Diess Turning VW Into EV Juggernaut

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Last weekend Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen Group (VAG) and Volkswagen, shocked his managers. At a leadership summit, he proposed to alter the company-car rules. The 20,000 employees who have a company car like the bigger, thirstier, and more expensive models, but shouldn’t they all be driving electric? (For details on the situation at Volkswagen and Diess’ proposal, see “Volkswagen CEO: Volkswagen Managers Need To Drive Electric.”)

In short, at the moment, the better paid employees get a company car as “Benefit in Kind.” The rules are such that they are incentivized to choose the “wrong” cars. But it is important for Volkswagen that the customers switch to low- or zero-emission cars. Diess thinks that it will help if the VW managers themselves drive these cleaner cars. The problem is that VW is not yet making this new generation of clean cars. There are only the e-Up! and the e-Golf, not really cars managers feel attracted to.

With new rules and some incentives to ease the pain of having to drive electric, Diess hopes to get 10% of the company cars powered by a battery in 2019, with more in following years.

What is not very surprising to readers of this site, Diess clearly does not know what he is doing. And the other people around him don’t either.

Volkswagen is a giant company and giant companies are very hard to steer. The biggest oil tankers are as nimble as surfboards compared to giant companies. Carlos Ghosn is a very popular manager of Nissan and Renault, being known as “Mister EV” throughout the companies. After nearly 2 decades, the companies are just starting to alter their course. What are the chances of outsider Diess (who was headhunted from BMW a few years back) steering Volkswagen in a few years from diesel champion to an EV true believer?

He does not know it yet, but very good. What happens to a driver who switches from an internal combustion car to an electric car? Even if it is not a Tesla? That is a question every frequent reader of this site knows the answer to. After a few hours, or a few weeks at most (okay, I know weeks is unlikely, but please, for the sake of argument), the driver becomes an electric car advocate.

How many people switched back from an electric car to a gasser after two or three years driving electric? What happens to Volkswagen when 20,000 of its most important people have an electric car as their daily driver?

There is no stronger argument to convince the most headstrong petrol-head of the superiority of electric cars than driving one daily.

My prediction is that, if Herbert Diess succeeds in getting all those managers and specialists into “Stromer” (German for current, their nickname battery electric vehicles), then the transition to 100% Stromer is just a matter of time.

I have always thought this was the most effective way to turn a giant car company. That VW is doing (trying) it, is great. Other car companies should follow this example.

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Maarten Vinkhuyzen

Grumpy old man. The best thing I did with my life was raising two kids. Only finished primary education, but when you don’t go to school, you have lots of time to read. I switched from accounting to software development and ended my career as system integrator and architect. My 2007 boss got two electric Lotus Elise cars to show policymakers the future direction of energy and transportation. And I have been looking to replace my diesel cars with electric vehicles ever since. At the end of 2019 I succeeded, I replaced my Twingo diesel for a Zoe fully electric.

Maarten Vinkhuyzen has 279 posts and counting. See all posts by Maarten Vinkhuyzen