Volkswagen delays Trinity production by two years

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Volkswagen’s planned new factory for Trinity production may not be needed, although production is now tipped to begin in 2028.

Volkswagen’s plans to build a €2 billion (AUD$3.1 billion) factory for its Trinity flagship sedan are currently under review, with a two-year delay to the project meaning the car could be built at an existing plant.

Construction of the new plant in Wolfsburg was planned to begin in spring 2023, having been approved this March by recently ousted CEO Herbert Diess with a view to start building the new premium EV from 2026. The German company targeted a 10-hour build time for each Trinity (to match Tesla’s efficiency at its Gigafactory near Berlin) and production of some 250,000 cars per year at the facility.

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But speaking to Automotive Daily Network partner Autocar at the Los Angeles motor show, new Volkswagen boss Thomas Schäfer said that an internal review of product timelines means there could be space on an existing production line to build the Trinity, negating the need for a new factory.

He explained: “By the time we were planning to bring the car in the middle of 2026, the factory at Wolfsburg – actually four factories – was chock-a-block. To integrate another car almost diagonally into the factory would have been a total disaster. Not possible. So we had to make a plan for another factory close by, run it up, clean up the rest and then reintegrate as much as we can into the old factory.”

But a wide-reaching review of the VW Group’s product roadmap under new management has pushed the Trinity’s launch date back to either 2028 or 2029, Schäfer said, by which point demand for the brand’s combustion models would have reduced to the point that the Trinity could be built on one of their lines.

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“We’re not 100 per cent sure what comes when,” he said. “But what we know is that everything slides a bit back by, say, two years – on the Trinity side, specifically. That allows us, potentially, to integrate the vehicle into the factory, because by then the ICE volume in the factory will reduce and we won’t have the problem that it’s too full to integrate another car.”

He stopped short of naming an existing factory that could be repurposed for Trinity production, adding that his team does not know “100 per cent” whether this will be the case, and that considerations must be made for the timelines of sibling brands Audi, Porsche, Seat and Skoda. But he did emphasise that, ultimately, “Trinity will come as a car”.

Schäfer was speaking to Autocar after an official statement, quoting him and VW Group CEO Oliver Blume, was released in response to a report from German trade publication Manager Magazin, which claimed the new Wolfsburg plant’s activation was being delayed from 2026 to 2030, amid wider plans to restructure the Group.

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“We’re currently taking the opportunity to look at all projects and investments and their viability,” said Blume and Schäfer.

The company will clarify its software and development plan in the coming weeks, as incumbent Blume adjusts the Group’s roadmap in his first months as CEO and Schäfer seeks to rectify the well-publicised software issues that have plagued the Volkswagen brand’s recent products.

Once the plans are solidified, Volkswagen says it will develop model-specific strategies with a product cycle for each, assigning factories as appropriate.

“It’s still too early to make concrete statements on further planning,” the statement followed. “But one thing is clear: we aren’t leaving anyone out in the cold. On the contrary, we’re all agreed that our new roadmap will be more robust and resilient, with better products that embody the core of our brands in terms of design, quality and technology.

“In Wolfsburg, we want to and will lead the way in demonstrating how the necessary transformation can be achieved with benefits for all concerned.”

It’s unclear whether the review of the new factory’s status will affect the Trinity’s development cycle. Currently, it’s due to arrive in dealerships in 2026, badged as the Volkswagen ID 4 (as a twin to the existing SUV of the same name), riding atop the company’s next-generation SSP architecture.

However, the recent closure of Ford and Volkswagen-backed autonomous technology start-up Argo AI – from which learnings were almost certainly going to be used to develop the Trinity’s Level 4 autonomous functionality – is likely to have an impact.

Volkswagen has since partnered with Mobileye, the assisted driving division of computing giant Intel, to develop advanced driver-assistance and self-driving technologies.

Charlie Martin and Mark Tisshaw

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