Volkswagen Group's future direction is clear to its CEO, Herbert Diess: The solution is electric mobility. With its program for full-electric cars in all the main market segments, VW aims to comply with increasingly tougher global CO2 emissions regulations and also make a contribution to a greener planet. Diess, 62, talked about this, changes in VW's top management and Tesla's stock market value in an interview with Automobilwoche, a German-language sister publication of Automotive News Europe.
VW is moving toward battery-powered electromobility more resolutely than other long-established automakers. Why?
You have to do it consistently if you want traffic to become CO2-free. If you don't develop combustion and electric vehicles on the same platform, the electric cars will be really good. That's why we decided to develop an independent e-platform.
How many times a month do you doubt that this radical approach may not the right one?
The last time I had doubts was 10 years ago. Since then, the goal and course have been clear. We want to become CO2-free and achieve our fleet emission reduction targets. The answer as to how to achieve this is clear.
Could VW brand soon sell only electric cars in advanced countries and no longer offer combustion engines ?
That's up to the customers and legislators. In various countries there are discussions about when only emissions-free vehicles will be allowed to be sold. Restrictions on the registration of combustion engines or even bans on this drive system will answer the question of what customers will be able to buy in the future.
Why is VW still building plug-in hybrid cars if full-electric vehicles are the future?
Plug-in hybrids are justified and are wrongly criticized so strongly. If you drive the new [plug-in] VW Tiguan, it can do 50 km to 60 km on elecric power. Many Tiguan customers drive 80 percent of their total driving distance with it. Modern plug-in hybrids are a good choice both economically and ecologically. The CO2 balance is nowhere near as negative as is occasionally shown.
There are many countries where combustion engines will continue to be popular for decades. Will VW abandon these markets?
No, we have very good combustion engines and hybrids. And in countries with low car usage, it makes sense to think electric right from the start.
Does it still make sense to build up a network of filling stations there? Solar energy and electric mobility are much more obvious.
The basic principle for the market strategy is that electromobility makes particularly good sense where CO2-free electricity is available.