As we approach the VW ID 4 debut, details emerge regarding how you'll shop for the new electric SUV.
Interested parties will be able to reserve their spot in line for the upcoming Volkswagen ID4 electric crossover with a $100 deposit when preorders open next month. In a call with journalists today, the automaker detailed its "New Volkswagen Customer Experience," a new online reservation system that aims to streamline the car shopping process.
Online reservations are becoming the new normal for high-profile, high-demand vehicle launches -- just look at all of the hullabaloo surrounding the upcoming Ford Bronco or any vehicle that Tesla has launched in the last decade -- so it's no surprise to see VW adopting the tactic with the ID 4. Formerly known as the ID Crozz concept, it's the first in its ID series of dedicated electric vehicles to arrive in the US. Meanwhile, we've seen more stages of the buying process shifting online, a trend that's only been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.
"With COVID, our dealers have seen very quickly that customers are demanding a new way of working and a new way of interacting with the brand and the business," says Duncan Movassaghi, executive vice president of VW Sales and Marketing. "What we as a brand have looked to do -- and I think that COVID has very much accelerated this for all of us -- is to bring a way of selling to our customers that is in line with how they are operating in the rest of their lives."
For the ID 4, that way of selling will start at the online portal, where buyers will begin researching the vehicle like any other. There will be information about the vehicle -- the "how far, how fast and how much" in the words of Dustin Krause, director of emobility at Volkswagen Group of America -- as well as shopping tools specific to the ID 4. A commute and range estimator, payment estimation tool and a savings calculator that compares cost of operating an electric vehicle to that of an internal combustion engine aim to help prospective buyers figure out if the ID 4 will work for their specific lifestyle.
Once decided, users will be able to configure and reserve their ID 4. VW's Krause says that the EV's available configurations have been streamlined to make building the ID 4 online "more similar to buying a new iPhone than a new car." Expect three trim levels (and a limited 1st Edition model), seven colors and simplified options for powertrain (rear-wheel or all-wheel drive). The specifics of these configurations hasn't been finalized and are subject to change with the production ID 4 unveiling in a few weeks.
Options chosen, the buyer will then reserve their ID 4 with a $100 refundable deposit. At that time, they'll pick their preferred dealership for delivery and will be able to track the status of their order via a "My VW" online portal. Here, they'll be able to change or cancel their order, monitor their estimated delivery date and track every step their ID 4 makes, from leaving the factory to arriving in the US to reaching the dealership for purchase.
At about the halfway point approaching delivery, the customer will be asked to make an additional $400 vehicle deposit to lock in their chosen options for production. VW tells me that the cumulative $500 deposited will be applied to the purchase price and remain refundable throughout the entire preorder process.
Buyers will still have to go to the dealership to finalize the purchase of their ID 4. The New Volkswagen Customer Experience isn't designed to completely replace that part of the process.
"Once we've taken a reservation, all of that detail is there for the dealer and we would certainly want them engaged through the period of preorder with the customer," Movassaghi said. "It's very much about us and our dealers working together to engage the customer and work with them flexibly in the way that they want to."
Prospective owners who'd prefer an in-person experience will still be able to head to their preferred dealer to learn about and reserve their EV with the help of ID 4 specialists at each location. VW also states that as production ramps up, there will be a number of ID 4 examples reserved and arriving at dealerships for customer demonstrations.
"We have some customers, obviously, that still prefer the more traditional car buying experience, but we also see a fast growing population of customers who want to go online, find their car and purchase it with no or very little intervention," said Krause.
When asked how this new web-centric buying paradigm will affect the rest of VW's vehicle sales, Movassaghi said, "I don't see cars like Atlas, Tiguan or any new SUV that has an [internal combustion engine] that we're launching going down this same route as far as preorders, but I do think in terms of online purchase, that's something we're looking to expand out across the model range."
We'll learn more about the Volkswagen ID 4 itself, including specs, final range and pricing when the production electric SUV is officially unveiled next month. Expect online preorders to launch concurrent with the unveiling with the first deliveries estimated to arrive by the end of this year.