Volkswagen ID Buzz Concept
Along with the gleaming concept cars and new production models unveiled at last week's Frankfurt auto show, auto-company executives also make news.
Often a company's CEO or product chief will announce directions for the future, whether they're hints about upcoming vehicles or new powertrain plans.
Matthias Müller, chairman of the VW Group, did just that in announcing what the giant carmaker calls its "Roadmap E" for electric cars.
Volkswagen, of course, has been hammered for two years by its diesel-emission cheating scandal, which continues to reverberate in Germany even as it starts to wind down in North America.
It has made more, and more public, announcements of future electric cars than any other German maker.
Now, it says it will bring no fewer than 80 new electric vehicles to market globally by 2025—a significant jump from the 30 it had promised in June 2016.
Under the Roadmap E plan adopted by the company's board of directors, VW Group will spend more than €20 billion ($24 billion) on plants and facilities for electric cars.
The company said it will also solicit bids for contracts on more than €50 billion ($60 billion) of battery cells and packs.
Those are large numbers.
The opening of the company's announcement reflected its view of the scope, cost, and importance of the initiative:
The Volkswagen Group is launching the most comprehensive electrification initiative in the global automotive industry with its "Roadmap E": Volkswagen will have electrified its entire model portfolio by 2030 at the latest.
This means that, by then, there will be at least one electrified version of each of the 300 or so Group models across all brands and markets. This makes Volkswagen the first big mobility group to have put a date on the electrification of its entire fleet.
The Group will need more than 150 gigawatt hours of battery capacity annually by 2025 for its own e-fleet alone. This is equivalent to at least four gigafactories for battery cells.
To meet this demand, the Company has put one of the largest procurement volumes in the industry's history out to tender: over €50 billion.
Note that "electrification" includes not only those 80 battery-electric cars, but also another 220 that will offer some form of mild or full hybrid, or plug-in hybrid, powertrains.
Volkswagen ID electric car concept, 2016 Paris auto show
Part of the announcement was clearly a stake in the ground for the company, and a further effort to move past the diesel deception whose investigators appears to be reaching further up into the ranks of current and former VW Group executives.
But it also reflects an acknowledgement that the days of diesel as the solution to cutting automotive carbon emissions are now gone for good.
As analysts noted, the shiny electric cars on display in Frankfurt didn't entirely cover the German makers' desperation over the fact that with new real-world tests required to certify future vehicles for sale, diesels' emissions likely won't be low enough to meet the mandated reductions in carbon emissions.
So expect Volkswagen's string of electric-car concepts to ramp up, with conventional powertrains mentioned less often and less loudly, until those plug-in vehicles start arriving in dealer showrooms in volume during 2020.
So far, the Volkswagen ID five-door hatchback, the VW ID Crozz coupe crossover utlity vehicle, and the VW ID Buzz electric microbus have appeared on the show circuit in concept form.
Volkswagen ID Crozz II concept, 2017 Frankfurt auto show
Many empty slots remain in the portfolio of planned electric vehicles, and we will likely hear a great deal about them over the next three years.
Keep in mind, however, that the bulk of them address not the North American or European markets, but China—especially in light of announced plans in the world's largest car market to consider timetables for banning sales of gasoline and diesel cars altogether.
For all the news and debuts from last week's media days, visit our Frankfurt auto show page.