Volkswagen CEO says he wants to ‘zoom in and then overtake’ Tesla

The underside of an ID.3 electric vehicle is assembled at a Volkswagen facility in Dresden, Germany, on January 29, 2021.

Matthias Rietschel | images alliance | fake images

The Volkswagen Group chief executive has dismissed the idea that his company could join forces with Tesla, telling CNBC that the German auto giant was looking to go its own way.

Speaking to “Squawk Box Europe” on Tuesday, Herbert Diess was asked whether he would rule out any future deals with Elon Musk’s electric car maker, in which VW could build its cars, or whether the Tesla and VW brands would join forces. ever.

“No, we haven’t considered (that), we’re going our own way,” he replied. “We want to get closer and then overtake.”

“We think we can, we need our own software stack, our own technology,” he added. “And also, I think Tesla, or Elon, is thinking a lot … (about) his way forward. So no, there are no conversations between me and Elon Musk regarding joining forces.”

The shift in focus to electric vehicles comes at a time when authorities around the world are seeking to increase the number of low- and zero-emission vehicles on their roads in an attempt to tackle air pollution and move away from the combustion engine. internal.

The UK, for example, has announced plans to stop selling new diesel and petrol (petrol) cars and vans from 2030. Meanwhile, the European Commission’s “Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy” wants to see less 30 million zero-emission cars on the roads. by 2030.

It is in this context that VW, and many other major automakers, seek to compete and eventually challenge Elon Musk’s Tesla.

On Monday, VW announced plans to establish six “gigafactories” in Europe by the end of the decade and increase charging infrastructure in Europe, North America and China.

On the battery front, the Wolfsburg-based company will also focus on developing a “new unified cell” to be launched in 2023 and used in up to 80% of the group’s electric vehicles by 2030.

In his interview with CNBC, Diess said that in the next 15 years electric cars would take the lead and software would become the main engine of the auto industry. He also predicted that the cars would become autonomous within the same time frame.

“Managing this change is probably the most important task we face,” he explained. “And we think we are on our way, we are making good progress.”

On the gap between what Tesla and European automakers are doing, and whether it can be bridged, Diess was optimistic as well.

“I think so, because you know, the race is open, this is not the industry that you can conquer in a few years, this is not technology,” he said.

“So you need life cycles, you need product, you need plant capabilities, you need market, you need to earn customer trust,” he added.

“So this is a long term and yes, there are some startups that we are watching closely and Tesla is surely … leading the way in some respects. But we are not that far behind and we are gaining momentum.”


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