Volkswagen Group is restructuring one of its most important design centers to prepare for the rapid move toward autonomous vehicles. The automaker wants designers at its massive facility in Potsdam, Germany, to focus on improving in-car user experience and enhancing the human machine interface in future vehicles.
Since opening more than a decade ago, the Potsdam studio has been responsible for generating ideas that have found their way into numerous production models for VW Group's brands. Now Potsdam's mission has changed and head of VW Group Design Michael Mauer has taken over the facility from VW brand design chief Klaus Bischoff.
VW is investing in the development of a Digital UX (user experience) Design team in Potsdam under the leadership of Ulrike Mueller, a longtime VW Group designer who has worked across many facets within the organization. Mueller will report to Johann Jungwirth, head of the group's recently established digitalization strategy department, who has a direct line to VW Group CEO Matthias Mueller.
While the move will help the VW Group to create more technologically advanced, user-friendly vehicles in the long term, it comes at a cost. Designers at the Potsdam facility will no longer assist their colleagues at VW Group's 12-brand network on production programs. The VW brand is expected to take the hardest hit from the change. "We were working 60 percent for the Volkswagen brand," said Peter Wouda, who is director of design at the newly created Volkswagen Future Center Europe [formerly called Design Center Potsdam], near Berlin. "This has changed dramatically."
The change means that in-house teams at brands such as Audi, Seat, and VW as well as the group's other advanced design studios in California and Beijing will have to take on a heavier workload.