MUNICH — Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess said autonomous cars, not electric vehicles, were the “real game changer” for the auto industry.
“Autonomous driving is really going to change our industry like nothing else before,” Diess said on Sunday ahead of the official opening of the IAA Munich auto show.
The shift toward electrified cars was “kind of easy” in comparison, Diess said.
“The real game changer is software and autonomous driving,” he added.
Diess is aiming to overtake Tesla and turn VW Group into the world’s largest seller of electric vehicles by 2025.
He is also targeting software services for autonomous cars as a pillar of the automaker’s future business, which is why VW has bought into self-driving software startup Argo AI, which also has Ford as a partner.
VW expects 1.2 trillion euros ($1.43 trillion) of software-enabled sales in the car sector by 2030, accounting for about a quarter of the global mobility market, which is expected to more than double to 5 trillion euros as a result.
“By 2030, about 85 percent of our business is cars, private cars, privately owned, shared rental cars. And about 15 percent of mobility should be shuttles, mobility as a service,” Diess said.
Diess spoke as environmental pressure on the auto sector is ramping up, with the European Commission in July proposing an effective ban on the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars from 2035.
On Friday, Greenpeace and German environmental NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) said they would take legal action against German carmakers, including Volkswagen, if they failed to step up their policies to tackle climate change.
Diess was confronted by Greenpeace activists before entering the venue for VW’s preshow evening for the press on Sunday.
During the event VW unveiled ID Buzz AD1 (Autonomous Driving) test vehicle, a self-driving version of its upcoming ID Buzz electric minivan.
The minivan will soon be tested on the streets of Munich, VW said. A production version will be used in commercial mobility services such as ride-hailing starting in 2025.
Traditional carmakers and tech firms have poured billions of dollars over the past decade to realize the vision of driverless cars, but robotaxis remain elusive due to technical and regulatory hurdles that require continued human presence.