Herbert Diess, the VW CEO, is preparing to usher in deep cuts to the company’s workforce using the “change or die” mantra as he tries to guide VW out of the dark, deep fraud and criminality that was Dieselgate. In truth, he was part of that history, and now he seeks to re-write it, perhaps positioning himself as a visionary chest-beating leader. Diess is the only individual, it seems, who has the integrity to make right the many wrongs committed by VW. Nevertheless, Volkswagen is in a race to electrify because of the threat posed to its electric car strategy by Tesla. But that threat began 15 years ago while VW was busy finetuning the technology behind the infamous dieslgate defeat device. Next year, Tesla is due to begin vehicle production at its first European gigafactory, not far from Berlin. Tesla has streamlined its production efficiency over the years and can now build cars at pace with build quality matching that of its German rivals.
For example, Tesla can build a single electric car in 10 hours as opposed to the 30 hours per vehicle it takes VW. Volkswagen is streamlining production at its main electric car production facility in Zwickau. Once optimized, it will still take VW an average build time of 20 hours per electric vehicle. However, Diess is committed to pushing VW down the electric car path, but this will lead to a fundamental change in the organization. Change means job losses.
The worldwide chip shortage has seen VW’s vehicle production output fall. Daniela Cavallo, the company’s union representative, has urged Diess to accelerate plans to open a second dedicated electric car production plant at Wolfsburg, sooner rather than later. While Diess is trying to usher in urgent change, he also appears to be stalling the need to usher in change.
This has sparked a tense conflict between the VW CEO and the workers union who actually want the change Diess is being so vocal about.