For Volkswagen, the electric ID.3 is more than a new car. It’s a new chapter

The all-electric ID concept Volkswagen introduced during the 2016 Paris Auto Show is well on its way to production. Speaking during a media-only event that Digital Trends attended in Berlin, Volkswagen board member Jürgen Stackmann announced that the showroom-bound version of the design study is called ID.3, and healso  revealed key technical specifications about the hatchback. Volkswagen will launch the model by releasing a limited-edition model named, appropriately, First Edition. About 10,000 examples of the 30,000 cars available were spoken for within 24 hours.

Stackmann explained Volkswagen’s marketing department chose the name 3 for two reasons. First, it signals that the car competes in the compact segment (the third-smallest in the industry). Second, and more importantly, the name clearly positions the ID.3 as the third chapter in Volkswagen’s history. The first was the rear-engined Beetle, which established the foundations the brand is built on today. The second was the original Golf, which propelled the firm into the modern era, and played a significant role in transforming it into the giant it has become. The ID.3 is just as significant: The underlying message is that Volkswagen confidently believes the model will represent a new beginning.

It’s not just a different kind of Volkswagen; it’s a different kind of electric car, according to Stackmann. “Ranges that were too short, charging times that were too long, vehicles that were too expensive, and often unattractive — these were the main reasons why many car customers have decided not to purchase an electric car to date,” he said at a press conference. While Volkswagen isn’t ready to fully reveal the ID.3, Digital Trends checked out a preproduction prototype wrapped in psychedelic camouflage during the Berlin event (pictured below) and noted it hasn’t changed significantly in its transition from a concept to a production model. It’s about the same size as a four-door Golf hatchback, but we were told its interior is much more spacious because its electric powertrain takes up less space than a turbocharged, four-cylinder engine.

While we haven’t seen what it looks like inside yet, we expect a high-tech cabin with a touchscreen-based infotainment system, a driver-configurable digital instrument cluster, navigation software built specifically for electric cars, and a natural voice control system. The ID.3 will receive over-the-air updates when appropriate, and it will be permanently connected to the internet. Digital Trends learned the hatchback will be ready for level-three autonomy, meaning it will drive itself in a traffic jam, but it won’t be 100% autonomous.

Motorists who want to be first in line when ID.3 deliveries begin can send the company a refundable, 1,000-euro deposit by logging onto the prebooking website. This is the first time the company has accepted deposits before releasing a new car. Early adopters will reserve one of 30,000 First Edition models built with a midrange battery pack, and stuffed with a long list of standard equipment, including an augmented reality head-up display. To sweeten the deal, Volkswagen will also throw in a year’s worth of free charging. Pricing hasn’t been finalized, though the car will cost less than 40,000 euros (about $44,000). Stackmann told Digital Trends he expects the 30,000-unit run to be spoken for by September 2019, when the ID.3 is scheduled to make its public debut.

“We want to make the ID.3 a normal car.”

Volkswagen intentionally capped production of the First Edition model at 30,000 units; it’s not interested in one-upping Tesla in the numbers game.

“It’s not about having the biggest numbers on your hands, with a large number of disappointed customers waiting in a queue forever. That’s why we’re limiting the First Edition model to exactly 30,000 cars; there will not be 30,001. It’s available on a first-come, first-served basis,” Stackmann said.

Production of the standard ID.3s priced at under 30,000 euros (approximately $34,000) will begin when the First Edition cars are spoken for. Buyers will be asked to choose from three lithium-ion battery packs that deliver up to 205, 260, and 341 miles of range, respectively. Fast-charging technology will zap any of the battery packs with about 160 miles of range in 30 minutes. Rear-wheel drive will come standard, and Volkswagen might offer an all-wheel-drive model by adding a second electric motor over the front axle. Final specifications will be announced in the coming months.

We’ll see the ID.3 in the metal for the first time during the 2019 Frankfurt Auto Show. Production will begin in late 2019, and the first deliveries are scheduled for the middle of 2020. While the ID.3 will not be sold in the United States, it sheds insight into the hardware, the software, and the technology that will be found in Volkswagen’s subsequent electric cars. Every member of the ID family will notably ride on the same modular platform called MEB. We won’t have to wait long to find out just how flexible the architecture is, and what Volkswagen has in store for it.

The ID.3 is the first of many electric cars Volkswagen will release in the coming years as part of its electrification offensive. We’ve seen a lot of them as concept cars before; the ID Buzz, the ID Vizzion, the ID Roomzz, and the ID Crozz concepts unveiled in recent years were all accurate previews of upcoming production models. Digital Trends learned that every future member of the ID family will follow the naming structure introduced by the ID.3, meaning we’ll see an ID.4, an ID.5, and so on. Stackmann said Volkswagen will move up before moving down — while a model positioned below the ID.3 is possible, it’s not a priority for the firm.

Updated 5-10-2019: Added pre-order number, quote from Stackmann.

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