Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess was recently asked about his insights on American electric car maker Tesla during an appearance at the Die Welt podcast. The VW boss was candid, stating that Tesla is a pioneer in the electric vehicle market, and it is one that drives Volkswagen in several areas. Despite this, the CEO noted that VW has a thing or two that can be used to catch up to the Silicon Valley-based company.
Tesla had a rough first quarter, driven largely by difficulties in delivering the Model 3 to Europe and Canada. These difficulties, together with several one-time losses, resulted in Tesla posting a $702 million loss for Q1 2019. During the earnings call for the first quarter, Elon Musk admitted that there was some merit in raising capital for the company, and earlier this month, Tesla did just that. Tesla ultimately raised $2.7 billion from its funding round, with CEO Elon Musk purchasing $25 million worth of shares from the offering.
Amidst these headwinds for Tesla, VW CEO Herbert Diess noted that he hopes the American carmaker will survive. “I hope that Tesla survives because it is, of course, an incentive and an impulse for us,” he said. He later added that while Tesla has established a lead in the electric vehicle market, this headstart was “certainly not unassailable.” Diess explained that as a “small, focused company,” Tesla has certain advantages, particularly when it comes to its battery and its autonomous driving technologies.
Nevertheless, Diess stated that Volkswagen has several strengths of its own that can be utilized to compete against Tesla. These strengths, according to the CEO, will allow Volkswagen to potentially overcome the younger American company and become the leader in electric vehicles. “We are big, we are global, and we also have advantages in scaling, starting up factories, and rolling out the business. This will be our chance in the next few years. We will win,” Diess said.
The CEO later admitted that Volkswagen is aiming to achieve the Paris climate goals by 2050. Diess also added that he personally does not see an alternative to electrification in the next ten years. Speaking about fuel cell vehicles, Diess argued that it would take “two to three times as many windmills and solar modules” to make the technology work.
Volkswagen has shown a notable amount of interest in Tesla in the past. Back when Elon Musk was attempting to take Tesla private, Volkswagen AG was among the companies willing to help raise $30 billion for the privatization deal. Earlier this year, Volkswagen also recognized the Tesla Model 3 at the National Automobile Dealers Association in the US. During the event, Scott Keogh, the chief executive officer of Volkswagen AG’s US unit, argued that Tesla all but proved that electric vehicles are here to stay. “We have not seen in the history of the auto business, a company going from zero to fourth place in luxury in a matter of a few years,” the exec said, referencing Tesla’s rapid rise among automakers over the years.