Accelerating the automotive industry into the future

FAW-Volkswagen delivers a seamless modern driving experience
by Rob Spencer
5-minute read

The transformation of the global automotive industry is accelerating, and China has beaten the rest of the world off the line.

China’s auto industry is producing 44% or more of the world’s total electric vehicle (EV) inventory — the largest share of any nation, by far. The country has also rolled out more than 800,000 public charging stations, vastly more than anywhere else. China’s EV producers include domestic companies as well as major international automakers. Multiple startups and even electronics manufacturers are getting in on the game as cars become more digital and more interconnected every day. It’s the dawn of the Internet of Vehicles (IoV).

For FAW-Volkswagen, a joint venture between Volkswagen and FAW, one of China’s largest automotive companies, the goal is to get out in front of the transforming industry by transforming itself. Beyond producing great vehicles, the company wants to deliver an overall customer experience of such quality that it turns first-time customers into lifetime customers.

Toward that goal, FAW-Volkswagen has engaged IBM® Consulting, followed the IBM Garage™ Methodology and implemented IBM Cloud Pak® for Integration to transform its development capabilities and bring together the ecosystem of services involved in today’s driving experience into a seamless, convenient experience for the driver.

Volkswagen electric car charging on a family's driveway

IBM helped FAW-Volkswagen build and train a digital innovation team of

> 150

people to drive a customer-focused transformation

With enhanced customer experiences, the company has registered

> 3

million new users for its VW and Jetta brand apps

We’ve created a compelling customer experience on all touch points powered by digital technologies and data.
Weipeng Jin
Manager of Internet Application Development, Management Services Department, and Head of Chengdu R&D Center, FAW-Volkswagen
Volkswagen electric car charger
Supercomputers on wheels

“The digital transformation of the auto industry is an important pillar of China’s national economy,” explains Weipeng Jin, FAW-Volkswagen’s Manager of Internet Application Development, Management Services Department, and Head of Chengdu R&D Center. “At FAW-Volkswagen, we’re laying a solid foundation to be the country’s leading innovator in electric vehicle production and in the digital automotive business. While making great cars, we also aim to contribute greatly to the national digital economy strategy.”

FAW-Volkswagen is China’s first carmaker built to meet the scale of the Chinese market. At eight manufacturing plants in five cities, it produces Volkswagen and Audi models, and a separate line of vehicles named for VW’s Jetta brand.

So, as demand for EVs skyrockets, the challenge for FAW-Volkswagen is not so much about manufacturing scale.

It’s about software development.

FAW-Volkswagen headquarters
Man charging his Volkswagen

Today’s high-end automobiles contain more than 100 million lines of code. (For comparison, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner contains about 14 million lines of code. The Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator, contains 50 million lines.) And as vehicle technology continues to evolve — offering more control options and media, more functionality through mobile devices, and even self-driving capabilities and IoV connectivity — the amount of software will continue growing exponentially.

FAW-Volkswagen wanted to create seamless integrations between the software and the ecosystem of external services consumed by drivers — such as streaming media, parking, charging and navigation services — and maintain the seamlessness even as the software in every element continues to rapidly evolve.

To make it happen, however, the company needed to extend its development capabilities. “There is a huge difference between software and traditional electronics in terms of research and development methods. Software development focuses on agile iteration and practice, which poses a huge challenge to the R&D organization of traditional car factories,” explains Jin. FAW-Volkswagen aimed to shift the R&D paradigm to focus on cloud-native development and integration.

Transforming the customer experience

To build the internal skills needed to meet its goals, FAW-Volkswagen turned to a trusted partner it has worked with for more than 20 years: IBM Consulting. The IBM team helped FAW-Volkswagen transform not just the skills of the client’s development team, but also the very nature of the team within the company.

This was no mere training workshop. IBM Consulting employed the IBM Garage Methodology — proven practices that guide a company through designing, building and scaling solutions for end-to-end transformation — to help the FAW-Volkswagen R&D Center in Chengdu, China, create and train a 150+ person digital-innovation team in Design Thinking and agile operations, including DevOps practices, to support the organization’s transformation into a more customer-focused enterprise. The process generated innovative ideas and equipped FAW-Volkswagen with the practices, technologies and expertise to rapidly turn those ideas into business value.

For example, the teams identified a deficiency related to the three distinct networking platforms for FAW-Volkswagen’s three major car brands. A lack of scalability and stability across the platforms hindered innovation and delivery of new projects. “Based on this discovery,” says Jin, “we initiated the integration of the three brands and built an advanced, stable and evolvable Internet of Vehicles platform to solve the current dilemma and promote ongoing innovation that can more easily be applied across the brands.”

