Product Responsibility

By taking full responsibility for our products, we aim to keep our customers as safe as possible on the road by offering a comprehensive range of road-safety solutions and a broad spectrum of efficient, affordable and practical powertrain technologies. The Volkswagen Group takes responsibility for the products supplied by all of its brands. This responsibility extends to passive and active safety systems, conservation of resources, and climate and environmental protection. In particular, we intend to electrify our vehicle fleet. One objective of our future program ”TOGETHER – Strategy 2025“ is to significantly increase the proportion of our total sales accounted for by all-electric cars over the next few years. This will help us further reduce CO2 emissions and air pollution.

43 Million Cars from Wolfsburg

In 2015, the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg passed another key milestone, as a Touran in Pure White became the 43-millionth vehicle to leave our factory alongside Germany’s Midland Canal. Wolfsburg’s daily production capacity now exceeds 3,800 vehicles.

Investment and Innovation

In 2015, the Volkswagen Group further extended its innovation and technology leadership by investing in new models, environmentally compatible drive technologies and optimized production processes. At the same time, we aim to step up the efficiency of our cross-brand innovation management, as well as the networking of our brands’ development processes. By creating overarching technology networks we avoid parallel developments and facilitate efficient technology transfer, while simultaneously reducing our development costs. At present, 46,000 highly qualified employees are working on these projects in research and development facilities around the world. The philosophy behind the Volkswagen Group’s entire research and development effort is “Innovation for All”. The result will be new models with even more efficient powertrains. These include electric cars powered entirely by battery, as well as plug-in hybrids. Our core business as a whole will shift towards electric propulsion, as we launch an electrification initiative second to none in the industry. We are prepared to make the necessary investments in research into and development of various types of electric drive, suitable energy storage solutions, and volume production of the relevant modules.

We see mobility as a holistic concept and bundle our mobility-related activities under the heading of “Smart Mobility”. Higher efficiency, more networking and greater flexibility in turn create safer, more comfortable and more environmentally compatible mobility solutions, making an important contribution to the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Examples of this approach include the development of driver assistance systems, autonomous driving and our IT labs. To ensure that our approach to mobility remains consistently holistic, we are pooling all of these activities in our new Mobility Solutions business area, which will also be a core element of our TOGETHER strategy. We want to redefine the whole concept of mobility, working closely with selected partners to accomplish this. The first step in this direction is our investment in GETT, a ride-sharing service.

At an event in the USA in early 2015, we announced the exceptional results of our innovative development work in long-distance performance: An Audi A7 drove 93% autonomously from Stanford, California, to Las Vegas, a journey of around 900 kilometers (560 miles). In a first for this kind of test, the vehicle’s occupants were not Audi engineering specialists, but journalists. The vehicle was able to drive itself using a combination of long-range radar sensors, lane-keeping assistants and laser scanners, plus a high-resolution, wide-angle 3D video camera. The research vehicle changed lanes and performed overtaking maneuvers all by itself. It also braked and accelerated on its own.

We have also made pioneering progress in our developments for city driving. In recent years, we have taken part in the UR:BAN research initiative. The acronym stands for “Urban Space: User-oriented assistance systems and network management”. The project ran over a four-year period, culminating in the presentation of findings by the 30 project partners in 2015. Volkswagen Group Research developed a number of systems under the auspices of UR:BAN, including a lane-change assistant that actively intervenes to control the vehicle’s longitudinal and lateral movement when switching lanes in heavy traffic. Another example, the constriction (or bottleneck) assistant, helps out when lanes become narrower as a result of, for example, parked cars. The “environment-adaptive speed recommendation” function gives the driver tactile (haptic) feedback through the accelerator pedal to indicate optimum speeds in specific road conditions. Alongside these findings from the Cognitive Assistance strand of the project, our researchers also participated in the Human Factors in Traffic and Networked Traffic Systems strands.

A Watchful Eye

The new Passat features an optional head-up display (HuD) intended to improve road safety. Trip data and alerts are projected onto a screen that slides out in the driver’s field of vision. Drivers can thus keep their eyes on the road ahead while simultaneously taking note of the on-screen information that is seemingly displayed two meters in front of the vehicle. Because alerts appear directly in the driver’s line of sight, reaction times are reduced. And drivers’ eyes do not have to refocus so often from far-field to near-field vision.

