Any automobile manufacturer that wants to stay at the top must also attend to the next generation of young engineers, scientists and mechanical engineers. That’s why education is high on Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn’s agenda. In a “science lesson with a difference”, he gives a group of final-year high school students a glimpse into the future of mobility – and of Volkswagen.
Hannah likes the new Beetle1. Prashanth would prefer to drive a Scirocco2 and Daniel wouldn’t mind having a Bentley. Leo, on the other hand, is very much into car-sharing and public transport. Although none of the assembled seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds has their driver’s license yet, this in no way dampens their enthusiasm for mobility. Together with six other students from the International School Hannover Region, they are waiting at Wolfsburg’s renowned “phaeno” Science Center for Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, to arrive. All the students share an interest in science, having taken at least one advanced course in biology, chemistry, or physics.
Before long, Winterkorn arrives, greeting the students with a handshake and the frank admission that, during his own schooldays, he was often more interested in soccer than his studies. The lesson on the car of the future begins with a laugh, but is a hands-on affair with plenty of interaction between the young people, who will shortly be sitting their final school exams, and the Group Chairman, who is responsible for ten brands and over 90 plants around the world.
Daniel sets the ball rolling right at the outset with a question about the automaker’s Strategy 2018: “What is more important for Volkswagen – size or technical progress?” “Our number one priority is our customers, no question. And our job is to build the best, safest and most environmentally friendly cars for them”, explains Winterkorn. “That is only possible with a motivated workforce. And, needless to say, we must earn the money to finance the necessary investments in the future of our Group.” He points out that Volkswagen spends well over €6 billion a year on research and development. Nonetheless, size is important, too, since it leads to cost savings, which “are then also channeled into efficient new technologies”. For example into drives that consume less and less fuel: today, the Volkswagen Group offers over 150 model variants that produce less than 120 grams of CO2 per kilometer. There are even 26 vehicles under the 100 gram mark – which use scarcely more than three liters of fuel per 100 kilometers.
This prompts a question from Hannah if the global market could grow to 100 million new cars in 2018, over 20 million of them in China, how can this mobility boom be made environmentally compatible? Winterkorn replies: “No one can deny people in China or India their right to individual mobility. The key is how we shape this trend. That is why we are supplying the emerging markets with highly efficient technologies that meet state-of-the-art Western standards.” However, environmentally friendly vehicles are just one side of the coin. That explains why the Volkswagen brand has committed to making its plants 25 percent more environmentally friendly by 2018. “To reach this ambitious goal, we have to explore new ground”, explains Winterkorn, adding that the Volkswagen Group intends to invest €600 million in developing renewable energies from solar, wind and hydroelectric power.