By Erika Clugston
Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess announced recently at a management event that company employees will be asked to switch to clean electric cars with the promise of bonuses and other incentives. While top managers have shown little enthusiasm, Diess is of the opinion that the company cannot ask customers to buy clean cars when employees are still driving diesel.
VW is struggling to meet the new carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions limit set by the EU Commission, as are most carmakers. The new limits take effect in 2020 and require that EU-manufactured models average 95 grams of CO₂ per kilometer. Currently VW models emit 118 grams of CO₂ per kilometer. And Diess himself is under pressure to repair the company’s tattered reputation, having only just taken over for former CEO Matthias Müller this past April.
Clearly VW needs to step up its game, and Diess suggests that managers should be the ones leading the way as role models. New regulations for company cars will come into place in 2019, with the hope that the public will follow suit. If the company is to meet the 2020 emissions target, they need consumers to buy VW’s electric cars. But if even employees are reluctant to drive an EV, why should the rest of us want one?
Current regulations for company cars cater towards employees driving the largest, thirstiest vehicles that can be refueled at company pumps free of charge. This system blatantly disregards environmental impact, but with a current fleet of 20,000 company cars, they should be concerned. Now, plans are in the works to provide premiums to anyone driving an EV, and require employees driving combustion engines to pay. As of 2019, there will be decreased taxes on electric company cars, 0.5% instead of 1%, in an effort to make it more attractive to go electric. Volkswagen may also offer to install chargers in people’s residences as a form of incentive. It’s currently up for debate as to what the new regulations will be exactly.
Many are unhappy about the prospect of switching. If VW is to truly entice people into driving electric vehicles, it simply needs to provide more exciting options. The prospect of an e-Golf or e-Up are less exciting when compared with something like a Touareg. Of course, something like a Tesla Model X would be truly thrilling, but alas won’t be available.
And while the company is on the offensive, releasing more than 80 new battery-powered models by 2025, including something like 50 pure e-cars and 30 plug-in hybrids, the problem is that employees will be required to switch before most of these are available. The 2020 deadline is fast approaching and Diess doesn’t have much time left to convince his managers to get on board. But perhaps VW management — many of whom could well be implicated in the company’s criminal wrongdoings — should settle for the more humble e-up and simply get over it.
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