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Volkswagen ID3 has ‘massive’ software problems, as company begins year of EV introductions

Germany’s Manager Magazine reports today that Volkswagen is struggling with software problems for its ID3 all-electric car. According to the report, the ID3 will be built for months with an incomplete software architecture that could affect up to 20,000 electric cars. These units, intended for sales in Europe and not the US, will require a manual software update.

The nature of the software problem – how it affects vehicles or the sales timeline – was not disclosed. The magazine reported the issue as “massive.” And unfortunately, the fix is cumbersome. Thousands of ID3 cars will be parked in dedicated rented spaces until the spring when service teams will be deployed with mobile computer stations.

New software will be manually installed in this manner for the first 10,000 or so ID3s. A total of 20,000 ID3 vehicles will need to be reworked until the second wave of production begins in May. At that time, further software updates can be deployed over-the-air.

The ID.3 is the first EV to use Volkswagen’s modular MEB architecture. Production of the ID3 started last month.

Christian Dahlheim, VW sales chief, said that reservations for the first 10,000 ID3 units took just one day to be received after ordering opened in May. The second 10,000 units were reserved over one month, and another 10,000 orders were received by September. He expalined these orders as “mass-market acceptance” resulting from sufficient range and affordability.

The ID3 is offered in different variants, with between about 185 and 300 miles in the generous WLTP cycle. The price in Europe starts at about €30,000 ($33,000).

Volkswagen will launch at least two EVs next year, starting with the ID3 hatchback in Europe (but not the US) and the ID4 (ID Crozz) in the United States.

Meanwhile, more SUVs and hybrids

These EV introductions should be placed in the context of Volkswagen’s broader product mix for 2020, including about 30 new models that have an internal-combustion engine. Like General Motors, VW will fund its shift toward low- and zero-emissions vehicles through increased sales of profitable SUVs.

The company will launch 12 SUVs next year. Brandstaetter said, “We can secure profitability so that we can systematically invest in the electrification and digitization of our products.” According to Automotive News, he was referring to both cost cuts and the increased share of SUVs.

Meanwhile, the brand will also increase its plug-in hybrid offerings. “We will hybridize our portfolio from the Golf through the Tiguan all the way up to the Touareg,” Brandstaetter said.

The company will also launch the Atlas Cross Sport SUV Coupe and several Golf nameplates. “Naturally there will also be some other emotional products as well, such as the T-Roc Cabrio, the Arteon Shooting Brake, and the Tiguan R,” Brandstaetter said.

In an official company statement issued today, VW said it stands by its commitment to the Paris climate goals. It will cut CO2 emissions from its vehicles in half by 2025 and aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

Electrek’s Take

The launch of a new vehicle or platform is always a challenge. But considering how much VW has riding on its upcoming EVs, news about the ID3’s software problem is a blow to the company. When more details become available, we hope that it turns out to be less serious than it sounds and quickly passes. But even a minor bug could undermine consumer confidence in a new car.

What’s most troubling is the possibility of VW delaying, slowing down, or otherwise not delivering on its big EV promises – instead continuing to rely on increased sales of fuel-thirsty SUVs and “emotional” sporty models.

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Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.