Herbert Diess, CEO of German automaker Volkswagen, has reportedly warned that the company risks 30,000 jobs if it delays transitioning to electric vehicles.
According to “two sources with knowledge of the matter” who spoke to news agency Reuters this week, Diess warned a supervisory board meeting in September that Volkswagen could lose 30,000 jobs if it is too slow to transition to electric vehicles.
Diess pointed to competition from new entrants in Germany’s market such as Tesla as cause to speed up Volkswagen’s own transition.
Tesla is reportedy set to produce 500,000 cars a year in Germany with 12,000 employees. In comparison, Volkswagen’s 25,000 employees are only able to produce around 700,000 cars at its Wolfsburg plant.
Reuters confirmed with a Volkswagen spokesperson Diess’ position that the presence of Tesla and other EV companies in Germany increased the speed at which Volkswagen needs to transition to EVs, but denied any specific calculations had been made as to how many jobs could be lost if the company is left behind.
“There is no question that we have to address the competitiveness of our plant in Wolfsburg in view of new market entrants,” said Volkswagen spokesperson Michael Manske, referring specifically to Tesla and new Chinese automakers making inroads into Europe.
“Tesla is setting new standards for productivity and scale in Grunheide,” he added, pointing to a Tesla factory under construction near Berlin which, at peak capacity, will be able to produce between 5,000 and 10,000 cars a week.
“A debate is now underway and there are already many good ideas,” Manske said. “There are no concrete scenarios.”
Reflecting something of the differing opinions currently in play across the automotive world, a spokesperson for Volkswagen’s workers’ council reportedly told Reuters that while they would not comment on whether Diess made the remarks, “a reduction of 30,000 jobs is absurd and baseless”.
Further, another union spokesperson from the German region of Lower-Saxony, which is Volkswagen’s second-largest shareholder, told Reuters that such cuts were “out of the question”.
And, no doubt, the threat of 30,000 job losses would be “out of the question” which is, presumably, why Diess – who has made his name as Volkswagen CEO by committing his company to a speedy electric vehicle transition – potentially made the comments in the first place.