Safe Vehicles and Road Safety

All of our activities are geared to Vision Zero, which is to say zero fatalities or severe injuries in and due to vehicles manufactured by the Volkswagen Group. This has been and continues to be the key objective for our work in this area. We take a holistic view of vehicle safety, from avoiding accidents completely to reducing or avoiding their consequences. The Group’s accident research departments play a pivotal role in this work, reconstructing and evaluating accidents in order to obtain information that will help boost future vehicle safety – findings that feed directly into our vehicle development activities, leading to new and user-oriented innovations.

In best-case scenarios, the powerful, active systems produced by our specialists help to avoid accidents from the outset. These include emergency braking systems (such as Front Assist) and lane-keeping systems (such as Lane Assist). Where the collision itself is unavoidable, a raft of passive systems avoids or mitigates the consequences of the accident for vehicle occupants. In particular, the coordinated interaction of the vehicle structure with the occupant retention system plays a central role. Our integral safety concept seamlessly combines passive and active systems. For example, following a collision involving one of our new vehicles, a multi-collision brake is activated to bring the stricken vehicle to a halt and avoid secondary collisions, or at least reduce the energy released by the collision.

Aims and Measures to Improve Safety

The ultimate aim of our Vision Zero is: zero fatalities or severe injuries in and due to vehicles manufactured by the Volkswagen Group. To progress towards this vision, we have set ourselves the following goals:

  • avoidable accidents should not happen,
  • unavoidable accidents will be positively mitigated,
  • the severity of accidents will be minimized.

To achieve these goals, the Group’s accident researchers collect data from real traffic accidents. Their investigations include:

  • technical analyses of the vehicles involved to establish the technical severity of the accident,
  • medical analyses of injuries suffered by people involved in the accident,
  • psychological analyses of the circumstances surrounding the accident.

The findings of these analyses are used to develop measures to protect people inside and outside the vehicle. These include the development of bodywork concepts, occupant retention systems and new driving assistants capable of avoiding accidents or mitigating their consequences.

The Volkswagen Group is an active member of the German Road Safety Council (DVR), contributing expertise and experience with the aim of making mobility safer. We also take part in conferences on vehicle safety around the world.

“The mighty Volkswagen Golf – ever-popular, with 30 million bought since its arrival on the road more than 40 years ago – is breaking records for its auto-emergency braking system, according to leading car insurance companies. Third-party injury claims on the Golf VII are 45% lower than an equivalent ‘Small Family Car Control Group’ …”Thatcham Research

Product Safety

Our customers attach the utmost importance to product safety. So we take a meticulous approach to quality assurance along the entire value chain, from purchasing right through to sales.

Right at the start, when a vehicle is first being developed, we use standardized processes to exclude potential use risks. At the next stage, production, we bring the collective experience of our global, cross-location network of product safety officers to bear. In their work, they rely on lessons-learned processes for ensuring that our products stay safe. Because the approach followed by our product safety officers has proved its worth, we are now gradually implementing it among our suppliers, hence along our entire supply chain.

Odors and Emissions from Vehicle Interiors

The German automotive industry has been concerned about air quality inside vehicle interiors since the mid-1980s. From the beginning, Volkswagen has played a significant role in development work in this field. For good reason: odors and emissions from plastic components inside the vehicle can cause people to feel unwell, and in extreme cases may even be harmful to health. To avoid these issues, we check the properties of the materials and components we use very carefully. Our internal Group standard VW 50180 sets down our requirements for material characteristics. Compliance with these requirements is partially verified while components are still being designed and developed. And suppliers must demonstrate that they are complying with these requirements by the sample prototype inspection stage at the very latest. In the case of around 20% of the components used in Group vehicles, suppliers’ compliance data is further verified in our laboratories. In addition to checking materials and components, we also evaluate odors and emissions in the passenger compartment when we start the manufacturing stage of new concept vehicles and production vehicles.

We have established quality specifications for the components and operating fluids we use, focusing not only on their functional properties but also on the durability of the materials from which they are made. These specifications provide the framework within which Volkswagen’s materials specialists, for example, define and verify components’ resistance to aggressive fuels and oils. They do this by storing the components to be tested – ranging from individual seals or gaskets through to complete fuel-delivery modules – in containers filled with the appropriate test fluid.

Information and Labeling

Volkswagen Group companies are obliged by law to provide users of their products with appropriate information about the risks that may arise from their intended use or foreseeable misuse. Group companies fulfil this obligation by providing instruction manuals and in specific instances, placing warning stickers inside the vehicle. Furthermore, since 1 December 2011, all passenger vehicles manufactured in Germany must carry a weight-based efficiency label similar to the energy consumption labels used for household appliances. Efficiency ratings range from A+ (highly efficient) to G (inefficient). The label also informs users of fuel consumption, annual fuel costs, CO2 emissions and annual tax charges under Germany’s CO2-based vehicle tax. In the case of electric vehicles, the label provides information on energy consumption. All of our brands provide details of their models’ fuel consumption and CO2 emissions on their websites. Information on consumption figures and emissions for all of the models mentioned in this report can be found in this table. The Volkswagen and Audi brands also publish Environmental Commendations describing improvements in the environmental performance of new vehicles and technologies over their predecessors or reference models .

