Crowded halls filled with an international audience and thick throngs gathered in front of the podiums for the world premieres: What was part of any auto show prior to Corona has been taboo ever since the pandemic began. Volkswagen has therefore developed new formats that enable virtual car experiences. It is one of many examples that show how Volkswagen is becoming a more digital and sustainable company.

Jasmin Murr, project coordinator within Volkswagen Experience Marketing, still remembers the improvised kick-off just under a year ago. “The Geneva Motor Show was just around the corner, and the exhibition constructors were almost ready. Then came the cancellation – and we needed a replacement as quickly as possible.” The world premieres of new models such as the Golf GTI, Golf GTD and Golf GTE were on the agenda and now had to be staged differently.

A virtual solution was created within four weeks. The initial advantage: digital images of the new cars were already available. Animations had also been created for the planning of the exhibition stand. “The ingredients were there. From these, we put together an interesting tour as quickly as possible,” says Murr.

Virtual world premieres: The Golf GTI, Golf GTD and Golf GTE were left waiting for visitors at the Volkswagen stand.

Figures show that the formula was to the liking of the public: Well over 100,000 visitors took part in the digital tour via Volkswagen’s national websites. They were able to view the new cars undisturbed and obtain information at their leisure. For many people, the exhibition only became accessible with the virtual format. “I know of an elderly lady from Ireland who followed an auto show for the first time in her life. For many interested people, it is conceivably easier because they can experience the walkthrough comfortably on their smartphone, on their laptop or from their living room in front of the TV,” says Jasmin Murr.

The digital solution can also be a benefit for climate protection: Traveling by plane from Berlin to Geneva emits around 1.4 metric tons of CO2 from the round trip. The figure is significantly lower for a car trip from Munich to Geneva, at around 180 kilograms, assuming a conventional combustion engine. Not to be beaten, however, is the virtual tour, which only generates around 100 grams of CO2 during one hour of PC streaming.

Information about the digital training platform

Jasmin Murr’s colleagues Christian Böker and Stefan Krilla faced a similar challenge: The market launch of the all-electric ID.3 took place in the middle of the pandemic – and with it the training of more than 12,000 salespeople from all over Europe. The original plan was to hold a central event in Germany with a stay in Munich, test drives, exchanges and training sessions. “During Corona times, of course, this was out of the question. That’s why we set up a digital training platform. There, the sales staff could find out all about the ID.3 and the topic of e-mobility and test their knowledge in a quiz,” says Böker. Real test drives took place locally in the markets, taking into account the respective Covid-19 regulations.

A head start in knowledge: 12,000 salespeople from all over Europe prepared themselves for questions on e-mobility on a digital training platform.

“The survey results showed that the format was very well received. Despite the success, there were also some suggestions for improvements, which we picked up on and implemented directly for the next event, the ID.4

Experience,” says Krilla, the responsible team leader. The improvements included adapting the content for the markets and making user guidance more intuitive.

The format has thus proven itself – and is therefore used for further models. The online solution offers advantages above all in terms of efficiency and flexibility. “Digital training can be started at any time and is completed within just a few hours. A face-to-face event, on the other hand, means at least two days of being away,” says Krilla. The environment also benefits because business trips by car or plane are eliminated.

The best of both worlds

Training experts Martin Tornow and Andreas Büren also agree that digital formats will remain important after Corona. Tornow and Büren expect that in the future there will again be central driving events for sales staff. However, the strengths of the online workshops will continue to be used and expanded.

Jasmin Murr sees it similarly for the trade shows. She says: “I expect that in the future we will present our innovations in parallel on site and in digital formats. In this manner, we will reach even more people. Interested parties have the choice of which offer they use.” When that happens will again depend on Corona. Internally, Experience Marketing has already drawn the consequences from previous experiences: A new structure ensures that the team is also optimally positioned for future events.