VW has just announced it has begun building ‘pre-production’ versions of the ID.3: the first of its much anticipated new generation Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) built on the MEB (Modular Electric Platform) architecture.

‘Pre-production versions’, by the way, are the first few hundred (or more) vehicles to be run through the production line to test the equipment and processes, as well as test for build quality.

In the case of Tesla – the company was lambasted over the first few production versions having minor quality issues despite the initial pre-production runs. However, new models from all auto manufacturers are known to have such issues in the first few months to a year after production begins – so it will be interesting to see if:

a) VW builds more pre-production vehicles than usual in an attempt to reduce production run gremlins; and

b) Whether the inevitable few slightly ‘quality suspect’ early VW production versions get as much negative publicity as Tesla received.

Interestingly, VW appears to be well advanced in retooling and scaling up various of their engineering plants to produce most of the new and specialised EV components in-house.

(Unlike GM for instance, who outsourced almost all the electric drive componentry of the Bolt EV. It sped up the development of the Bolt, but GM was heavily criticised by many in and around the auto industry for doing it).

This in-house development strategy by VW is also a deliberate one.

“The shared responsibility for the success of the ID.3 start-up is at the same time a commitment and an incentive for us,” said Thomas Schmall, chair of Volkswagen Group Components.

“We are concentrating on modifying our plants to manufacture new products for electric vehicles. Certain plants are being specialised, and at the same time we are making use of the synergies through the manufacturing of components within the Group.”

By doing more of the design and build work within the group, it would also make the transition to building EVs easier, as there would be less disruption to the VW workforce.

Given that EVs require fewer people to build them through the simplification (or loss) of major parts of the drivetrain (engine, gearbox, exhaust system, fuel system to name a few) – doing more in-house can only help VW in the long-run.

And there will inevitably be some reduction in their workforce – for auto manufacturers who largely outsource their EV development and componentry, the disruption could be severe as large parts of their workforce are laid off.

The VW ID.3 will be the first of the ID series to be released – with the ID.3 to go on sale around mid-2020. VW have plans for it to be followed by around 30 more BEVs by 2025.

Revealed so far are the ID Crozz “crossover” SUV, slated for sometime late in 2020; the ID Vizzon sedan, slated for 2022; and the re-imagined version of the iconic VW combi van – the ID Buzz, expected also around 2022.

Currently, potential European buyers of the ID.3 can place €1000 pre-orders for the ID.3. (Mind-you, with over 15,000 of the first 30,000 allocation being placed in the first week of pre-orders in May this year, it may be a while to wait, considering it is still almost a year before they are rolled out onto showroom floors.)

As for when they may hit our shores – given the level of pre-order overseas, even with VW’s plan to build some 22 million EVs in the next 10 years, it may take a while for VW to bother bringing them to Australia.

This is especially so as our current national policies will effectively allow VW to continue to sell their most polluting vehicles here as they wind-up sales of them in the rest of the world.

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