Audi explains the changes it is making in its technical development department to cope with the upheaval taking place within the automotive industry.
Changes and developments in automotive technology including alternative powertrains, connectivity, autonomy and safety are creating the biggest shake-up the industry has ever seen. Manufacturers aren’t just having to keep up with the pace of change, they’re having to find ways of creating leadership and looking at completely new way of operating.
In this respect, Audi is no exception and the company’s Chief Transition Architect of the technical development department, Jan Michel, has recently been talking to the press about the changes taking place at his company.
According to Michel, Audi’s work is becoming increasingly complex with the company having moved on to a position of considering the entire mobility system, including charging capabilities, digital networks and the seamless integration of software into its vehicles.
“In the past, we worked towards specific points in time – the start of production, the market launch, the model update. Now our development activities need to be continuous. Our processes, our qualifications and – very importantly – our mindsets need to be aligned with this,” he says.
Michel says that Audi can no longer just focus on individual areas but has to think holistically in order to achieve the goal of only launching electrically powered vehicles from 2026 onwards. The interim period provides the time to create the necessary structures for the future so that the focus can be fully on battery technology and Level 4 autonomous driving from 2026 on.
This has a profound effect on the group Michel manages, which has uprooted its core product development processes and changed its methodology. “The focus now is on systems engineering, which involves completely new processes and working methods, moving away from functional silos that have been the industry standard, especially in the automotive sector, over the past decades,” he says.
These tasks presented to the team are too complex to continue working in functional silos. That’s why Audi has shifted to a matrix style organisation collaborating across all functional areas. This enables the group to move into fields of technology that are far removed from what it’s been involved with before.
The fusion of new vehicle technology with new processes, greater requirements for development, simulation, environmental testing and maintaining the necessary digital thread from design to delivery, Audi is having to focus on a new set of skills, something the company is keen to develop from within the organisation.
“We are currently launching a large number of training measures, for example in the field of autonomous driving. In addition, we are working with universities to offer employees the opportunity to complete a kind of “mini-master’s degree” over a period of six months. In partnership with THI (the Ingolstadt University of Applied Sciences), we are training our employees in subjects such as e-mobility and high-voltage batteries. This allows them to acquire the necessary skills and network with a variety of external experts,” he says.