Speaking at Volkswagen's Electronic Research Laboratory (ERL) in Palo Alto, California, Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, reiterated the automaker's commitment to establishing itself as the global leader in electric mobility by 2018. In addition to touting the ERL's critical role in helping lay the overall groundwork for VW's new age of e-mobility -- including its associated work on everything from driver assistance systems and online navigation to social networking and geo-tagged information -- Winterkorn also provided an updated U.S. product-launch timeline for these ever-greener VWs.
The first vehicle to arrive here will be the Touareg Hybrid, which is due later this year. A hybrid version of the just-introduced Jetta is set to follow in 2012, and similar gas-electric variations of the Golf and Passat are being considered. As was announced previously, Volkswagen plans to kick off its formal electric vehicle era in 2013 when it will introduce production versions of the E-Up! commuter car and the Golf blue-e-motion. According to Winterkorn, one of them will become the first full-electric VW-branded vehicle to be sold in the United States. Although he didn't address the possibility, there's unconfirmed talk that the E-Up! might also spawn an entry-level vehicle that would carry an Audi badge. For the moment, VW's premium division is working in an Audi Q5 Hybrid and an A8 Hybrid, due in late 2011 as well as its limited-production e-tron vehicles that are set for a 2012 debut. Among the 10 million vehicles the Volkswagen Group hopes to be selling worldwide by 2018, its chief believes up to three percent could be electrics.
Work at ERL -- which currently employs over 100 engineers and scientists -- as well as the efforts of VW's other e-mobility facilities, the Volkswagen Research Lab China (VRC) and Technical Representative Tokyo (VTT), is directed and coordinated by the central Group Research division at the company's headquarters in Wolfsburg. Germany. Winterkorn is confident that formidable alliance will pay tangible dividends on the $6.45 billion the automaker invests each year in associated R&D funding. "Volkswagen will be the automaker that will offer the electric car attainable for every customer. Our path to global leadership also leads through the United States, because we have considerable growth opportunities here. Our goal is to turn Volkswagen into the leading volume brand here as well."