Steve Hanley wrote an article yesterday titled, “Volkswagen Will Be World’s Largest EV Manufacturer By 2030, Claims New Report.” It was based on a report from an independent analyst who thinks Volkswagen could become the world’s EV top dog within this decade, based on some pretty wild assumptions. Volkswagen’s target is actually to become #1 by 2025, which is even more ambitious. Well, it’s more pessimistic about competitors’ EV sales growth, but similarly ambitious about Volkswagen’s EV sales.
In response to the article, a few commenters pointed out some Volkswagen history that is perhaps worth considering amidst this news. Back in 2010, when there were practically no electric vehicles on the market, Volkswagen planned to become the world’s #1 electric automaker by 2018.
Clearly, that did not happen — not even close.
Those of you who read CleanTechnica voraciously have probably noticed that I’ve become a bit bullish on Volkswagen Group. I see large investments in battery production, battery startups, factory renovations to produce electric vehicles, EV model design and development, and, indeed, EV marketing. That said, I also think this deeper history of missed targets is worth keeping in mind. I think it shows that large automakers are not necessarily as good at achieving their goals or sticking to their plans as we often presume.
Also, I think a bit more nuance is needed with regard to Volkswagen’s history. As I understand it, company leadership was split for many years on whether to electrify quickly or stick to incremental improvements (or fake improvements) in gasoline and diesel vehicle tech. In 2017, I spoke with a top EV exec at Volkswagen Group who indicated the Volkswagen board of directors was still on the fence about which way to go with regards to EV batteries — whether to produce them internally more or stick to buying from suppliers. The way I understood it, the board was split on the general topic of electrification in general — some more bullish, some more bearish urgency — as well as how much vertical integration is best for Volkswagen.
Clearly, we now know that Volkswagen was engaged in massive diesel emissions cheating back in 2010, which led to several top executives and managers resigning and even being indicted and jailed in some cases. I do think that led to those more bullish about electrification taking over the driver’s seat at the corporation. That’s my read on it — perhaps dead wrong, perhaps spot on, perhaps somewhere in the middle.
This is a new era, and the heart and soul of the Volkswagen business has probably shifted. This is not the Volkswagen of 2010.
That said, plans to become the worlds #1 electric car producer by 2025 are ambitious plans. And as Steve Hanley put it, “Elon Musk and Tesla may have something to say about that.” I think Tesla will remain in the lead for a handful of reasons, but the important thing is not actually who’s winning. What’s important is that the auto market electrify as quickly as possible. Volkswagen is in a race with itself. Its electric vehicle business needs to defeat its gasoline and diesel business as soon as possible. Together, Volkswagen and Tesla need to shut down other companies’ gasoline and diesel vehicle production. Society must overcome its own inertia before that inertia drives us all into a gigantic fireplace.
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