Left: In Berlin, Federal Environmental Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Martin Winterkorn present a concept for the future of mobility: the Golf twinDRIVE. The plug-in hybrid will be put to the test in real-life conditions starting in 2010.
END OF JUNE 2008 Camera teams and photographers are crowded into the Volkswagen’s Group representative office in Berlin. The reason? The future of the automobile is hitting the streets: Federal Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Martin Winterkorn are presenting the Golf twinDRIVE. In the city, the car runs on electricity from the grid, producing zero emissions, while for longer journeys it uses a fuel-efficient combustion engine. The Golf twinDRIVE is part of a trial fleet being used by Volkswagen and the federal government to test the concept of electromobility; a total of seven companies and research institutes are involved in the project. “To achieve environmentally friendly mobility we must become less dependent on oil”, warns Winterkorn, recalling that more than 100 Group models already today emit less than 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer. The future belongs to vehicles such as the new Golf BlueMotion, with CO2 emissions of 99 grams, and the forthcoming Polo BlueMotion with a mere 87 grams of CO2 per kilometer.
AUGUST 2008 The Olympic Games are being held in China, and Volkswagen is in the thick of the action. Winterkorn visits a number of events and is impressed by “people’s unbelievable enthusiasm and the strength of the Olympic ideal”. Above all, though, he’s flying the flag for the Group, at interviews and in countless discussions with politicians and business partners. The Group’s presence is also clearly visible: it is making 5,000 vehicles available to serve athletes and the media, and it is presenting its brands and its vision of sustainable mobility to ten thousands of visitors in and around its pavilion on the Olympic site. “We have pulled out all the stops for the Olympic Games in Beijing”, says Winterkorn. “This is a sensible investment in the future at the world’s largest sporting event, which is seeing an unparalleled media presence.” China was one of the Volkswagen Group’s largest markets in 2008, with more than one million vehicles sold.
NOVEMBER 2008 Swabian-born Martin Winterkorn generally takes a down-to-earth, rational approach – he’s a man who admires scientists such as Isaac Newton or James Watt. But he can also be emotional – where soccer or cars are concerned, for example, or on a day such as November 6 in Berlin, when the Volkswagen Group is awarded four “Golden Steering Wheel” prizes for the best new vehicles in 2008 at the automotive industry summit. “I am extremely proud of what we have achieved with our team”, says Winterkorn, adding that “today, we have the youngest, most environmentally friendly and most attractive range of models in the Group’s history.” The proof of this assertion can be seen on the podium: four out of the five award winners are produced by the Volkswagen Group – the SEAT Ibiza, the Škoda Superb, the Audi Q5 and the new Golf, the winner in the compact class. For Winterkorn, whose first car was a 1962 VW Beetle, the Golf VI is, quite simply, “the hero”. “The new Golf is more comfortable, safer, more fuel-efficient, more environmentally friendly, more attractive to look at, quieter – it’s simply better”, he says. “Customers get more for their money. And, what’s more, the car is ideally suited to the current market situation: in a crisis like this, customers want enduring value.”
Left: The Audi Q5 is presented with the “2008 Golden Steering Wheel”. Rupert Stadler (left), Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, accepts the award. All in all, the Volkswagen Group won four golds.
DECEMBER 2008 Which brings us back to the crisis. It’s not just Winterkorn who mentions it during the award ceremony – it’s also discussed in the round table featuring the CEOs of the major German automakers that follows the prizegiving. And again a few weeks later during Volkswagen’s management meeting at Dresden’s trade fair. In an interview shortly before the end of the year, Martin Winterkorn underscores that the Group is in a strong position and that the Board of Management has long since started focusing on the longer term: his response to the question whether the production plant planned for the USA is now on ice is clear: “Of course we’re going ahead with it. People in the United States will still need cars. And Volkswagen is aiming for profitable growth in North America. This is why our strategy of investing in our future is the right one. We want to be in a strong position when the recession comes to an end.”
SPRING 2009 That explains why there has been an important date in Martin Winterkorn’s diary for some time now: in spring he will visit Chattanooga, Tennessee, to attend the stone-laying ceremony for the new Volkswagen plant. The goal: to be “up there with the leaders” in the United States, the land of the automobile, in the foreseeable future as well.