- Volkswagen’s CEO is facing a vote of confidence from the automaker’s board this week.
- Herbert Diess has reportedly ruffled feathers internally as he pushed for corporate change and more investment in electric vehicles.
- In a new blog post, he outlined how Volkswagen formed ‘Mission T’ to take on Tesla and electrify all its brands.
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Volkswagen has long been vocal about the work it must undertake to catch Tesla’s lead on electric vehicles, and now the effort has a name: Mission T.
That effort began in April, CEO Herbert Diess said in a blog post, and brought together 31 senior executives from three of the storied German automaker’s brands. Together, they began to outline many of Volkswagen’s announcements this year as it doubles down on a shared electric powertrain for many of its brands and a singular software to run them all.
“The answers we found were to grow software capabilities at an even faster rate, and pool software and hardware resources at Audi under the leadership of Markus Duesmann and the Artemis project, a unit outside the existing corporate structures,” Diess said.
By 2025, VW plans to have a fully electric vehicle for each of its brands, including Audi, Bentley, and Porsche. Its flagship ID.4, a mass-market SUV for American consumers, is set to launch in early 2021 (with a slight delay due to the pandemic) as a follow-up to its first all-electric European model.
“At Porsche, I always thought of a vehicle as a comprehensive system. This is a very important point. It is what Tesla does well,” Alexander Hitzinger, who also spent two years at Apple, told Reuters in a separate interview Tuesday.
In electric vehicles, the computer is responsible for more than just infotainment and engine sensors. The car’s operating system must know how to balance power output to a complex system of battery cells, motors, and a cooling system on top of the cabin’s electronics.
“The human-machine interface, the interior design, the exterior design, aerodynamics and the range are all interconnected,” Hitzinger said. “If I modify something on the exterior, it will impact the aerodynamics and the efficiency.”
Diess’ blog post, while largely a summary of themes on which he’s pontificated on for much of the year, comes at a pivotal moment for his career. Volkswagen’s board is meeting Tuesday to decide on a potential contract extension for Diess before his current agreement expires in 2023, Bloomberg reported. Their convening comes after Diess’ pushed for reforms within VW’s corporate structure while also ruffling labor feathers.
“I have brought about a lot of change and achieved positive outcomes throughout my career with my personality – at times confrontational – by highlighting and addressing the problems and action needed directly,” he said.