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Helion embarked on a monumental shift, revamping its commercial vehicle fleet to all-electric, culminating in the world's largest handover of Volkswagen ID Buzz Cargo vans to the Swiss solar industry leader at the Attisholz site in Switzerland.

"We are delighted that Helion is committed to the ID. Buzz Cargo as a service vehicle and will also use self-generated solar power for carbon-neutral operation of its fleet," said Lars Krause, VWCV's Board of Management member, as he passed the keys to the Helionauts alongside representatives from the Swiss importer.

Noah Heynen, Helion's CEO, said: "With the conversion of our commercial vehicle fleet to electric power, we are also driving forward the energy transition within the company."

Heynen emphasized the importance of being ambassadors for their vision and the energy transition, stating, "As of today, around 100 of our technicians from all over Switzerland are on the road electrically."

He highlighted the benefits of electric vehicles, noting, "Electric vehicles are ideally suited for company fleets due to short distances between metropolitan areas and a dense fast charging network."

Heynen outlined the company's proactive approach, mentioning the establishment of an operational support group before the changeover to test the vehicles and address challenges.

"Helion plans to save around 300 tonnes of CO2 per year by switching to an electric fleet," Heynen said. "In addition, customers benefit from even more sustainable solar systems, as Helion technicians are now all on the road with electric commercial vehicles."

Helion invested in charging infrastructure, ensuring smooth day-to-day operations and financing home charging options for Helionauts.

"Together, we are making our contribution to achieving the climate goals and assuming responsibility as a company," Heynen concluded, stressing the long-term goal of halting climate change.

Rising inflation, unstable supply chains and the war in Ukraine all contributed to a challenging year for Volkswagen Nutzfahrzeuge (Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles) according CEO and Chairman of the Board of Management, Carsten Intra. Despite these pressures, however, the German van manufacturer still managed to achieve earnings of more than half a billion euros for the second year in a row.

At the end of the 2022 financial year VW recorded an operating profit of €529m, even though vehicle deliveries dropped slightly. Sales increased to €11.5bn compared to €9.9bn in the previous year thanks to the success of the Volkswagen ID Buzz and Volkswagen ID Buzz Cargo. Although Intra says that sales of pure BEVs are still at a low level, he believes this should rise quickly.

Global vehicle deliveries by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles fell from 359,500 to 328,600 units but crucially their market share improved in some of the most important regions. Its performance in Europe saw a 1.5% increase to almost 13% and according to its own statements, VWCV achieved an improved market share of more than 23% in its home market of Germany.

Although 2022 was the year VW re-entered the pick-up truck segment with the new Ford-manufactured Amarok, based on the Ford Ranger, it was very much a year for EVs, with a total of 7,500 all-electric vehicles delivered to customers – more than twice the number of electric vehicles registered in the previous year. Volkswagen’s electric commercial vehicles are, however, still only making up a fraction of total market sales in Europe at just 2.3% of the overall segment.

Yet, the demand for Volkswagen vans also led to record levels for their order book with nearly 300,000 vehicles on order. The Hanover plant, previously used to produce Volkswagen Amarok pick-ups but now producing the ID Buzz should reach full capacity during this year, producing 900 vehicles a day to help clear the backlog.

VWCV’s return on sales also grew to 4.6% and is forecast to exceed 5% this year, yet cashflow levels have been highlighted as an area for improvement with reserves of just €259m largely due to bottlenecks in transport and deliveries. The target is to increase that number to €500m. Perhaps most notable of all the achievements though, is the reversal of fortunes from the beginning of the pandemic to today.

“If we take the two years 2021 and 2022 together, our combined profit turnaround amounts to around one billion euros,” said Michael Obrowski, Board Member for Finance.

In their annual market briefing, Obrowski said these figures were a solid foundation for profitable growth and are thanks to an increasing trend towards customers choosing higher-end models that have a better profit margin. There was also repeated mention of the company’s pursuit of autonomous driving which is expected to spur further sales and revenues.

In 2023, VWCV will conduct extensive driving tests in Munich of autonomous mobility vehicles with a view to launching autonomous vehicles in series production by 2025.

