Volkswagen taps Tesla, Rivian vet to fix EV software issues

Delays at Volkswagen’s Cariad software unit have already caused Porsche and Audi electric model launches to be pushed back. To turn things around, Volkswagen is hiring a former Tesla, Rivian, and Google executive to lead a new software design hub for future EVs.

VW’s Cariad division has been a problem child for several years now. After draining money and failing to meet its targets, Cariad’s disappointment was reportedly a reason behind former VW Group CEO Herbert Diess’s departure. Diess established Cariad in 2020 to advance Volkswagen’s EV software to help it compete against Tesla.

Cariad is developing a uniform software and tech platform for the group’s next-gen EVs, but poor execution has led to significant delays and glitchy rollouts. The issues have delayed launches for the Porsche electric Macan and the new Audi Q6 e-tron.

Oliver Blume, who took the reigns from Diess as VW’s CEO last September, has faced the same issues. The leader is making it a priority to turn things around.

Blume appointed Peter Bosch, former Bentley production chief, as CEO in May. Now, the unit is adding some veteran talent from industry leaders Tesla and Rivian.

Porsche Macan EV winter testing (Source: Porsche)

Volkswagen hires Tesla exec to boost EV software unit

Volkswagen has hired Sanjay Lal, a former Tesla and Rivian exec, to help finally advance the automaker’s next-gen software platform.

According to Bloomberg, Lal will join VW next month from Rivian, where he worked as vice president of software platform for two years. Lal joined Rivian from Google, where he was Director of Engineering for Android Automotive. From July 2017 to June 2019, Lal was director of engineering at Tesla.

VW Cariad booth at CES 2023 (Source: Cariad)

Lal will lead a software design hub at Cariad. The hubs projects will be first applied to two EVs, an Audi and VW model. Eventually, the unit’s output will be used for scaling the software platform across the Volkswagen Group of brands.

(Source: Volkswagen)

The hiring comes after Volkswagen cut production at two German plants due to slowing demand. According to Automobilwoche, Volkswagen’s Zwickau plant will shut down one of two ID.3 production lines. VW revealed a $1.3 billion investment in 2018 to transform the plant to build EVs.

Electrek’s Take

Software is becoming the new vehicle design. Buyers are looking for the latest tech and features rather than worrying about the brand name.

Volkswagen is quickly realizing this. After falling behind BYD in passenger car sales in its largest market, China, for the first time, you can sense the urgency.

The automaker invested $700 million into Chinese EV maker XPeng in July for a 5% stake to develop new electric models. Audi also established a long-term partnership with Chinese state-owned SAIC Motor to accelerate EV development in the region.

EV makers like Tesla, NIO, BYD, and others are becoming the go-to for new features and tech rather than Audi or Porsche vehicles.

Tesla and others continue improving their vehicles through software updates with new features that make the car smarter, safer, and more efficient. For example, Tesla rolled out a new software update Tuesday that automatically activates and speeds up its hazard lights following a crash.

Volkswagen will have a long way to go in catching up, but hiring some veteran firepower with direct industry knowledge could help speed up the process.

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