Ulbrich is staying now and will be the new Chief Development Officer at the core brand VW. His most important task: He urgently needs to solve the problems with the new ID.4 electric model.
In addition, Ulbrich is to push ahead with the previously confidential cooperation with Renault.
A big bang in the VW group: Thomas Ulbrich will be the new board member for development at the Wolfsburg main brand VW Pkw. This emerges from an internal VW announcement that Business Insider has received. In his new role, which he will take over on February 1, Ulbrich – previously E-Mobility Board Member for the core brand – will succeed Frank Welsch. He will head the newly established Group Quality Management and Strategy department. A few weeks ago there was still speculation that Ulbrich would leave the group.
In his new role as Board Member for Technical Development, Ulbrich will have to devote himself to pressing tasks that have not yet been publicly known.
VW, for example, has been struggling for some time with the ramp-up of the all-electric compact SUV VW ID.4. The trigger here were software problems, as before with the notchback VW ID.3. Persistent difficulties in installing the “ME 2” (VW internal abbreviation stands for “market introduction / second stage”; d. Ed.) Named data packages mean that the ID. Factory in Zwickau only reaches the planned production volume with a delay .
The “ME 2” primarily includes the “Head-up Display” feature. Many dealers and customers still have to be patient with the ID.4. As the new TE boss, Ulbrich will try to avoid such delays in new developments.
“If you take the Corona restrictions into account, my customers are currently even more interested in the ID.4 than in the coveted ID.3 from Volkswagen,” says VW sales and service partner Wolf Warncke from Tarmstedt. “Sure, a purely electrically powered compact SUV is exactly the trend,” he adds. “It is all the more annoying,” said Warncke, “that the ID.4 demonstration car that VW had promised me for the end of 2020 has only just been delivered. Many interested parties just want to see this new car live, sit in it on a trial basis – and are then guaranteed to order. But of course the future customers still hesitate. That is bad for me as a dealer – and bad for the manufacturer. ”
The ability to update new cars “over the air” should be high on his new management agenda. He will be assisted by, among others, Axel Heinrich, who has been in charge of the development of electrics and electronics for the Volkswagen brand since September 2020. He knows his way around cars of the near and distant future: Before that, Heinrich was Head of VW Group Innovation and, as COO, responsible for electrics and electronics in commercial vehicle development.
According to information from Business Insider, the so-called flash costs for ID.3 and ID.4 are borne solely by the VW Pkw brand – other VW brands such as Seat and Škoda, which also benefit from the updated software, are spared the usual group levy .
The current hook is the idea promoted by Ulbrich to develop a loan concept for traction batteries for electric vehicles in-house by VW – or to get involved with VW from corresponding external providers. Renault is already further there. Ulbrich expects great business opportunities with an e-offensive he has extended at VW Pkw in Spain, for example. Surprisingly, Renault has a good reputation within VW from benchmarking studies on the production time of new cars: Here, the French sometimes work significantly faster than their colleagues on the right bank of the Rhine.
Ultimately, as ex-board member for production and logistics at VW Pkw, Ulbrich is likely to be personally involved in the “One Production” project, which is being promoted by one of his successors, the current incumbent Christian Vollmer, with a new design of the production planning for the Volume brand group. “
The project is making slow progress and it is being questioned very critically, especially at Škoda and Seat,” said a VW manager. “Ulbrich and Vollmer urgently need to speak a word of power here.”
The latter also applies to the future use of the “ME 3” software, which is to be used, for example, in power-driven compact SUVs from the VW plant in Emden. According to information from Business Insider, only one feature of the “market launch / third stage” is so stable that the VW engineers are completely satisfied with it. Ulbrich and his fellow board members at VW Passenger Cars may decide to stay with “ME 2” for the time being for the vehicles arriving in 2022.
Because: Better safe than sorry. At the same time, however, speed is of the essence. During comparative drives with their ID. Cars and competitors’ vehicles – such as Hyundai’s Kona and models from Volvo’s Polestar offshoot – the VW test engineers noticed that the voice control in their cars was comparatively weak. Now there should be a big update at the end of this year. Thomas Ulbrich will probably want to accept it personally before the series release.