Is VW Lying Yet Again? (This Time About Electric Cars)

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Recognising that Tesla is stealing their lunch, VW Group’s head Herbert Diess has bent the truth well beyond a breaking point in claiming that, by 2020, they will produce EVs that match Tesla’s characteristics but at half the price. VW has already recently revealed the real (and fairly sensible) figures on its most affordable 2020 ID Neo EV, so why now are they grossly exaggerating its price and characteristics, or lying about Tesla’s price? They must be getting desperate.

The comments were made on a popular German TV talk show aired by broadcaster ZDF last week. Amongst other things, Diess said (translated):

“Here we come now very strong. … We’ve invested €30 billion in electromobility and we’ve already redeployed a plant in Zwickau … an electric vehicle factory in Shanghai. … In 2020, we will come with vehicles that can do something like Tesla and are cheaper by half!”

The investment and factory claims hold water, and we know the affordable ID series will be built at Zwickau, but the notion that they will produce vehicles with characteristics comparable to Teslas for half the price is nothing more than a bold lie, based on existing statements that VW has already made.

We know what the characteristics of the $35,000 Tesla Model 3 Standard Range will be, and there is little doubt that it will be on the roads in huge numbers by 2020. For VW to produce “something like” it will require an EV with 0–60 acceleration of sub-6 seconds, 220 miles of EPA range (not just 220 miles of range on the unrealistic WLTP rating), with 100–120 kW charging on an extensive charging network, all for $17,500. It’s possible that by 2020, the version of the Model 3 that Tesla sells for $35,000 will have improved on one or two of these basic characteristics, certainly with the supercharger network density, and quite possibly with supercharging speeds also.

A month ago, VW gave what appeared to be more down-to-earth figures for its most affordable 2020 ID Neo EV, which indicated an EPA range of 220 miles, and very decent charging rates, priced around €25,000 (or ~$29,400). That sounds like a good package, but let’s be honest, Herbert, it’s a very long way from $17,500 (half the price of the 220 mile Tesla).

And before you ask, we know the entry-level Porsche Taycan will be priced around the same point as an “entry-level Panamera” ($87,200) and not nearly match the acceleration and range specs of the Tesla Model S P100D (which, even at a hefty $135,000, is still way less than twice the price).

Diess was supposedly appointed to the top seat at VW precisely because he was fresh blood and not overly tainted by the diesel emissions cheating scandal. But perhaps he has already been infected by an ongoing culture of cheating at the biggest German automaker? Whilst all folks concerned with cleaning up our transport emissions should welcome VW’s 2020 arrival at the EV party with decent production volume, it’s a disappointment that VW seems to be once again resorting to dishonest tactics to make its products appear to be more competitive than they really are.

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Dr. Maximilian Holland

Max is an anthropologist, social theorist and international political economist, trying to ask questions and encourage critical thinking. He has lived and worked in Europe and Asia, and is currently based in Barcelona. Find Max's book on social theory, follow Max on twitter @Dr_Maximilian and at, or contact him via LinkedIn.

Dr. Maximilian Holland has 434 posts and counting. See all posts by Dr. Maximilian Holland