Customer Satisfaction

Volkswagen knows that customer satisfaction is one of the most important factors contributing to the lasting success of the Company. Customer satisfaction is benchmarked across all of our brands using standardized performance indicators: brand image, desirability, future purchase consideration, product quality and brand communication awareness.

The “Group KPI” platform is one important instrument supporting the targeted management of value-creating measures for each of our brands. It provides access to key indicators such as unit sales growth and customer loyalty, while also allowing the brands to set up their own indicators for tracking customer satisfaction.

Brand Value Management at Volkswagen Group

Group covers KPIs in five dimensions, going beyond basic brand image monitoring

Grafik: Markenwert Management

Our satisfaction studies, carried out around the world and across all Group brands, are another important tool. These studies differentiate between product, service and sales. They have measured positive growth in customer satisfaction over recent years – a trend that was not broken in 2015. All three customer satisfaction metrics showed the Volkswagen brand reaching levels above its competitors in the core European markets.

Best High-volume Manufacturer in Germany

The Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand was ranked the number-one high-volume manufacturer in the 2015 Automobilwoche Triple-A Award. In this test-purchase study conducted by the trade journal, Volkswagen earned top marks for criteria such as sales pitch/needs analysis, follow-up contact, and price/negotiations. This is the second time in three years that the award has been presented to Volkswagen Passenger Cars.

We use market research studies to involve our customers in the product development process as well. The studies help boost customer satisfaction in the long term by providing us with the customer perspective on our products and highlighting the improvements they would like to see. We also ask for customer feedback when evaluating prototypes prior to market launch.

Transformative IT

Connectivity solutions, cloud computing, social media and big data are currently revolutionizing business and society. The Volkswagen Group IT function has been gearing up in response to these trends. The hardware we use is increasingly power- and resource-efficient. In a cross-company collaborative initiative, as a co-founder of the German Cybersecurity Organization (DCSO), we are also helping member companies in Germany to improve their security architecture. Our support takes the form of, for example, an early warning system and security audits in which we verify the companies’ information security. In the future, the DCSO Center of Excellence is expected to become the German business world’s preferred cybersecurity service provider.

By introducing a standardized PC hardware platform, Group IT has achieved savings of €50 million over the last three years. Brand-specific centers of expertise will take responsibility for individual functions in the future. This will ensure parallel development is avoided, and also cut costs. One of the first examples is the Windows Smartphone center of expertise at Porsche.

Volkswagen Group’s IT labs are responding to the digitization trend. They are islands of innovation, where new IT solutions are developed in close collaboration with Group specialist departments, external research institutions and technology partners. The labs act as test laboratories for the Group as a whole, advise on questions about future IT developments, and serve as an interface with business startups.

Data:Lab in Munich is our center of expertise specializing in big data, advanced analytics and machine learning. The Data:Lab team consists of data scientists, project managers and technology wizards who are supported by experts from leading big data firms, research institutions and startup companies. Successful projects developed by Data:Lab include forecasts of customer wishes and predictions of customer loyalty, as well as a long-term and all-time forecast for spare parts scheduling at our central depot in Kassel. We are also opening Digital:Lab in Berlin. Projects under development there include a digital mobility platform and systems for processing traffic-related information generated by vehicles. In addition, we are expanding our Smart.Production:Lab in Wolfsburg, which specializes in Industry 4.0 solutions with a particular focus on the use of IT in production and logistics.

Networking is a high priority for Group IT. Group-wide hackathons and initiatives such as IT Pitching Days serve as platforms for employees, encouraging them to develop new ideas and prototypes. Experts from across the Group meet to exchange ideas in internal communities such as the Agile Community and Group Connect, Volkswagen’s social collaboration platform.

As Volkswagen’s own social network, Group Connect brings together all of the brands, specialized areas, departments and employees in the Volkswagen Group. Some 140,000 employees are already networked through Group Connect; they use it as a useful new communications channel for working on projects and specific issues with colleagues around the world.

These developments are all helping to make our working environment even more flexible and digital, encouraging our teams to collaborate in new ways. In this sense, they are having a profound influence on our corporate culture.