Volkswagen Auto Group CEO Herbert Diess has led his German car company to be one of the most respected in terms of large entities that have chosen to leave a long and successful past of producing gas-powered vehicles in favor of electrified models. Diess has worked long and hard to dissolve VW’s past mistakes, especially the Dieselgate scandal from several years ago. However, in 2021, VW has left its blemished past behind it and is the most popular electrified brand in Europe, leading companies like Tesla, Peugeot, and Renault in the world’s most robust market for electrified vehicles. Diess is a big part of this accomplishment and has one of the more keen eyes for the industry, self-admittedly behind Elon Musk.
Diess’ thoughts on the EV industry and how 2021 has shaped it to be one of the most difficult and challenging sectors of the year due to semiconductor shortages, along with his plans for Volkswagen’s electrified future and his respect for fellow auto CEO Elon Musk were discussed in a recent interview with CNN’s Anna Stewart who caught up with the VW frontman at the International Motor Show in Munich.
50% of sales electric by 2030
Diess responds to Stewart’s first inquiry, which regards VW’s goal to have 50% of its sales be electric by 2030. “In Europe, we are already leading,” Diess said, which is true based on the most recent figures from EU-EVs.com, showing Volkswagen has a comfortable lead over second-place Tesla by just over 20,000 vehicles. In other markets, Volkswagen is performing well. “Even in the US, we have been in second place for the last months, and in China, we are growing fast. We think we will become the market leader for EVs,” Diess adds.
Volkswagen has absolutely taken on the EV initiative better than 99% of other car companies, making its goals the most believable moving forward. The ID. family of vehicles has performed incredibly well, with Volkswagen offering specific models for specific markets to keep things fresh, exciting, and relevant. The question is, will VW be able to keep up its domination of the European market when Tesla begins production at Giga Berlin later this year?
Global semiconductor shortage
One of the biggest bottlenecks in recent history, the global semiconductor supply shortage, has plagued automakers to scrap basic functions like “push-to-start” features in ICE vehicles. Diess, a usually optimistic person, admits that Volkswagen is still struggling with the shortages, and he is not quite sure when things will get better.
“It has gotten worse already. We expected that we would have relief after the summer break, which didn’t happen because, in Malaysia, we had really quite significant problems with Covid,” Diess added. “Some of our suppliers, the back ends of our suppliers are mostly based in Malaysia, and three plants were hit hard. We think that we will overcome this situation towards the end of the month, and then we should see relief.”
In terms of autonomy, Diess is optimistic about the capabilities of self-driving cars. “We see a much bigger transition for the industry when cars are becoming autonomous because cars will be used differently, used by more people. You can send your children or your grandparents in a car somewhere. Now imagine!” Volkswagen previously claimed it could sell a self-driving system that charged by the hour, and it would be profitable doing it. However, Diess said the business still has a long way to go, and Volkswagen will likely roll out its first fleet in 2024 or 2026. “But it’s now time to invest and to prepare. And that’s what we are doing,” he stated.
Volkswagen vs. Tesla
Diess holds high regard for Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The two are friends and have shared several compliments with each other on several occasions. Musk even took a ride in an ID.3 in Germany with Diess piloting the vehicle, which ignited rumors of a potential collaboration between the two automotive CEOs. Diess still holds the utmost respect for Musk and Tesla, calling the company’s frontman “a brilliant guy” who “makes a difference. He’s changing the world with his ventures.”
Despite the two companies combating to dominate EV sales across the globe, Diess does not see any parallels between VW and Tesla. “We are quite different. He is very focused on Tesla, on his story. I’m running a big traditional company, which we try to prepare for the future. And I think we also require different characters. I like him a lot, but I think we are quite different.”
As for whether Diess was ever offered the CEO job at Tesla, Herbert simply ended with, “I don’t know,” and a slight chuckle.”