Tesla CEO Elon Musk shared on Twitter that Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess deserved a lot of credit for helping VW move toward rapid electrification. He added that VW is lucky to have him. This came as a response to Diess’ remarks about Elon Musk in a recent 60 Minutes interview.
Diess deserves a lot of credit for moving VW rapidly towards electrification. They’re lucky to have him.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 21, 2022
When asked by Leslie Stahl how close VW was to Tesla in terms of selling EVs globally, Diess replied,
“We are second worldwide. Tesla is quite ahead currently and they’re growing fast, I have to admit; taking more risks than we can. He’s now building a plant in Berlin. It’s 200 kilometers from our plant and I think it’s very healthy for us.”
Editor’s side note: The claim that Volkswagen is second only to Tesla depends on the numbers you look at. In terms of 100% battery-electric vehicle sales, Volkswagen Group was third last year, trailing both Tesla and SAIC.
Looking at the leading brands in plugin vehicle sales (plugin hybrids as well as full electrics), Volkswagen was fourth, behind Tesla, BYD, and SGMW.
But, if you look at plugin vehicle sales of automotive groups and alliances, you can see that Volkswagen Group landed in second. That includes all plugin vehicles sales from Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, and other Volkswagen Group brands.
Back to 60 Minutes’ reporting and Johnna’s commentary….
Stahl pointed out that Diess received a lot of criticism from his workers for seeing Elon Musk as a benchmark, and Diess agreed with a laugh, adding that they didn’t like it. Diess isn’t shy about acknowledging Tesla and Elon Musk as the leaders of the electric vehicle industry, and that has rubbed some (or many) people in the legacy auto industry wrong, especially proud executives and workers within Volkswagen Group.
In October of 2021, VW included Elon Musk at its meeting of 200 top managers. Diess noted that VW’s strongest competitor thinks that VW will succeed in the transition to electric if the company drives into it with full power. He explained in that meeting that VW needed a new mindset if it was to compete in a world of Teslas, NIOs, and XPengs.
“We need a new mindset at Volkswagen AG to take on the new competition! After three days with 200 top managers from around the world, I am confident: We have everything we need to tackle the challenges. Right strategy, right competencies, right management team. We can do it — but we have to deliver now.
“In the old world, Volkswagen is strong, but there is no guarantee for the new world. It’s a crucial moment for our company. Erin Meyer told us about the impressive and fascinating transformation Netflix went through — inspirational. We are far away from that today, but need to get there: faster decisions, less bureaucracy, more responsibility.”
Despite all of the past hype that VW is coming for Tesla or it and other automakers are making “Tesla killers,” Tesla’s mission is dependent on these automakers mass producing electric vehicles. Tesla has done for the auto industry what no automaker has been able to do — bring an electric vehicle to volume production without going bankrupt. This was a feat that almost killed Tesla, yet enabled Tesla to achieve the success it has today.