Diess: The largest automaker could be Tesla or Apple in ten years – or VW

In a podcast interview with the British business newspaper The Economist, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess answered questions about the further development of electric cars. Unlike other manufacturers such as Jaguar and Ford, he did not want to name a year from which his company will no longer produce combustion models – the circumstances in the individual regions are too different for that. But Diess confirmed that Volkswagen is investing heavily in electrification and its own software based on the Tesla model. And when asked who the world’s largest automaker will be in ten years’ time, he named both Tesla and Volkswagen as candidates.

“VW charging network in USA better than Tesla”

Whether and when combustion engines like in Norway or Great Britain would be banned, each society has to decide for itself, said Diess in the freely available Economist podcast. Regarding Germany, he said in this context that one would have to wait and see what happens here because the last coal-fired power plants should not be switched off until 2037. “There is no point in running electric cars with electricity from fossil fuels,” said the VW CEO.

A statement by Diess met with protest immediately after the interview was published last weekend: Volkswagen (with Electrify America) has built the best infrastructure for fast electric car charging in the USA, from north to south and from the west – to come to the east coast, he said. According to Diess, the network covers the USA better than Tesla’s superchargers. As a Tesla observer then showed on Twitter, the Tesla network in the USA is at least much larger: According to his research, it consists of 11,461 fast columns, while Electrify America only has 2408.


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Regarding the importance of Tesla and his relationship with its CEO, Diess said that he greatly appreciates the activities, dedication and energy of Elon Musk. Tesla is setting a very fast pace, but Volkswagen is trying at least not to lose visual contact. The group is currently investing more and at a faster pace than Tesla. This year will be decisive, because Volkswagen is bringing many new electric cars onto the market and is investing heavily in infrastructure. “So let’s see how big the gap is next year,” said Diess.

Apple as a candidate for the largest manufacturer

Regarding the question of who will be the largest automaker in the world in ten years, Diess has nevertheless become more cautious according to his own account. A year ago he would have said that there was a very high probability that it would be Volkswagen, he explains in the interview. In any case, a mobility company will take this position, Diess said, and “his name could be Tesla if Elon is still interested in cars and is not on his way to Mars”. But Apple is also an option, according to the VW boss, or a combination of an existing car manufacturer with a technology provider. As a last resort, Diess named Volkswagen itself because the company was taking the right steps and knew what would happen.


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