(Frankfurt) The boss of the car giant Volkswagen, Herbert Diess, on Thursday urged his employees to prepare for a “revolution”, to allow him to face new competition from Tesla and Chinese manufacturers, which threatens jobs in Germany.
Updated Nov 4, 2021
“I am worried about Wolfsburg”, the group’s main and historic factory, while “unprecedented competition awaits us”, declared Mr. Diess, at the head of the manufacturer since 2018.
One of the reasons: the “impressive productivity” planned at Tesla’s new factory in Germany, which is due to open in the coming months.
“Today is the right time for a revolution at VW,” said Diess, who caused a stir last month by raising the specter of 30,000 job cuts internally.
After strong criticism from the works council, “discussions” are even underway on keeping Mr. Diess in his post, a source close to the supervisory board revealed on Wednesday.
“There is not one person too many here,” launched Thursday Daniela Cavallo, the president of the influential “Betriebsrat” which represents employees, again attacking Mr. Diess, very present on social networks.
“You regularly provide us with nice photos of your travels, but unfortunately still no semiconductors”, she lamented, while the shortage of chips has regularly led to production stoppages for several months in the group’s factories.
The VW brand has produced 27% fewer cars so far this year than expected and “the lack of chips will be with us next year too”, although “supply is improving”, Diess said. .
Volkswagen is investing tens of billions of euros in its electrification and plans to sell 50% of electric vehicles by 2030. The flagship VW brand must stop producing combustion cars between 2033 and 2035 in Europe.
For Mr. Diess, the “revolution for Wolfsburg” in the race with Tesla is the “Trinity” project: a new series of electric and connected cars produced from 2026, which will also entail a vast reorganization of the historic site by 2030 in order, in particular, to reduce production times.
Tesla, “our main competitor”, plans to manufacture a car in 10 hours, noted Mr. Diess, while Volkswagen’s largest electrical factory in Zwickau is currently still spending “more than 30 hours” on a model.
In September, the Model 3 also rose to the top of the best European sales, a first for an electric and the company of Elon Musk, according to the firm Jato Dynamics.
The executive board will present a “2030 vision” for the plant on December 9 at a meeting of the supervisory board devoted to multi-year investment plans.
Mme Cavallo requested that a first electric model be produced in Wolfsburg “long before Trinity”.
“Tesla is the engine (of the transformation), the fact that the world is changing and that nothing can do without the electric car is another,” German automotive expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer told AFP.
But if the American group is “the reference”, “other start-up are coming to our market,” Diess warned.
He says he has “tested several Chinese cars in recent weeks” and “it must be said that they are really not bad. »
“I want your children and grandchildren to still have a job with us in Wolfsburg in 2030,” said the boss, launching “an appeal” to employees to “make Volkswagen fit for the future. »
“It is extremely important for VW to continue this strategy, to transform the factories into purely electric sites and to invest in Cariad”, the unit of the group responsible for coding the software of the future models, judges Mr. Dudenhöffer.
Because beyond the electric, the transition to the connected car is “much more complicated than the transition from combustion engines to electric”, according to Mr. Diess. “It will be above all the software offer that will decide the market share. »