The core brand VW Passenger Cars is reorganising its board departments. According to media reports, the future fields of electromobility and digitalisation are to be combined in the ‘New Mobility’ department – under the leadership of the current board member for development, Thomas Ulbrich.
The German publication Handelsblatt reported on the plans. In his new function, Ulbrich is to take care of both the ID. models and the Trinity project, which is important for VW as a technical flagship. In addition, as the new board member for “New Mobility”, Ulbrich is to ensure close cooperation between the Cariad software division and the development division of the VW passenger car brand, according to the report. Technical Development”, or “TE” for short in Wolfsburg, is to be headed by Kai Grünitz as the board member after Thomas Ulbrich’s change.
The Handelsblatt refers to information from company circles. Volkswagen itself did not want to comment on the report. In addition to the personnel reshuffle in the VW brand board of management as of 1 October, Ulbrich is also to join the supervisory board of Cariad.
In other words, Ulbrich will relinquish responsibility for overall development, including the combustion engine and hybrid models, and concentrate – once again – on the brand’s electric models. Ulbrich was previously VW brand board member for electric mobility, which at the time referred to the development of the first ID. models and their production in Zwickau. When the board came to the conclusion that electromobility was the “new normal”, the special board department was eliminated and integrated into the existing structures for development and production.
Ulbrich, as a recognised eMobility specialist, was to move to China to head Volkswagen Anhui, the joint venture with JAC, according to earlier reports. As it would have been a step backwards in the group hierarchy, Ulbrich reportedly declined, and his departure from the group had already been announced by VW. But then the board of directors and the supervisory board apparently came to an understanding: In January 2021, VW announced that Ulbrich would stay – and become the brand’s chief development officer. ‘New Mobility’ will be the fourth board department that Ulbrich has headed at VW since 2014.
The fact that Ulbrich is now relinquishing responsibility for overall development is not seen as a step backwards, however, but as a vote of confidence, according to the Handelsblatt: Ulbrich, who already saved the more than bumpy start of the ID.3 production, is trusted to steer the future projects, which are so important for the group, in the right direction. Ulbrich has earned a “reputation as a troubleshooter” at Volkswagen, says the business newspaper. “Wherever there are problems, wherever production hangs, wherever the software is again not ready on time – that’s where the 56-year-old car manager steps in,” the article says.
There seems to be enough work. For example, the problems with the Cariad software unit have taken on greater proportions than was known for a long time – even model launches such as the electric Porsche Macan are said to have been postponed due to a lack of finished software. With the development of the unit cell, the comprehensive SSP electric platform and digitalisation including autonomous driving functions, further complex projects are in the pipeline.
These tasks are not only Ulbrich’s responsibility, the engineers of the classic development department are also involved – therefore Ulbrich and his successor Grünitz will cooperate. The two managers will also move into neighbouring offices in TE, according to the report. Grünitz is well acquainted with the MEB: he has been head of development at VW Commercial Vehicles and was responsible there, among other things, for the development of the ID. Buzz.
The report does not say how large the ‘New Mobility’ division will be. It is likely to involve not only development engineers, but an interdisciplinary team that brings together areas such as battery and software, but also development, production, purchasing and controlling.
With reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.
Keyword: Thomas Ulbrich to take over ‘New Mobility’ department at VW