Troubled Volkswagen infotainment system being overhauled

Amidst ongoing criticism, Volkswagen has vowed to sort-out the software niggles that have wreaked havoc with the current eighth generation Golf and certain ID models since their respective introductions.

Reportedly set to the rectified as part of a mid-life facelift due on the Golf within the next few months, the challenges include not the MIB3 software that caused Volkswagen to delay the Mk 8’s introduction by a few months in 2019, but also the functionality and interface of the infotainment system that has attracted widescale criticism from buyers and the media globally.

“We know what we need to do. We’ve got feedback from customers, we’ve feedback from clinics and from journalists… They say, “You know this is not good. You’ve got to improve this,” Volkswagen Passenger Brand CEO Thomas Schäfer admitted to Britain’s Car Magazine at the recent Los Angles International Auto Show.

Volkswagen confirms infotainment system overhaul
As well as the software errors, the interface has been equally panned from buyers and the media.

According to Schäfer, who last month promised the end of the equally panned touch-sensitive steering wheel controls, a further issue involved the lack of lighting for the physical slider controls for the climate control and audio system integrated into the dashboard below the infotainment system that made adjustments at night almost impossible.

ALSO READ: Software bugs bite new Volkswagen Golf in Europe

Confirming the rollout of the upgrades by at least 2024, Schäfer, who headed Volkswagen South Africa between 2015 and 2020, stated that the user experience of the system itself is currently being scrutinised, adding that the next version will be faster, easier and better compatible with the over-the-air updates that has left many owners fuming.

“The [technical] team puts together mock-ups and we sit down and try them. We can say: ‘This doesn’t really work. Who the hell did this? Next!” If you don’t do that, you can take the wrong decisions,” Schäfer said.

Volkswagen confirms infotainment system overhaul
Infotainment backlash comes after a similar attitude towards the touch-sensitive steering wheel controls.

“We now have regular clinics, much more than we did before. We use random people. If you asked our own employees all the time, they’ll say that it’s great. But they’re biased! You need to take people from all walks of life, including ages. We ask them: ‘Does this work for you? Yes or no?’ You find out how simply people can find functions. I hope we will speed this up and it’ll become like a normal exercise in projects for us.

Hinting at the return of physical switchgear for the so-called 3.0 software, Schäfer said a logical approach will be taken by identifying core functions buyers use the most, before grouping them accordingly followed by the lesser used settings to avoid confusion.

“We say, ‘What are the top 10 functions that customers always need?’ We put them on the first level in hard buttons. Then on the next 20 functions, where do we put them? We put some logic into it. And then keep it the bloody same. Don’t change it around!,” he said.

Volkswagen confirms infotainment system overhaul
A return to physical steering wheel switchgear is currently being worked on.

Admitting that the system had resulted in confusion and ergonomic errors, Schäfer said a loss in brand identity had also taken place amidst several management changes and shake-ups at Wolfsburg in recent years.

“We are asking ourselves: ‘What is the brand identity? And what is the product identity? What do we always have as a feature, and where should it be?’ And then we keep it there and have consistency across the models. There is a little bit of work now to be done but it needs to be done”.

Besides the infotainment system, the mentioned less digitised steering wheel will become available as early as next year with the all-new Tiguan set to be the first recipient.

Expect therefore the changes to be rolled-out in South Africa as well not only on the Golf, but also the Polo that will continue to be assembled locally until 2025 amidst reports of it being dropped internationally after said year.

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