WOLFSBURG, Germany — A crane recently lifted away the enormous VW logo that sat like a giant hood ornament atop Volkswagen’s 14-story headquarters in Wolfsburg. Sometime after dark on Monday, a crane will lower an updated one into place.
The corporate face-lift, on one of the world’s most recognizable trademarks, is part of a push by Volkswagen toward a new era of emission-free vehicles. With a new, cleaner logo, the company is eager to turn the page on a diesel emissions scandal that has cost it billions of dollars, damaged its reputation and sent executives to prison. The scandal, in fact, hastened the company’s electric ambitions.
At the Frankfurt International Motor Show on Tuesday, VW will unveil its all-electric ID.3, the first of a planned lineup of affordable, mass-produced electric vehicles. Volkswagen hopes to sell one million a year by 2025. The company’s Porsche unit will also debut its first all-electric vehicle at the show, the Taycan sedan.
“It is hard to overstate how important both these cars are for their respective manufacturers,” Tim Urquhart, an auto industry analyst at IHS Markit, said in a report ahead of the Frankfurt show. “VW needs the ID.3 to present a compelling choice for buyers that would never before have even considered buying an E.V., a true electric people’s car.”
To date, Volkswagen has lagged competitors like Renault, Nissan and General Motors in electric vehicles. But Volkswagen executives argue that the company is now going all in on electric and doing something none of its rivals have been able to achieve: sell a full-featured battery-powered car at a price that can compete with cars that run on fossil fuels.
Instead of a niche product that appeals mostly to wealthy, environmentally conscious buyers, Volkswagen executives said, the ID.3 is meant to be to electric cars what the Beetle was in its postwar heyday, the entree to a previously unattainable form of mobility.
The stakes are high as Volkswagen remains under scrutiny four years after the emissions scandal came to light. Last week, a court-appointed monitor issued an interim report that found no breaches of Volkswagen’s agreements with American officials. But the monitor, Larry Thompson, a former deputy United States attorney general, recommended that the company continue to refine a program that allows employees to report ethical or legal problems without fear of reprisal.
The ID.3, the first Volkswagen-brand car designed from the ground up to run solely on batteries, is an implicit challenge to Tesla and other companies, like Rivian or Dyson, whose backers hope to dislodge the traditional carmakers. Volkswagen is aiming to demonstrate that the future ultimately belongs to companies that know how to profitably produce cars by the millions.