VW cuts back on partying and focuses on tech in Geneva

No longer a party, Volkswagen’s Geneva Auto Show presence is a sign of changing times for the car industry.

Last year’s VW event included celebrity musical guests and a lavish, 1,500 person gala. But in a considerable change of style for the company, this year CEO Johann Jungwirth addressed a small group of 150 guests about new investments by the massive conglomerate in technology, Bloomberg’s Christoph Rauwald and Naomi Kresge reported:

At this year’s show, presentations of new models such as the Audi Q2 compact SUV and even the Bugatti Chiron took a back seat to Jungwirth’s vision as he outlined plans to set up so-called future centres in Germany, California and China. The facilities will fuse digitalization experts with designers to work on how people interact with their cars. The effort is part of a broader shift to move beyond the traditional automotive business of making and selling cars.

While Jungwirth, who assumed the post just last November, did promise to slash spending on auto show events, the concept he spoke of — about car makers that don’t just make cars — has been echoed by many industry leaders lately.

“We are rapidly becoming both an auto company and a mobility company,” Ford Motor Company’s executive chairman Bill Ford told an audience in Kansas City last month.

And Ford president and CEO Mark Fields echoed that message at an industry conference in Spain a week later.

This comes at a time when General Motors is investing $500 million in ride-sharing company Lyft and electric car company Tesla prepares to reveal new, more affordable models that may change car buying habits.

Volkswagen’s more modest showing in Geneva could also be a calculated move from the scandal-ridden company as it tries to deal with the fallout from its diesel emissions cheating scheme.

Just yesterday, a protester dressed as a mechanic jumped onto the VW stage and tried to install a “cheat box” while marketing chief Juergen Stackmann introduced the new Up! city car.

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