Volkswagen parked on a beach with a small family on vacation
FAW-Volkswagen factory

On the technology side, FAW-Volkswagen implemented IBM Cloud Pak for Integration, which provides integration patterns that align with the company’s requirements. FAW-Volkswagen uses IBM Cloud Pak for Integration components, as well as the IBM Cloud Pak’s Red Hat® OpenShift® container platform, to develop containerized API-based integrations across two use cases: ecosystem integration and back-end integration.

The ecosystem integration brings the diverse digital service ecosystem into vehicles as well as customers’ mobile devices. This includes integration with partners in streaming media, parking services and, in particular, EV charging services. There are multiple charging network operators in China, some that support alternating current (AC), others that support direct current (DC), with varying charge speeds available. FAW-Volkswagen uses the IBM Cloud Pak’s API gateway to mediate integration and accelerate the onboarding of charging operators. And drivers get a streamlined experience: they see all available charging options, filtered to their vehicles’ requirements, in a single FAW-Volkswagen app.

The back-end integration connects the company’s systems of record to the always-evolving software of all FAW-Volkswagen vehicle models. This includes synchronizing product development and manufacturing processes with agile development of front-end software. For customers, it means a more convenient and seamless experience. For example, a car owner can place a maintenance order to a dealership from the car’s head unit or from a mobile app, or track production progress of a recently ordered car. In each case, the IBM Cloud Pak’s API management component exchanges information via APIs between the customer’s interfaces and back-end systems such as the dealer management system and the manufacturing execution system.

“We use the API management capability in the Cloud Pak for Integration to reduce onboarding time for ecosystem partners from months to weeks,” says Jin. “For back-end integration, we use APIs to simplify access to complex applications, reducing the time to develop solutions that use these systems by 50%.”

Accolades and many, many new customers
Woman getting out of a Volkswagen car

“We’ve created a compelling customer experience on all touch points powered by digital technologies and data,” says Jin.

And customers have noticed. More than three million new users have registered for FAW-Volkswagen’s VW and Jetta brand mobile apps since the company’s development and integration transformation.

From ordering a car to driving it, FAW-Volkswagen has improved the experience.

It became the first mainstream, joint-venture vehicle enterprise to enable online custom vehicle orders. More than just a convenient new feature, “the Order to Delivery project initiated a profound change in our production planning,” explains Jin. “We have moved from an inventory-oriented model to a customer-oriented model. We can grasp users’ preferences and needs, quickly convert them to products and flexibly adjust production to satisfy expectations.”

As an example of its innovations in the driving experience, FAW-Volkswagen won a 2021 Red Dot Brand and Communication Design Award (external link) for its Smart Cockpit Human-Machine Interface (HMI) design.

The company garnered additional accolades for transforming the very nature of its development team from a factory-focused software department to an agile group of innovators. The Chengdu R&D team became the first team within FAW-Volkswagen to gain independent R&D capabilities and won an IDC award for “Best in Future of Digital Innovation” for an intelligent network digital capacity-building project, which included the establishment of an intelligent ecosystem middleware platform. Weipeng Jin was also recognized as the “Rising Star of the Year” in the 2021 IDC China Future Enterprise Awards.

FAW-Volkswagen has changed what the company means to its customers. No longer just a producer of cars, it’s also an innovator of the experience of modern driving. “Moving forward,” says Jin, “the customer experience will continue to be our guiding principle. Using agile development and integration, we will continue to create excellent business and travel services and optimize customers’ driving and riding experiences.”

FAW-Volkswagen logo

About FAW-Volkswagen

Founded in 1991 and jointly managed by First Automotive Group Corporation, Volkswagen AG, Audi AG and Volkswagen (China) Investment Co., Ltd., FAW-VolkswagenExternal Link operates in China and produces Volkswagen and Audi automobiles and a separate line of vehicles named for Volkswagen’s Jetta brand. The company employs more than 40,000 people and produced more than two million vehicles in 2020.

Solution components
FAW-Volkswagen logo

About FAW-Volkswagen

Founded in 1991 and jointly managed by First Automotive Group Corporation, Volkswagen AG, Audi AG and Volkswagen (China) Investment Co., Ltd., FAW-VolkswagenExternal Link operates in China and produces Volkswagen and Audi automobiles and a separate line of vehicles named for Volkswagen’s Jetta brand. The company employs more than 40,000 people and produced more than two million vehicles in 2020.

Solution components