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 its brands. This responsibility extends to passive and active safety systems, conservation of resources, and climate and environmental protection. In particular, we are prioritizing the electrification of 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 to further reduce carbon emissions and air pollution.

809,000 Cars from Wolfsburg

In 2016, the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg produced around 809,000 vehicles. The plant’s daily production capacity now exceeds 3,800 vehicles.

Investment and Innovation

In 2016, 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 is steadily shifting toward electric propulsion as we pursue our electrification initiative, which is second to none in the industry. And we are making the necessary investments in research into and development of various types of electric drive, suitable energy storage solutions, and series 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, better connectivity 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 (“piloted”) driving and our IT labs. To ensure that our approach to mobility remains consistently holistic, we are pooling all 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-hailing service. Gett is already operating in more than 100 cities, including major cities such as New York, Moscow and London. One out of three taxis in the British capital is already using the service to find new customers.

In December 2016, we also set up MOIA, a company dedicated to new mobility solutions with a particular focus on ride hailing – the instant provision of mobility services. Subsequently, we intend to develop or acquire further attractive and profitable services tailored to customer requirements, such as robot taxis, carsharing, and on-demand transport services for the logistics industry. To achieve this, we will rely – to a greater extent than hitherto – on partnerships, acquisitions and venture capital investments. The selection of suitable investments will be managed centrally, with the aim of generating maximum value for the Group and its brands.

Audi has reaffirmed its progress in the field of autonomous driving – the Audi A7 piloted driving concept car, a research vehicle, is capable not only of carrying out all freeway driving maneuvers on its own, but also and more importantly, of respecting other road users while doing so. “Piloted driving” is made possible by the zFAS driver assistance control unit, a central control system that uses state-of-the-art, high-performance processors to evaluate signals from all sensors in real time, continuously generating a model of the surrounding environment. Long-range radar sensors, lane-keeping assistants and laser scanners – not to mention a high-resolution, wide-angle 3D video camera – enable the concept car to change lanes, overtake, accelerate and brake on its own, without human intervention.

The g-tron model range also continues to grow; in addition to the Audi A3 Sportback g-tron, Audi will soon bring two more CNG models to market. The spring of 2017 saw the launch of the Audi A4 Avant g-tron and the Audi A5 Sportback g-tron. Compared to a petrol-engined car in the same performance class, Audi g-tron models produce 80% fewer CO2 emissions. They achieve this reduction by running on Audi e-gas, a green fuel.

Volkswagen Group’s IT labs are responding to the digitalization 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 act 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, all-time forecast for spare parts scheduling at our central depot in Kassel. 

We are also opening Digital:Lab in Berlin. Projects under development here 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. 

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 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 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, 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.

Euro NCAP and IIHS

Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme) and IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) regularly test models built by the Volkswagen Group. The following models were put through their paces in 2016:

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 to ensure 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

In terms of customer satisfaction with their products, Audi and Porsche are leaders in the core European markets when compared with other Group brands and with their competitors. The other brands in the Group also score higher than competing brands. In terms of customer satisfaction with dealers, all Group brands achieve figures at or above the level of the competition. The Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand has maintained a high level of customer loyalty in its core European markets for several years in a row. However, the emissions issue had a negative impact on brand image, brand trust, and customer satisfaction with products compared with 2015. The loyalty of Audi, Porsche and ŠKODA customers has kept these brands in the upper rankings in comparison with competitors for a number of years.

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.