Volkswagen Taps Crowd to App Your Ride

Once upon a time, cars used to be all about mechanics. Now it’s all about technology–oh, and clever, tech-based marketing. Volkswagen has seized on this fact and is using it as a way of improving its vehicles, hiring talent–oh, and with a bit of positive publicity thrown in for good measure. On May 3, it is launching App My Ride, a competition to improve its in-car infotainment systems.

The German auto firm, whose name means “the people’s car,” useless fact fans, has discovered crowdsourcing in a big way.Clearly, the folk at Volkswagen have been taking a leaf out of Google and Apple’s book–as its chief executive, Dr Johann Fuller, explains. “The customer-oriented culture of the Internet places an enormous power in the hands of the users. Leading organizations are starting to harness this power to develop better solutions and increase their competitiveness.”

(It reads less wonky in German.)

To join the Volkswagen app developers community next week, this is what you’ll need: an idea, graphic design of the UI of your app, and programming ability in either Adobe Flash or Flex. Most innovative app wins up to $18,500-worth of goods (let’s hope that’s not a gross of I Heart VW baseball caps, buttons, and hood ornament medallions), an exclusive trip to take part in the unveiling of a car at a motor fair, and a placement within one of the company’s research centers in either Wolfsburg, Tokyo, Shanghai, or California.

This is a cunning plan indeed by Volkswagen. Cognizant of the fact that the best brains for the job are undoubtedly to be found outside the company–and said brains will probably have a whole host of ideas that they themselves hadn’t even thought of–they’re leaving other car manufacturers on the starting grid.