“People can of course use our mobility app or digital virtual assistant to hail a self-driving electric vehicle to drive them conveniently door-to-door.”

Johann Jungwirth, Chief Digital Officer, Volkswagen AG

My vision: Mobility for all, by the push of a button

Innoboard: The trend towards digital transformation affects all industries and departments, but the reactions are different. What does digital transformation mean to Volkswagen?

Johann Jungwirth: For us digital transformation is clearly a huge opportunity across the whole value network, and it is affecting the transformation on all levels, with digital customers, digital products with e.g. shared self-driving vehicles, as well as becoming a digital company. With Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a key exponential enabling technology the next level of transformation is the smart customer, smart products, and becoming a smart enterprise.

You worked for many years in Silicon Valley at Mercedes-Benz and Apple. What are the cultural differences compared to Germany and how do you combine the spirit of both worlds at Volkswagen?

This is very important to me. In Silicon Valley the status quo is continuously questioned, bold visions are acceptable, people take huge risks and failure is an option. We can do the same, and we are doing the same when it comes to digital disruption with the new business and new business models that we are creating and implementing. On the other hand with digital innovation and transformation of the core business it is the right thing to do to preserve the current core business with digital processes and platforms with a focus on highest quality, precision, reliability and perfection in execution.

The Volkswagen Digital:Lab is part of Volkswagen’s approach to take on the challenges posed by the digital transformation of the company. What makes the work in this lab different to traditional R&D? Why is it important?

The agile manifesto is being lived and executed in our Digital:Lab in Berlin and we actually write software and create digital platforms and solutions in-house here. We have Pivotal as a strategic partner, use pair programming and create best-in-class digital solutions. Therefore this is clearly a digital execution entity in comparison with other labs or centers, where the focus is on design, research or advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and data analytics e.g. in our Data:Lab in Munich.

In what way do you rely on external partnerships for digital transformation? How do you integrate these activities with your internal activities at Volkswagen? 

More than ever the right partnerships are crucial for a successful digital transformation. Especially in the fields of Self-Driving System (SDS) as well as mobility solutions development and engineering. In addition to our MOIA mobility services for ride sharing and pooling, we have invested in GETT as partner for ride hailing and integrated this activity well in our new MOIA entity. And we are investing in cities as future partners. In my opinion the competition will be won with the new mobility solutions city by city by city, not market by market, or region by region as in the past.

What is your vision for mobility in the future? What are the major challenges?

My vision is: Mobility for all, by the push of a button. This means that we want to offer mobility for all people around the world, also in Africa and India, and for all humans in the sense of inclusion and accessibility. Mobility also for children, elderly, sick and visually impaired people, really for all. By the push of a button stands for simplicity and the easiness of use. People can of course use our mobility app or digital virtual assistant to hail a self-driving electric vehicle to drive them conveniently door-to-door, or use our Volkswagen OneButton which has GPS, connectivity and a compass, as a small beautiful key fob with maximum convenience. The challenges are in managing and driving the disruption of the automotive industry in three axis, orthogonal to each other and all in parallel in the next three to five years: from combustion engines to electric drive, from us humans as drivers to self-driving automobiles, and from ownership to shared mobility.

About the interviewee:

Johann Jungwirth, also known as JJ, was born 3 May 1973 in Reußmarkt, in Romania. He studied electrical engineering at the University of Cooperative Education Baden-Württemberg until 1997 when he finished with the degree graduated engineer. From 1997 until 2014 he worked in different positions for Daimler-Benz in Germany and America. Following, JJ worked as director for Apple in Silicon Valley for 13 months. In 2015, he was poached by Volkswagen for his newly created position as Chief Digital Officer were he manages the digitalization strategy and the digital transformation.