Volkswagen ID.3 reportedly suffering software problems

Jonathon Ramsey

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Reports earlier this year spoke of delays with the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf over software issues, Automotive News saying the bugs were serious enough to change the hatchback's launch and production schedule. A new report in Germany's Manager Magazin (translated) claims VW's having much larger problems with the software in the electric ID.3. The battery-powered hatchback is not only a hugely important — and expensive — vehicle for the brand, it's the first to use the automaker's new software platform called vw.OS. The ID.3 began production last month and continues to come off the line, but Manager's report says VW has rented parking space for the first 10,000 cars while engineers repair coding flaws. In spring 2020, technicians with mobile consoles will visit each vehicle to manually install the complete, and fixed, software architecture.

It's expected that a further 10,000 or so cars will be built while this is happening, the lines at Zwickau scheduled to run "until at least March." This second batch will get the same manual fix in the middle of May, making 20,000 or more ID.3s in total to get hands-on correction. The article says that by May, VW believes any further changes will be possible through over-the-air updates. Manager makes it sound like a game developer's HQ before the release date, with "teams of experts" and "boot camps in the group" toiling to get everything right. 

The Volkswagen brand has gone all-in on software, brand CEO Herbert Diess talking up what a common software platform can do for the VW Group, and how software will help VW overtake Tesla. In 2016, VW hired Christian Spengler from Continental to fill the new board-level role of VW Brand Board Member Digital. The brand is spending $4 billion through 2025 creating a centralized programming group called Car Software Org with more than 10,000 employees. Beyond the VW brand, Diess envisions a common software platform for the VW Group, an ecosystem of businesses and services beyond the vehicles, and licensing the software to other automakers. If he can pull off the plan, the software component of every new vehicle will go from costing 700 to 800 euros per car to about 230 to 270 euros per car, a massive savings. The carmaker also believes it can earn roughly 1 billion euros in sales of digital services by 2025.

But 2025 is a long way away, and 2020 isn't. VW's been mired in software glitches for a few years now, with so many engineers rewriting code for the products affected by dieselgate that VW didn't have enough engineers left to write code for the new WLTP testing regime, a problem severe enough to temporarily shut down some production lines.

If the timeline for the ID.3 fix holds, VW will be able to honor the announced summer delivery date for reservation holders. If the timeline slips, there could be larger issues than a delay; the automaker targets 100,000 sales in 2020, which are figured into the VW Group's emissions numbers. If the group can't get enough EVs on the road, it might end up paying fines for exceeding the CO2 emissions cap.

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