Volkswagen is extending its Chinese "People's Car Project" indefinitely, as the German carmaker looks at ways to incorporate new ideas from the public into the design of future VW models.
The project, which allows anyone to contribute ideas online, was originally scheduled to run for just a year. But the Chinese Web site - www.zaoche.cn - has attracted 33 million visitors in the 11 months since it was established. These visitors have submitted 119,000 ideas.
"We are no longer just building cars for, but also with customers and at the same time initiating a national dialog which gives us a deep insight into the design preferences, needs and requirements of Chinese customers", said , Luca de Meo, VW director of marketing.
At the Beijing auto show, VW showed three vehicle concepts initiated by users of the online platform: the Hover Car, the Music Car and a new kind of smart key.
The Hover Car is an electric two-seater that floats just above the ground. It would travel along electromagnetic road networks.
Simon Loasby, VW's Chinese design boss, said the concept reflects specific wishes on the part of local car buyers. "The trend is towards safe cars that can easily navigate overcrowded roads and have a personal, emotional and exciting design," he said in a press release.
The Music Car shows a Chinese desire for individual automotive design, VW said. The exterior color of the vehicle changes with the driver's choice of music.
And the 9-millimeter smart key features a touchscreen with information on key vehicle functions. VW said it takes up the trend toward stronger integration of online technologies in cars.
In coming months, VW will also let contributors provide suggestions about the environment. Until now, the online platform allowed them to submit thoughts on design, personalization and connectivity ideas.
The Chinese input will influence Volkswagen's product strategy, but traditional brand characteristics will continue to play a key role in future models.
Said de Meo: "If at some time in the future we are to produce a vehicle from the ”˜People’s Car Project’, it will be a combination of customers’ opinions and brand tradition."