Viewpoint VW boss almost fired

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess is facing hard times. Only narrowly escaping his dismissal and deprived of responsibility for the core brand VW, he now has to prove himself as a problem solver.

A perfect storm is gathering over Volkswagen, the world's largest automobile group. Although an end to the diesel scandal is becoming apparent, the corona crisis has been ravaging the entire automotive industry for months. So it is of little consolation for the car manufacturers that it has affected many industries and that they themselves are not to blame. Unfortunately, there is no realistic end in sight for the Corona crisis. Who knows if it will be the first wave? No automobile manufacturer can escape the corona crisis, not even the Wolfsburg-based group.

In addition, nobody knows at present whether we will have to deal with the same market conditions again after the crisis has been overcome, so that the car manufacturers can continue to bring their vehicles with combustion engines to the people on a large scale. Crises have the potential to transform entire sectors of the economy, like a catalyst. To make matters worse, a crisis typically accelerates the transformation process considerably, even to the point of disruption. So there is little time to react, if at all.

In this environment it is absolutely disastrous if homemade problems are added to the mix. In the case of the main sales driver, the new Golf 8, VW dealers are already talking about the »breakdown Golf« and VW had to issue a delivery stop. One reason is that the electronic emergency call assistant eCall is probably not working properly. But this does not seem to be the only problem: »This extraordinary amount of defects is regrettable«, Dirk Weddigen von Knapp, President of the German Volkswagen and Audi Dealers' Association, told the Handelsblatt. Things are not so much better with the electric bringer of hope ID.3, where, according to Manager Magazin, »there are currently delays because of software problems«.

The mood at Volkswagen seems to be boiling over at the moment and, according to information from NDR in the company newspaper »Mitbestimmen«, works council chairman Bernd Osterloh blamed the management: »Here, over-ambitious board members tried to stuff too much technology into a vehicle too quickly and failed«.The staff is »horrified at how carelessly and weakly the management board set up the whole project long before the start of the project«.  A more scathing judgement about one's own management is hardly possible.

Just how nervous Herbert Diess, who is known for his impatience, has become, is shown by the incredible accusation that the VW supervisory board lacks integrity and that secrets have been leaked. So he had to apologise and hand over the management of the core brand Volkswagen to his former Co-Managing Director Ralf Brandstätter.

Apparently he was still lucky in his misfortune: »VW boss Diess only narrowly escaped expulsion«, reports Der Spiegel (25/2020). But one thing is clear: he is now the head of VW on call.