Herbert Diess is officially no longer a Volkswagen employee, effective Wednesday. The seven-year reign as CEO and Chairman of the Board of Management came to somewhat of an abrupt end after Diess and VW decided to part ways at the end of August.
“These were the most rewarding seven years of my career. The future of our industry can be brilliant, but we have to change fast. Volkswagen has already changed tremendously and is well underway,” Diess said. “We have transformed the company that was seen as an autocratic cheat into a global thought leader in clean mobility.”
Diess’s future remains in question, and while retirement is the likely option, there are several routes that he could potentially go, barring any stipulation in his contract that would eliminate the possibility of working for a competitor. While it is a long shot, Diess has three main automakers he would likely benefit from almost immediately, making an impact on several companies as his proven track record speaks for itself.
While I have already been in numerous discussions with various people about this possibility, and even though it seems unlikely, the first company that Diess would benefit is Tesla. Not only does Diess share a friendship with Elon Musk, but he could also benefit Tesla’s European business with additional expertise on the market. VW has performed very well in Europe in terms of EVs, and helping Tesla expand its operations throughout the continent would likely be a huge advantage for the company.
Tesla undoubtedly has a bright future in Europe, but Volkswagen currently holds the EV title there. The AG owned 1/4 of the European plug-in market in 2021, according to CleanTechnica data.
I believe Diess has the track record to be a considerable ally to Toyota. Why? Toyota and VW have a lot of parallels, and Diess would likely navigate through them with considerable success.
Toyota is the world’s largest automotive manufacturer by volume, and it has been for some time. The last time a major automotive manufacturer outproduced Toyota was when GM built nearly 1M cars more than the Japanese company in 2011. Even VW finished ahead of Toyota in terms of production that year, but it has been a masterclass in production ever since.
Volume is not the only way the two companies are somewhat similar. EV development is also somewhat of a parallel. VW has coming out of the Dieselgate crisis and had to make major waves to regain consumer trust. Diess knew this, and pushed incredibly hard for several years to help VW reinvent its reputation as a sustainable company. Toyota really needs the same thing.
Although it isn’t going thru an emissions scandal, Toyota has basically half-committed to EVs, aiming to go toward hydrogen and hybrid vehicles instead. It is not to say that the company hasn’t contributed to sustainability in other ways: the Toyota Prius was a huge step forward in sustainable transport. Evolution needs to continue, however, and it is time for Toyota to really begin developing some high-tech EVs. They’re falling behind, and Diess, with his experience in high-volume companies and sluggish EV plans, is a good fit.
GM would also be a good fit for Diess simply because of his push and determination to transition a company quickly. GM is honestly a company that has so much potential, but it feels like they’re falling just short of the mark in so many areas. The Bolt has plagued GM with bad advertising for several years, the HUMMER EV is having more issues than what were anticipated, and the company’s plans for electrification seem to be one drastic announcement followed by silence and promises that they’ll one day overtake Tesla.
While Tesla dominates the industry now, it will eventually take a few decades for others to catch up, and they likely will. However, Tesla is establishing itself as the leader and it is no secret. It is going to take a long time to figure out the tech and the manufacturing and the supply chain.
GM will likely catch up to Tesla, but it won’t be in the 2020s or 2030s. They’ll all even out, just as the market is now. A lot of car companies do a lot of business, and it’s only a matter of time before other companies begin to figure things out.
GM will absolutely be a true player in the EV industry, and it’s just going to take some time. This is where I feel Diess would be a considerable asset to GM, simply because he emphasized on accelerating VW’s transition to sustainable energy. The goals of 2035 or more were simply not going to work. Things needed to be figured out now, and the goal is to establish yourself as an early player in the disruption of a sector. VW has done that thanks to Diess, GM has announced more (at least to me) but accomplished considerably less.
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