Herbert Diess is officially no longer a Volkswagen employee, effective Wednesday. The seven-year reign as CEO and chairman of the board came to a somewhat abrupt end after Diess and VW decided to go their separate ways in late August.
“Those were the most rewarding seven years of my career. The future for our industry may be bright, but we need to change quickly. Volkswagen has already changed enormously and is well on its way,” said Diess. “We have transformed the company from being seen as an autocratic cheat into a global thought leader in clean mobility.”
Herbert Diess bids farewell to Volkswagen on his last day as CEO
Diess’ future remains uncertain, and while retirement is the likely option, he could potentially take a number of routes, barring any stipulations in his contract that would rule out the possibility of working for a competitor. Although it’s a long shot, Diess has three major automakers that he would likely benefit from almost immediately, impacting multiple businesses as his proven track record speaks for itself.
Although I have already had many discussions with various people about this possibility, and even if it seems unlikely, the first company that Diess would benefit from is Tesla. Not only does Diess share a friendship with Elon Musk, but he could also benefit Tesla’s European operations with additional market expertise. VW has performed very well in Europe in terms of electric vehicles, and helping Tesla expand its operations across the continent would likely be a huge boon for the company.
Tesla undoubtedly has a bright future in Europe, but Volkswagen currently holds the EV title there. AG held 1/4 of the European plug-in market in 2021, according to Clean Technica The data.
I believe that Diess has the reputation of being a considerable ally of Toyota. Why? Toyota and VW have plenty of parallels, and Diess would likely cross them with considerable success.
Toyota is the world’s largest automaker by volume and has been for some time. The last time a major automaker overtook Toyota was when GM built almost a million more cars than the Japanese company in 2011. Even VW edged out Toyota in terms of production that year, but it has since been a master class in production.
Volume isn’t the only way the two companies are somewhat similar. The development of electric vehicles is also somewhat parallel. VW emerged from the Dieselgate crisis and had to make big waves to regain consumer confidence. Diess knew this and worked incredibly hard for several years to help VW reinvent its reputation as a sustainable company. Toyota really needs the same.
While not an emissions scandal, Toyota has essentially half-committed to electric vehicles, aiming instead to move towards hydrogen and hybrid vehicles. That’s not to say the company hasn’t contributed to sustainability in other ways: the Toyota Prius was a huge step forward in sustainable transportation. The evolution must continue, however, and it’s time for Toyota to really start developing high-tech electric vehicles. They are falling behind and Diess, with his experience in high volume businesses and slow EV plans, is a good fit.
GM would also be a good fit for Diess simply because of its willingness and determination to transition a business quickly. GM is honestly a company with so much potential, but it feels like it just falls short of the mark in so many areas. The Bolt has plagued GM with bad publicity for several years, the HUMMER EV has more problems than expected, and the company’s electrification plans appear to be a drastic announcement followed by silence and promises that they will one day overtake Tesla.
While Tesla now dominates the industry, it will eventually take a few decades for others to catch up, and they likely will. However, Tesla is emerging as the leader and it’s no secret. It will take a long time to understand the technology, manufacturing and supply chain.
GM will likely catch up with Tesla, but it won’t be in the 2020s or 2030s. They will all balance out, just like the market is currently. Lots of automakers are doing a lot of business, and it’s only a matter of time before other companies start to catch on.
GM will absolutely be a real player in the electric vehicle industry, and it will just take time. This is where I think Diess would be a huge asset to GM, simply because he has been focused on accelerating VW’s transition to sustainable energy. Goals of 2035 or more just weren’t going to work. We had to find things now, and the objective is to establish ourselves as an early player in the disruption of a sector. VW did this thanks to Diess, GM announced more (at least for me) but accomplished much less.
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