VW ID.3 electric car's software bugs threaten summer launch

Jonathon Ramsey

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Volkswagen's issues with software code continue, according to a report in Germany's Manager Magazin and picked up by Automotive News. In December, Manager explained the VW ID.3's software platform didn't work; nevertheless, the automaker remained committed to its EV production schedule and summer 2020 delivery plans for the electric hatchback. The automaker planned to build and store up to 20,000 ID.3's in parking lots, the cars to get fleshed-out software manually installed by technicians with mobile consoles. The first 10,000 cars were meant to get the proper software downloaded in March. If the newest Manager story is accurate, that won't be happening. The publication cited company engineers as saying "the basic architecture was developed too hastily," so the various modules "often do not understand each other" and suffer dropouts. Meanwhile, up to 50 of the electric hatchbacks roll off the line each day and are taken to storage facilities.

With brand CEO Herbert Diess having said the ID.3 is as important to the company as the Beetle and the Golf, the VW Group has thrown its magnificent resources at the problem. The report says there are more than 10,000 technicians from VW, Audi, Porsche, and outside suppliers addressing the glitches. Board members and development team heads meet twice a day, morning and afternoon, to discuss problems, after which hundreds of test drivers take ID.3 units out every evening to proof fixes. An attendee at the daily briefings claimed test drivers would report up to 300 software bugs every day.

Diess remains publicly committed to the summer launch. Others don't believe that will be possible and suspect a delay of anywhere from three to 12 months. A lengthy production and sales bottleneck over ID.3 software could balloon into more serious problems for other programs and the VW Group's bottom line. The engineers working on the ID.4, due on sale later this year in the vital U.S. and Chinese markets, can't finish their work on time without help from programmers dragooned into rescuing the ID.3.

The VW Group had set its 2020 EV sales targets, including 100,000 ID.3s and 70,000 Audi E-Trons, at the numbers necessary to avoid fines for company-wide CO2 emissions levels. Without any EVs, the VW Group is looking at 10 billion euros in penalties this year. The delay with the ID.3 and the stop-sale on E-Trons over battery supply have lowered forecasts to 80,000 and 40,000, respectively. Even when the E-Tron lines begin running again, Audi and Porsche have been fighting over the same LG Chem battery supply, Porsche apparently winning an internal battle for first dibs.

Diess is said to have the support of the Porsche and Piëch families, so he's supposedly safe for the time being. However, Manager wrote that when the family heads "talked in small groups, they said they were displeased."

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