the car feels like the horse a hundred years ago. Dirty smelly heavy noisy and soon obsolete.


This website attempts to tell me that javascript is required but it's not. They just want users to execute arbitrary third party code. Turning off CSS allows access to the full article text.


I don't like how the subtitle reads "American tariffs, a Chinese slowdown..." but the article text says "possible US tariffs".

It seems misleading to lead with 'tariffs' when they are only 'possible tariffs'.

Makes it seem click-baity.


When you're "facing" a storm, it is one visible on the horizon. The term implies forward-looking (and therefore uncertain) predictions.

Subheads also work rather bad as click-bait, considering you only get to read them after clicking the link.


"American tariffs" refers to the tariffs raised by President Donald J Trump against _China_ on March 22, 2018. This and the ensuring Chinese retaliatory tariffs has already taken effect for almost a year now and has already cost German car makers dearly:

>China’s 40 percent retaliatory tariffs on US car imports has already cost the Bavarian company €300 million ($340 million).

=====================================

"Possible US tariffs" refers to tariffs on imported cars and parts being considered against _all countries_[0]. These tariffs are separate and in addition to the Chinese tariffs.

>U.S. Commerce Department recommendations into whether Trump should impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported cars and parts on national security grounds are due by mid-February.

[0] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-trade/trump-incline...


I agree, and further to your point America has made it clear they only intend to apply tariffs that mirror what is applied to America.


1. Auto industry is so vested in China market for their growth, because of US - China trade war that growth opportunity is more or less gone for at least now

2. US is a mature but substantial auto market, with possible tariffs (highly likely since EU and US are not even seriously talking trade) will pull the rug from the under.

3. Debt in developing markets is high, there are only handful of places where there can be some growth but do not have size and heft of US or China markets




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