The operative word in the title to this story is “speculation.” When we reported last week that Herbert Diess had been fired as CEO of Volkswagen Group and given 30 days to clear out his office, we couldn’t help but wonder if he might receive a warm embrace from Elon Musk and Tesla.
Now, the Economic Times of India is out with a story (unsubstantiated at this point) which says Elon offered Diess a contract to run Tesla back in 2015 before he signed on with Volkswagen. The story is attributed to Business Insider but without a link. A Google search turns up no such story and the Business Insider search function shows only the original story about Diess being dropkicked by the Porsche/Piech family. Interestingly enough, its top story today is about Elon begging Sergei Brin for forgiveness after having an affair with Brin’s wife, a report which Musk hotly denies. The internet is a strange and mysterious place.
ElectricVehicles.com attributes the news to Automotive News Europe, again without a link to the source. A search of that website also finds no such story but does turn up a fascinating account about how the secretive Porsche/Peich clan plotted to stick the knife in Diess while he was in the US to check on progress at the company’s new EV assembly line in Chattanooga. When he arrived back in Germany, the deal was done. Diess was out in a palace coup befitting the fall of Julius Caesar. Shakespeare himself couldn’t have orchestrated it any better.
“The decisive day was July 20, according to people familiar with the deliberations,” confidential sources tell Automotive News Europe. “The top committee of VW’s supervisory board, comprising family representatives, officials from the German state of Lower Saxony and labor leaders, determined that Diess’s time was up. He learned this around lunchtime the next day, still jet-lagged from a visit to the automaker’s SUV factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In the end, Diess’s undoing is a brutal reflection of the challenges facing leaders of industrial behemoths trying to modernize for the digital age.”
“The departure of CEO Herbert Diess should not be a surprise given how marginalized he had become in recent months,” Jefferis auto analyst Philippe Houchois wrote in a report. “The timing is unfortunate and another illustration of dysfunction at VW.”
Does Diess to Tesla Make Sense?
So, what do we know about Diess, Musk, and Tesla? Absolutely nothing. Everyone involved has decided to dummy up and it is unlikely anything would be announced prior to September 1 when Diess officially departs Volkswagen Group.
Over vichyssoise and watercress in the CleanTechnica lunchroom today, media maven Benjamin Schulz offered this opinion. “If Musk would put a good chunk of his tesla shares — ie 50% — into a real charitable foundation dedicated to aggressively spending it on space & renewable energy, in addition to a stable CEO increasing and updating the product line up, this would make the Tesla brand bullet proof for another 3–10 years.”
Here’s one final thought: Diess might find having Musk as his boss would be an even tougher challenge than dealing with the Porsche/Piech clan. But since Tesla is staunchly anti-union, he wouldn’t have to worry about what the worker bees at Tesla think of him.
Some have suggested Diess has all the money he will ever need and should just buy an island somewhere and enjoy life. That is certainly an option that I personally would consider. As soon as we know more, you will know more.