It’s a video that really needs to be viewed to appreciate just what a landmark moment this is: two major auto bosses sitting in an electric car that represents the start of one’s offensive against the other.
As we reported on Monday, Tesla boss Elon Musk took time out of his quick three day visit to Germany last week to meet with VW boss Herbert Diess, also grabbing the opportunity for a quick test-drive in the upcoming VW ID.3 electric hatch.
The video goes for all of 63 seconds, but its brevity gives an insight into the different approaches of the two auto bosses (and their brands), who also choose vastly different social media channels with which to communicate with the public.
Musk’s digital habitat is firmly centred on Twitter, but Diess chooses the formal business networking site LinkedIn.
It is here that the VW boss shared the video of Musk test-driving the ID.3 (now embedded at the bottom of this article), the new electric vehicle offering that has apparently overcome software issues that plagued it in the first half of 2020.
The video shows a cautious Diess chiding the heavy-footed Musk who is clearly itching to see what the acceleration in the ID.3 is like.
“You know this is a mainstream car, not a race machine,” says Diess in the video, as Musk takes it for a spin around the tarmac at the Braunschweig-Wolfsburg airport.
“I think for a non-sporty car it’s pretty good,” is Musk’s verdict.
The difference between the two bosses – one the purveyor of “folk’s wagons”, and one the pioneer of the first major revolution in transport since the internal combustion engine – is also reflected in their respective challenges.
While Musk’s Tesla struggled with assembly line issues in 2018 as it tackled the immense task of coming of age as a volume auto maker, this has not been Volkswagen’s hurdle.
That instead has been one of grappling with the age of cars as “software on wheels”, which has been spearheaded by Tesla as it dripfeeds updates to its vehicles on the path to autonomy, leaving legacy car makers behind.
The contradictory issues (which Tesla has very evidently since overcome) experienced by both companies has not prompted a partnership though: in his post, Diess confirmed the meeting was not to discuss any kind of deal between the two auto makers.
The ID.3 is no blind move by Volkswagen: it is a deliberate strategy to capture a corner of the electric car market where it knows it already has a foot in the door with the electric Golf.
By first launching an electric hatch, Volkswagen is not anywhere near Model 3 territory.
But its next move, the ID.4 SUV, which is about to start its own march into the age of electric mobility with orders to open in Europe this month, will enter directly into Model Y territory.
And with a European release of the Model Y not yet publicly set – the electric SUV will be a priority once Tesla’s Berlin gigafactory is finished but it is possible some may come from Fremont before then – the ID.4 may pip the Model Y at the post, at least on the European market.
Until then we are content with watching Musk take the ID.3 for a cruise down the air strip, flippantly saying, “What could possibly go wrong?”
Lastly – make sure keep your eye out for the glimpse of the ID.4 at the end of the clip.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.