“We will be presenting the production version of our ID Buzz AD [Autonomous Driving] vehicles to you in 2025. Initially, they will be used at [ride sharing service] MOIA in Hamburg. Other cities in Germany and the USA will follow. Sustainability is not just an agenda item in our programme; it is actually the foundation for everything that we do,” Intra said.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is the leading brand for autonomous driving in the Volkswagen Group and is therefore also responsible for the development of the MaaS (Mobility as a Service) and TaaS (Transport as a Service) business areas.

“We want to actively do our part to contribute towards handing over an intact foundation to future generations for living and working. This is our vision and our responsibility,” Intra added.

Their so-called ‘ESG strategy’ – Environment, Social Responsibility and Governance – forms part of Intra’s priority objectives for 2023 that all contribute to the Grip 2030 corporate strategy, a group objective to sell more than 55% green EVs, and which includes the further electrification of VWCV's vehicle fleet.

Amongst Intra’s targets are ambitious operating results, customer centricity and premium status, BEV transformation as well as sustainability and decarbonisation.  

Product evolution and the partnership with Ford will also play a significant role going forward. The ID Buzz will be launched later this year as a long wheelbase passenger variant, but a larger commercial vehicle won’t be forthcoming and will instead be met with other models.

After the success of the plug-in hybrid Multivan, VWCV will continue to expand its range of powertrains alongside future BEV models with the Volkswagen Caddy being offered as a PHEV. VW says they see a need for private and commercial customers who complete a lot of long distances but want emission-free city driving. As a result, in the future, the electric ranges of the plug-in hybrids will be up to 100km. However, interest in a CNG-powered Caddy appears to have slipped from the agenda.

On the topic of e-fuels – a much debated subject at the time of the annual briefing due to Germany and several other countries’ dissent to the outright ban of combustion fuels – Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is not planning on developing any specific solutions, saying “the development of ICE engines is focusing on the most demanding emission standard, EU7. The developments in different regions are closely monitored. It is our clear objective to offer our customers in each country the respective best marketable emission standard”.

Other markets in the East will be targeted, where in addition to Japan, the ID Buzz is also to be launched in Singapore as well as Turkey and Israel. In total Volkswagen CV products are expected to appear in a further 15 countries.

With new markets, models and powertrains on the horizon, one thing that is for certain is that the e-Crafter successor is not coming anytime soon. Any replacement won’t be due until 2027, when it will likely be based on Ford’s E-Transit as the relationship with its new alliance partner develops.

The next chapter of their joint co-operation will be for the replacement of the Volkswagen Transporter T6.1 which will see order books for the Volkswagen-made van close from mid-2024 due to the enormous demand and the resulting high order backlog. New versions, however, have been confirmed to have diesel, plug-in hybrid and pure electric van drivetrains.

The ID Buzz is bringing enviable levels of success to Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and much of the future outlook for the firm rests on the development of the model and its connected systems. The strategy of how VWCV grows into new and emerging transport sectors is being laid out here and now, and with revenues and increasing returns the path to their 2030 objectives looks promising.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles' ID. Buzz and new Amarok models have both received top marks for safety from European testing organisation Euro NCAP.

Both models were rated as 'Very good' and given the top ranking of '5 Stars' for vehicle safety.

The Volkswagen ID Buzz electric MPV achieved an outstanding overall score for collision and occupant protection, with 92% of the maximum possible ratings points for occupant protection. There is also a commercial vehicle variant of the ID Buzz but the Volkswagen ID Buzz Cargo is not subjected to the same Euro NCAP safety test, despite being a similar vehicle.

The new Volkswagen Amarok pick-up truck achieved a similarly high scores in the crash tests. The Amarok's robust vehicle body structure and large number of standard safety assistance and emergency braking systems contributing to the high score. The Amarok is also based on the new Ford Ranger pick-up truck which shares many of its underpinnings with the Ford Ranger Raptor.

Both the ID Buzz and the Amarok also scored highly in the 'Safety Assist' category, achieving 90% (ID. Buzz) and 84% (Amarok) of the possible ranking points.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has also launched a new Augmented Reality experience app to give its customers the chance to virtually explore life-size models of the ID Buzz range. First deliveries of the model reach customers in December last year and the van has gone on to win a host of awards including the prestigious International Van of the Year award.

The all-electric ID Buzz range with MPV and LCV variants is now on sale but with demand expected to be high, the new Volkswagen AR experience might be your best bet at taking a look at the new van before anyone else does. Albeit virtually.

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