Inside the Volkswagen ID.4

A look at the vehicle and the strategy that Volkswagen has for this important electric vehicle

By Gary S. Vasilash

Even though the Volkswagen ID.4 is only now beginning to roll out on American roads (as well as on German autobahns, which one would have imagined would have happened sooner, as the vehicles are built in a plant in Zwickau), people at Volkswagen were evidently certain of the likely success of the electric vehicle as on November 19, 2019, there was a ground breaking for a $800-million, 564,000-sq. ft. facility at the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, complex that will be used, in large part, to build EVs, with the ID.4 being the first.

What’s more, they’re in the process of building a plant for assembling battery packs.

Volkswagen ID.4 (Image: Volkswagen)

So to say VW has a lot riding on EVs is not a hackneyed phrase.

What’s interesting about Volkswagen in America is that it has made a decided focus on crossovers.

While there were once the Touareg and Tiguan Limited, it wasn’t as though either of them made much of a dent in the ute market. The Touareg was described as being “the people’s premium SUV” and the Tiguan Limited was, well, limited in its appeal. MY 2017 was the final for both of the vehicles in the U.S.

But VW has subsequently come out with a new Tiguan, the Atlas, the Atlas Cross Sport and the soon-to-arrive Taos. And the ID.4 is also positioned in the utility space.

In 2020 VW sold 325,784 vehicles in the U.S. While it is down 10% from 2019, arguably because of the pandemic, even 2019’s 363,322 units was nothing to necessarily celebrate, especially when you consider, for example, that in 2020 Toyota delivered 430,387 RAV4s. In other words, one vehicle sold nearly 105,000 more units than the entire Volkswagen lineup.

Be that as it may, the SUV lineup is fundamental to the success of VW in the U.S. market as it accounted for 58% of all VW sales in the market. The Tiguan is the only model that had 100,000+ sales in the U.S. in 2020.

So on the one hand, VW wants to sell more SUVs. On the other hand, it wants to sell more EVs. And while the ID.4 is an EV SUV, it still presents a bit of an issue for VW in that it is close to the Tiguan in terms of passenger volume, which is a metric that people pay attention to more than, say, slight differences in wheelbase (the ID.4 has a 108.9-inch wheelbase, which is 0.9 inches shorter than the Tiguan).

A man who has to deal with all of these issues is Hein Schafer, Volkswagen of America senior vice president, Product Market and Strategy.

And he explains what the company is doing regarding the ID.4 in the context of the company’s other offerings on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.”

Schafer also gives insights into features of the electric vehicle and why they are the way they are (e.g., when you climb into an ID.4 with the keyfob, you don’t need to push a button to start the vehicle: you engage the gear selector and just go; Schafer says they took that approach to make the vehicle simple to use, recognizing that people unfamiliar with EVs might have a preconceived notion that driving one is akin to an algebra class or science experiment).

Schafer talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, freelance journalist Sebastian Blanco, and me on the show.

Additionally, McElroy, Blanco and I discuss a variety of other subjects, including the focus other OEMs have on luxury EVs rather than something that is more mainstream like the ID.4, whether sales practices are likely to change as a result of the massive increase in on-line shopping for seemingly everything during the past year, and a whole lot more.

You can watch the show by clicking here.

China Sales Compared to U.S.—and They’re Not Done Yet

According to Automotive News, for 2020 there were 14,645,049 light vehicles sold. This is down 14.4% compared with the total number for 2019, 17,104,792. Which is to say that while COVID-19 had an impact on overall sales, it wasn’t as substantial as it had been feared to be.

China, too, was affected by the pandemic. And its sales were affected, as well.

That said, numbers for the first 11 months of 2020 have it, according to LMC Automotive, that there were 21.64 million light vehicles sold in China. About a third more than U.S. sales.

And there is still an additional month to go in the Chinese market.

In November there were 2,710,957 vehicles delivered in China. So if that number was repeated in December, that would be a total of 24.35 million units, or nearly 10 million more than were sold in the U.S.

One thing that is interesting about the China market is that the top-selling brands are probably not what you’d expect.

Volkswagen Lavida–number-one in China. (Image: Volkswagen)

The number-one brand in terms of sales and production is Volkswagen. What’s more, the top-selling vehicle is the Volkswagen Lavida, a Passat-like sedan that is available only in China. The car was the best-selling model in China in 2019, and even the folks at Volkswagen acknowledge, “but hardly anyone in Germany has ever heard of it.”–gsv

Is the Volkswagen Beetle British?

On December 27, 1945, the vehicle known as the Volkswagen Limousine went into production at the VW plant in Wolfsburg, Germany. The vehicle was internally known—and better known—as the “Type 1.”

(Images: Volkswagen)

But here’s an interesting aspect about the production of the vehicle that had been originally developed for the National Socialists (a.k.a., Nazis). The car, then known as the “KdF-Wagen,” wasn’t exactly built in quantity: By the end of World War II, only 630 had been manufactured. The Wolfsburg factory was used to build bombs, not Beetles.

While there had been plans to demolish the Volkwagenwerk GmbH following the end of hostilities, a factory that had been badly damaged but not destroyed, the British, which had trusteeship, decided that they could put the plant to work.

Under the direction of Senior Resident Officer Major Ivan Hirst, the factory was retooled to build the car. The British Military Government put in an order for 20,000 vehicles in August 1945.

Building Beetles (Type 1) in Wolfsburg

By the end of the year, 55 cars were built.

Starting in 1946 the production rate was approximately 1,000 per month. By 1947 the vehicles were being exported.

By the time the VW Beetle went out of production in 2003, 21,529,464 vehicles had been produced (15.8-million in Germany).

Were it not for British major Ivan Hirst, it could have been an entirely different story.