In post-crisis bounce-back, VW late to the party

The reimagining of the iconic VW “hippy bus” is expected to hit the roads at some point after 2020.

Douglas Gillison –
Embattled German auto maker Volkswagen announced another step towards its corporate transformation on Monday, unveiling a new fully electric, autonomous prototype bus to join a coming family of electrified vehicles.
The reimagining of the iconic VW “hippy bus” popular in the 1960s and 1970s is expected to hit the roads at some point after 2020. The plug-in concept van called the ID Buzz “stands for the new Volkswagen,” Herbert Diess, head of the division which produces VW’s namesake cars, announced at the start of the Detroit auto show.
The van, a sleeker more futuristic version of the 20th century relative, embodies what Volkswagen aims to be: “modern, positive, emotional, future-oriented,” he said.
But auto industry analysts say questions hang over the company’s efforts to reinvent itself after the emissions scandal known as “dieselgate” that involved one of the largest US consumer class action cases ever and eroded the company’s reputation.
Under a corporate plan announced in November, the company hopes to charge headlong into the already crowded American SUV market, develop new ride-hailing and digital technologies and begin producing millions of electric and hybrid cars over the next decade — all sectors in which competitors have had lengthy head starts.
Jack Nerad, executive market analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said the VW plan, dubbed “Transform 2025+,” seemed to have less to do with the company’s bottom line than it did with healing the blight on its reputation.
“It almost strikes me as a public relations ploy versus an actual business strategy, something to take people’s minds off of what was so bad,” he said.
Volkswagen shocked the world in 2015 when it admitted to deliberately configuring software on 11 million diesel cars worldwide to defeat pollution tests while emitting up to 40 times the permissible levels of harmful nitrogen oxide during actual driving.
On the eve of the auto show, federal police arrested a VW executive in Miami on charges in the emissions scandal. He was due to appear in court on charges of lying to federal regulators investigating the case.— AFP