Group Management Report

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Research and development risks

For this risk category, the likelihood of occurrence is classified as high (previous year: high) and the potential extent of damage is classified as medium (previous year: medium).

The most significant risks from the QRP result from the inability to develop products in line with demand and requirements, especially with regard to e-mobility and digitalization.

Risks arising from research and development

The automotive industry is undergoing a fundamental transformation process. For multinational corporations like Volkswagen, this means risks in the areas of customer/market, technological advancements and legislation. One risk posed is the implementation of ever more stringent emission and fuel consumption regulations, such as C6 in China or EU7 in Europe from 2025. New test procedures and test cycles (e.g. the Worldwide Harmonized Light-Duty Vehicles Test Procedure, WLTP) as well as compliance with approval processes (homologation) are becoming increasingly complex and time-consuming. The test specifications and homologation procedures also vary greatly from country to country.

On a national and international level, there are numerous legal requirements regarding the use, handling and storage of substances and mixtures (including restrictions concerning chemicals, heavy metals, biocides, persistent organic pollutants). There is therefore a risk of non-conformity in the manufacture, procurement and introduction of products such as automobiles or replacement parts.

The economic success and competitiveness of the Volkswagen Group depend on how swiftly we are able to tailor our portfolio of products and services to changing conditions. Given the intensity of competition and speed of technological development, for example in the fields of digitalization and automated driving, there is a risk of failing to identify relevant trends early enough to respond accordingly.

We use the latest findings from the world of physics and other areas of science to plot our course. In addition, we conduct research such as trend analyses and customer surveys and examine the relevance of the results for our customers. We counter the risk that it may not be possible to develop modules, vehicles, or services – especially in relation to e-mobility, digitalization and software – within the specified time frame, to the required quality standards, or in line with cost specifications, by continuously and systematically monitoring the progress of all projects; at present we are also taking account of the Covid-19 pandemic.

To reduce the risk of patent infringements, we conduct thorough analyses of third-party industrial property rights; increasingly also in relation to communication technologies.

We regularly compare the results of all these analyses with the respective project targets; in the event of any discrepancies, we introduce appropriate countermeasures in good time. Our end-to-end project organization fosters cooperation across all of the departments involved in the process, ensuring that specific requirements are incorporated into the development process as early as possible and that their implementation is planned in good time.

Risks and opportunities from the modular toolkit strategy

We are continuously expanding our modular toolkits, focusing on future customer requirements, legal requirements and infrastructural requirements.

However, with higher volumes there is a higher risk that supply chain disruption – for example due to a shortage of semiconductors – or quality problems may affect an increasing number of vehicles.

The Modular Transverse Toolkit (MQB) is an extremely flexible vehicle architecture that was created to allow conceptual dimensions – such as the wheelbase, track width, wheel size and seat position – to be harmonized throughout the Group and utilized flexibly. Other dimensions, for example the distance between the pedals and the middle of the front wheels, are always the same, ensuring a uniform system in the front of the car. Thanks to the resulting synergy effects, we are able to cut both development costs and the necessary one-time expenses as well as manufacturing times. The toolkits also allow us to produce different models from different brands in varying quantities, using the same equipment in a single plant. This means that our capacities can be used with greater flexibility throughout the entire Group, enabling us to achieve efficiency gains.

We have also transferred this principle of standardization with maximum flexibility to the Modular Electric Drive Toolkit (MEB) and Premium Platform Electric (PPE), concepts developed for all-electric drives. The synergy effects and efficiency gains offered by the modular toolkit strategy are enabling us to bring e-mobility into mass production worldwide with the introduction of the first MEB- and PPE-based vehicles. In future, we will reinforce these synergy effects by combining the MEB and PPE in the Scalable Systems Platform (SSP).

Modular Electric Drive Toolkit (MEB)
The modular system is for the manufacturing of electric vehicles. The MEB establishes parameters for axles, drive systems, high-voltage batteries, wheelbases and weight ratios to ensure a vehicle optimally fulfills the requirements of e-mobility. The production of the first vehicles based on the MEB started into series production in 2020.
Modular Transverse Toolkit (MQB)
As an extension of the modular strategy, this platform can be deployed in vehicles whose architecture permits a transverse arrangement of the engine components. The modular perspective enables high synergies to be achieved between the vehicles in the Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Audi, SEAT and ŠKODA brands.
Premium Platform Electric (PPE)
A new vehicle platform for all-electric premium, sport and luxury class vehicles. The components and functions of this platform are especially tailored to meet the high demands of this segment. This platform enables high synergies to be achieved particularly between the Audi, Porsche and Bentley brands.
Test procedure
Levels of fuel consumption and exhaust gas emissions for vehicles registered in Europe were previously measured on a chassis dynamometer with the help of the “New European Driving Cycle (NEDC)”. Since fall 2017, the existing test procedure for emissions and fuel consumption used in the EU is being gradually replaced by the Worldwide Harmonized Light-Duty Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP). This has been in place for new vehicle types since fall 2017 and for all new vehicles since fall 2018. The aim of this new test cycle is to state CO2 emissions and fuel consumption in a more practice-oriented manner. A further important European regulation is the Real Driving Emissions (RDE) for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, which also monitors emissions using portable emission measuring technology in real road traffic.