VW boss Diess: “Our own software, if we want to remain independent”

VW boss Herbert Diess. Photo: VW

VW boss Herbert Diess. Photo: VW

It is currently the big whispering topic on the carpet corridors of VW: Herbert Diess, the CEO of the Wolfsburg-based vehicle group, is very concerned about the future of the long-standing world market leader – and about its sovereignty in the global mobility business. “If we want to keep our independence,” the CEO recently pointed out to his top managers, “we have to be able to develop the software in the car ourselves.” Diess emphasized: “For us, this is the only way that will take us in the long term Success guaranteed. ”And VW’s top strategist on the subject of software was crystal clear:“ This is by far the most important project of this group in the next five, probably ten years ”.

Rumms, that sat. Electromobility will not be at the top of the management agenda at VW in the near future, as is commonly assumed. No longer the claim to develop cars with the narrowest body joints or the widest torque curves. From now on, software is the be-all and end-all. Bits and bytes count. Information technologies are far more important than PS, designs, quantities.

“That was an extremely urgent wake-up call,” reports a participant in the so-called CEO Talk at VW. At the first event of this format in the new year, Herbert Diess connected with his top executives via webcast. Two members of the Group Board of Management newly appointed by the VW Supervisory Board were also involved: Thomas Schmall-von Westerholt, who heads the “Technology” department, and Murat Aksel, who is responsible for all “Purchasing”. Maren Gräf, “Head of Group HR Top Management”, acted as the conférencière.

The VW executives took advantage of the opportunity to bombard the three gentlemen on the board with urgent questions via e-mail and telephone. The costs, which are still far too high compared to some VW rivals, were also an issue, as was the continuing shortage of semiconductors. And Diess’ forecast for the second half of 2021: He estimates that the economy will then “experience an upturn worldwide – if the vaccinations continue to penetrate and the corona situation will hopefully ease”, Diess replied.

However, what really got stuck in the heads of top management – this was the result of conversations between and eye and ear witnesses of the digital VW dialogue format – are Diess’ answers to this complex of questions submitted in writing: “To what extent and under what conditions it makes sense from your point of view to to catch up with the best-in-class competition (currently Tesla) through acquisitions or partnerships with appropriate tech companies in the core area (example: Car.Software Org. and Infotainment)? “

“Best-in-class competition” and the catchy word “Tesla” as well as the VWs residue-insinuating formulation “unlock” – this letter to Diess was really tough. The VW driver gave this back with a corresponding concentration: “We have already made a few acquisitions. But you have to ask the question of ‘make or buy’. “

And then the declaration of war to Tesla, Google, Apple & Co .: “We are not allowed to hand over data sovereignty, the customer interface and ultimately the ‘brain’ of the car to the big tech players.” Tesla boss Elon Musk, who is at the gates Berlin’s building a large factory will be heard with interest.

Another VW executive initially praised the Czech VW volume brand Škoda. With “Next level Škoda”, they have set up a coherent future program. And, under your new CEO Thomas Schäfer, follow the three strategic guidelines “expand, explore, engage” in managing the successful label. Where, so the next question, because the priorities of the VW group were.

Diess then emphasized: “For the group, the transition to a digital mobility company has the highest priority. And: We have to manage change better than others. We have to be faster than the competition in order to remain one of the most important mobility providers with shining brands. At the same time, we must continue to drive decarbonization. “

Speed, speed – that’s what Thomas Schmall-von Westerholt also demands. And less waste. “If we avoid the complexity and duplication of work,” said the Group Board Member for Technology in the webcast, “we can achieve more speed.” Schmall-von Westerholt named “drive and platform” as important pillars of the part he led. And he announced what should set General Motors in the same mood as Toyota, Hyundai, Daimler, BMW or Stellantis: “We want to make the group platform the industry standard in a third-party market.”

But many VW suppliers also have to be prepared for a breath of fresh air, in gusts with hurricane force, from Wolfsburg. “Until now, procurement had more of a service function,” said VW chief buyer Murat Aksel in the internal webcast. “In the automotive industry, the focus is now changing from being a pure service provider to being a designer of change.”

Bosch, Siemens, Continental & Co., take note. In the future, Murat Aksel and his teams will keep a closer eye on VW suppliers internationally: “We get involved as purchasing in the early process phase,” announced the new member of the Group Management Board, “to make our contribution in terms of security of supply, quality and costs To optimize technology and sustainability. “

Diess and Aksel no longer had to mention that each of these individual goals is absolutely indispensable when building up the future core competence software.


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