Electric Vehicles

VW CEO: Tesla Among Our Top Competitors

August 07, 2017, by Jack Roberts

In an interview with VW's Inside magazine, CEO Herbert Diess said Tesla is the company's main competitor today. Photo: Volkswagen
In an interview with VW's Inside magazine, CEO Herbert Diess said Tesla is the company's main competitor today. Photo: Volkswagen

In a sign of changing times, Volkswagen’s CEO has identified his company’s chief competitor today – and it’s not who you think.

VW chief executive Herbert Diess, in an interview published on the automaker’s homepage, said that in the “old world,” the competition was Toyota, Hyundai and French OEMs. In today’s new world, however, he has his eyes firmly fixed on Tesla.

And while he was talking about cars, his points about staying on top of "disruptive" technologies and emerging competitors are revelant to trucks as well. Of course, VW also makes commercial trucks – and has a stake in Navistar International in the U.S.

At first glance, Diess’ concerns seem unfounded: Volkswagen sold over 5 million vehicles last year, while Tesla only sold 83,922. But, Diess said, "Tesla belongs among the competitors which has abilities that we currently do not have. Around half of Tesla's engineers are software experts, while at VW's core brand it is a much lower proportion," Diess said. "Tesla has good electric motors, a fast charging network, autonomous driving technology, internet connectivity, and a new approach toward vehicle distribution.”

The lesson, Diess said, is that VW needs to improve its operations by measuring up against Tesla with the goal of catching up to, and overtaking, the electric vehicle manufacturer.

Diess also noted the emerging importance of connected vehicles in the interview, noting that VW’s new Modular Electrification Toolkit is currently undergoing development across the company’s entire brand offerings. “Our electric vehicles of the future will, just like smartphones, always be online and updatable,” Diess said. “Making a success of this new vehicle architecture is a huge endeavor, one that can secure our future in the new automotive world.”

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