The signal from Volkswagen’s Frankfurt Motor Show stand this year was clear - electric mobility is going to play a pivotal role in the German company’s future, but what’s become of traditional petrol and diesel engines?
According to Jürgen Stackmann, Volkswagen’s head of sales and marketing, and member of the board of management, the internal combustion engine is safe for the foreseeable future - including much-loved performance icons like the Golf GTI.
“We are continuing, and we are dedicating non-constrained budgets and resources to the development of our TSI [petrol] engine for the future,” Stackmann announced to Australian media during the Frankfurt Motor Show. “They will probably play an even bigger role in the future, as diesel is now becoming a more regional European sort of technology.”
Just one day earlier Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Mueller revealed that future petrol engines would adopt the same particulate filter exhaust technology as currently seen on diesel engines in a move to reduce harmful emissions.
Along with the ongoing development of TSI engines, Stackmann also predicted that the role of diesel will also be ongoing, however, to remain viable the technology was likely to increase in cost, potentially ruling it out for smaller vehicles.
“We will continue to develop diesel, which I think with time will see a higher proportion mix in large cars, and less in small cars because the cost that we need to put in to get the engines into the next generation of emissions will be just excessive,” Stackmann predicted. “Obviously we can't just swallow those costs, so they need to be passed onto the market.”
“The trend is moving away from small cars with diesel into large cars with diesel, with a clear focus on long distance drives. Diesel, we believe, is still an unbeatable kit of technology. For long distance drives it's just made for that, to be really honest.”
Stackmann’s vision of Volkswagen’s coming I.D. family of electric cars, represented at Frankfurt by the I.D. hatch, I.D. Crozz SUV, and I.D. Buzz minivan concepts, would see the EV ranges - set to extend beyond the three initial models - arrive as a complementary range alongside existing internal combustion offerings.
“We believe at Volkswagen that full electric cars will be a big third-play in our game, but it’s not a one-for-one replacement of a technology that exists, it’s just a fast growing part of our future.” he said.
Crucially, the future of Volkswagen’s enthusiast cars appear safe in the longer term. When questioned about the possibility of a Golf GTI forming part of the range beyond 2030, Stackmann had an affirmative response. “I think that combination [petrol-powered and GTI-badged] I would almost guarantee will exist.”
With a focus that extends beyond the reach of densely-occupied European cities, Volkswagen has taken a big-picture approach to its future product lines. Issues with power supply, infrastructure, and expected travel distances for commuters have all shaped the brand’s direction.
“Regionally, it doesn't make sense to put all of the infrastructure everywhere. Some parts of the planet are simply not ready for electronic stability.” Stackmann said in a statement that reflects the issues faced by many Australian residents.
“You need a stable power system. A lot of countries have outages every second day, so i think we should not talk about this like either-or.”