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Tesla is no stranger to producing electric vehicles rapidly, but it seems Volkswagen is having trouble keeping pace with the EV maker. Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess spoke to a group of workers in Germany earlier this week, hoping to inspire change. What did Diess say during the ominous meeting?

Diess is aiming to get Volkswagen production time down from 30 hours, far off from Tesla’s 10 hour time frame

Herbert Diess, Volkswagen CEO, is still trailing Tesla
Herbert Diess, the Volkswagen CEO, is still trailing Tesla | Carsten Koall/picture alliance via Getty Images

According to a recent Bloomberg article, Diess spoke to a group of workers at a German plant this week. At the nearby Gruenheide factory outside of Berlin, Tesla is currently trucking along and set to achieve the goal of making an electric vehicle in under 10 hours. At this time, Volkswagen’s main Zwickau plant requires 30 hours per vehicle. Diess hopes to reduce that to 20 hours per vehicle by next year.

“I’m often being asked why I keep comparing us with Tesla; I know that it’s annoying some people. But it’s my task and that of the entire management to assess the competition correctly, to prepare the group for it and make it future-proof,” Diess said.

Diess said he was concerned about the Wolfsburg plant, where the meeting was held. “Yes, I’m worried about Wolfsburg. I want that your children and grandchildren can still have a secure job here with us in Wolfsburg.” Diess was supposed to be in the U.S. this week to meet with investors but canceled his trip to meet with union leaders in Germany. He has been working to accelerate Volkswagens plans to transform the factories into facilities capable of handling the switch to electric vehicles.

There has been union drama at both the Wolfsburg and Hanover plants

The Volkswagen Wolfsburg factory has been hit hard by the pandemic and semiconductor chip shortage. Due to this, the factory might only make 400,000 vehicles in the entire year. Diess says he hopes to allocate a second electric vehicle to the factory much sooner than the initially planned 2026. The Trinity project is supposed to start production during that year to compete with Tesla.

“The lack of chips forced VW to slash output at the sprawling Wolfsburg factory that’s about as big as Monaco to the lowest level since the end of the 1950s, when the site was half as big and churned out the iconic Beetle. In a labor pact signed five years ago, VW planned to make at least 820,000 cars in 2020, but it actually produced less than 500,000, according to Cavallo.”

Herbert Diess | Volkswagen AG CEO via Bloomberg

Diess has not been shy about his plans to chase down Tesla, both production time and vehicles. Earlier this year, at Volkswagen’s Power Day, Diess discussed how he planned to follow a similar path to Elon Musk. Volkswagen had an annual investment review planned for this week, but that has been pushed back to Dec. 9 due to the troubles with labor tension.

The Wolfsburg factory and another plant nearby in Hanover have been having issues that needed more immediate addressing. Bloomberg says the Hanover plant is slated to manufacture the new Audi Artemis electric vehicle, which debuted at the Munich car show a few months back.

Volkswagen is chasing Tesla, but still falling behind


What is Volkswagen Power Day and What Does it Have To Do With Tesla?

While Tesla has been focusing heavily on improving build quality and production times, it seems Volkswagen falls further behind with each vehicle. In recent times, VW has been criticized for cost-cutting measures that are obvious in recent releases. However, the group seems further held back by the lack of change from the unions. That’s one area where Tesla is not held back and blows past traditional companies like VW.

However, it is hard to compare a company like Tesla to a company like Volkswagen. While Tesla has achieved significant success in a short amount of time as a company, Volkswagen has been around for much longer. With that comes many more employees and longstanding traditions that might hamper immediate change.

Until Volkswagen can turn things around and produce a more quality product, it is unlikely the company will see significant success. In addition to that, if the unions don’t allow for such change to help production improve, Volkswagen might see things get worse before anything gets better.