Volkswagen is bundling its software operations with an investment plan of about $9 billion over the next three to five years, another step in the electric and connected-car shift that is heralding change across the entire industry.
Unifying VW’s fragmented IT units will boost efficiency as the world’s biggest auto manufacturer steps up sharing of parts and key technology across 12 automotive brands. VW employs some 650,000 workers globally, with the labor force steeling for cutbacks across the traditional carmaking business.
The combined operations will have a workforce of as many as 10,000 developers, Christian Senger, head of digital car and services for the VW car brand, said in a presentation at the Frankfurt auto show.
The manufacturer had earlier outlined a plan to pool about 5,000 digital experts into a single unit that will develop “vw.os,” a uniform software operating system across all new models that will be rolled out starting next year. The software can be used across VW’s vehicle underpinnings for electric, hybrid as well as combustion-engine cars, a spokesman said.
VW Chief Executive Herbert Diess has mapped out an expansion in software and digital investments, and earlier this year started the rollout of the industry’s biggest automotive cloud with strategic partner Microsoft Corp. With the creation of the Car. Software unit, Volkswagen’s in-house tech development will rise to at least 60% by 2025 from less than 10% now.
Accompanying the sweeping changes is a 2016 labor pact to cut 30,000 jobs worldwide at the VW brand through voluntary measures like early retirement and attrition. Net head count is down 6,900 people as of July this year while the carmaker added about 3,400 new jobs in areas like software development of car connectivity.
VW has achieved 2.5 billion euros in related cost savings to far, freeing up funds it can plow into future technologies.
“There is a huge transformation going on,” Senger said. VW’s convoluted IT supplier structure with short-term contracts and a low re-usage of code will be turned into long-term partnerships.
The first vehicle based on vw.os is the electric ID.3 hatchback VW unveiled in Frankfurt last week. Production starts in November and the vehicles will hit showrooms next year.