Volkswagen AG chief Herbert Diess has never hidden his admiration for Elon Musk, going so far as to call Tesla “our strongest competitor”.

    Now this automotive executive bromance has gone to a new level, with Mr Diess inviting Mr Musk to present to 200 of Volkswagen’s “top managers” at a corporate strategy meet.

    In a LinkedIn post, Mr Diess stated “We need a new mindset at Volkswagen AG to take on the new competition!”, particularly in the context of the company’s path to full electrification.

    The German company calls this its “global electric offensive”, as it seeks to drive memories of false diesel emissions into the rear-view mirror.

    Despite a shortage of semiconductors, Volkswagen AG says it delivered a record 122,100 battery-electric vehicles from July to September, an increase of 109 per cent. Over its most recent quarter, Tesla by contrast claims to have delivered 241,300 battery-electric vehicles.

    “Happy to hear that even our strongest competitor thinks that we will succeed the transition if we drive the transformation with full power,” Mr Diess opined.

    The Bavarian executive cited Tesla’s lead in software as a key advantage, which ties neatly into Mr Diess’s own vision for VW as a “software-driven” mobility provider with its own ecosystem.

    “They [Tesla] handle the chip shortage very well – the reason: they are developing their own software. Within just 2-3 weeks they had a new software which allows to use different chips. Impressive,” he added.

    It’s not the first time the two competing car executives have been aligned. Mr Musk famously labelled hydrogen fuel-cell EVs “fool cells”, a position Mr Diess quickly supported – in a more measured tone.

    The dynamic between the two men is interesting since Tesla positions itself as a kind of antidote to ‘legacy’ auto OEMs, whereas Volkswagen could hardly be more ‘legacy’ if it tried…

    Mike Costello
    Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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