Alex Voigt Image for Use in Alex VoiVW CEO Herbert Diess Talks Tesla & Elon MuskI have been known as a strong critic of the German auto business for a number of years, but the reality is there is always gentle and shadows.

I really have been generally identified as a strong critic of the German auto trade for many years, but the reality is there is at all times gentle and shadows. A “near-death scenario,” like Tesla has experienced greater than once, will be the begin of a wonderful success story, and an excellent success might be the start of the top. We have seen many ups and downs in historical past — over current a long time and within the final century — and within the auto world, the German automotive trade at all times emerged as a winner ultimately.

In an article two years in the past, in 2018, when I expressed my concern about the most important business within the nation I was born in, calling Tesla a real threat, individuals laughed at me and couldn’t imagine that my prediction would ever become actuality. Over the last two years, they stopped laughing and tons of started considering as an alternative. In retrospect, most of my assumptions have even proven to be conservative, and that ought to give us an indication about the future

If one factor is certain, it is that only the fittest will survive. What’s true in nature is true for the auto trade up to now and is true within the time of the huge expertise transformation today. Having a alternative modifications every thing. What has for the final several years been a selection to buy an American electrical vehicle, something most people in Europe dislike even as a thought experiment, will quickly be a Made in Germany EV that has the most effective specifications for the money you should buy at present.

A new era will start in 2021 with the launch of the largest automotive factory in Germany, with a 2 million vehicle output, and the most important battery factory worldwide, with up to 250 GWh production capability. forty,000 staff will work in Berlin in three shifts, and with the help of recent, progressive, and groundbreaking expertise, they’ll produce and ship 100 percent battery electrical autos (BEVs) that can soon drive seven-hundred or 800 km on a single charge, and later 1,000 km.

That new shiny factory does not belong to one of many 5 famous German automakers, but to the US technology company Tesla. BMW, Daimler, Porsche, Audi, and VW will quickly not be the most important automakers in Germany. Let that sink in.

In this article, I will give a short overview of the standing and way forward for the 5 most necessary and proud German automakers, a short take a glance at their strategy shifting forward. Future guarantees made will not be taken as a right, as a end result of past guarantees evidently fell short with all of them. As of today, we should assume that the same will happen sooner or later.

Judge for your self who has the best likelihood to be a winner, to survive and succeed, and who might disappear, merge, or be acquired. The solely factor that seems to be certain is that the lengthy run will look very different from the current.


The Munich automaker has announced a technique to supply all out there drivetrains, serving customers everything they could probably ask for. This consists of inner combustion engine (ICE), plugin hybrid (PHEV), full battery electrical (BEV), and hydrogen gasoline cell (FC) powertrains. The mantra of not deciding on a sure drivetrain as a result of it’s not clear which one will succeed is extensively accepted by German politicians and residents. The strategy of offering prospects a selection of solutions, and thus making sure there’s sturdy demand for BMW autos, sounds significant.

With a measurement of about two million vehicles per 12 months, BMW is proscribed in its ability to put cash into all technologies like a pure participant can do. It splits investments, which leaves less room for innovation, and it creates additional costs too. To address growing production costs, BMW installed a versatile manufacturing platform that permits the corporate to manufacture all drivetrain models on one production line. The strategy of allowing excessive asset utilization with a versatile production construction sounds compelling, nevertheless it has the disadvantage that technology compromises must be made to allow it. BMW BEVs will not have what a pure BEV manufacturer can offer, and costs might be greater.

To turn out to be an progressive know-how leader for all of those drivetrains is not potential if you need to split R&D investment and compromise on design to reduce prices for a versatile, unified production platform. Not to be a expertise chief means you can’t achieve premium prices and margins the BMW organization is used to attaining.

The 7 12 months old BMW i3 was at its time an revolutionary BEV, but the BMW Board of Directors stopped the company from expanding further as a result of the margins had been decrease than for the ICE vehicles they were accustomed to producing, and profits and margins determine board member bonuses. The i3 wanted to improve, and follow-up fashions have been stalled. The costly carbon chassis was by no means supposed for actually massive quantity. As a facet effect, pissed off revolutionary, artistic, and good engineers left BMW, partly founding their very own BEV startups in China or the USA.

With only a decade of significant development in new drivetrains, it’s fair to count on that the longer term will deliver dramatic enhancements that pure players will be in a position to materialize and benefit from the most. At that stage, a expertise shift from BMW to turn into a pure BEV manufacturer could additionally be costly, and with reducing demand for the older and outpaced drivetrains, troublesome to finance.

BMW is exposing itself with its strategy to the competition and may still do properly in the transition section, nevertheless it could pay a excessive price on the longer term for earnings they earn today. Short-term revenue taking could fulfill shareholders proper now, but it isn’t a sustainable strategy for the future.


Daimler is situated in Stuttgart however has a very related technique to BMW — it’s not deciding on a drivetrain expertise but, as a substitute pursuing a versatile strategy creating and selling all obtainable drivetrains relying on demand. Hydrogen investments have been halted lately, however ICE investments are introduced even for 2024, with new engines popping out of the Geely partnership and shareholder in China.

Out of the one hundred seventy,000 employees, 30,000 are announced to be reduce within the coming years, and the excessive debt rate that Daimler shares with BMW and VW pressured the organization to close crops in its trucking unit and cut value in administration too. The technique to concentrate on luxurious autos — be they ICE, hybrid, or BEV — goals to enhance earnings and money move, compromising on whole income and scale effects.

Its shared mobility service supplier has been offered, and a partnership announced just final year to work with BMW to develop autonomous driving autos was canceled. Investments in autonomous automobiles are stopping despite a huge earlier announcement with Bosch. Instead, Daimler goals to develop an in-house operating system for its autos via assist from Nvidia. It is a huge new know-how effort by method of costs and software program that every one German automakers are attempting to accomplish, regardless of missing expertise and required software know-how.

The EQC, the only pure BEV right now, is a clear miss and has disenchanted on all ranges. Delivery numbers are the lowest of all German BEVs, and though prospects might enjoy the design and inside of a true Mercedes-Benz, the mannequin isn’t making a distinction, a transparent fail from an engineering and commercial perspective.

Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Källenius a few weeks ago announced that Daimler will be a a lot smaller company in 5 years, which is according to my earlier prediction that all main German automakers will shrink and concentrate on a profitable area of interest unless they’ll design and produce enough competitive BEVs to develop again.

Daimler is correct now, given its debt and liabilities, and even more importantly its poor outlook with regards to attractive new BEV fashions and compelling battery know-how, in a high danger of shedding management of the group. Mercedes might be silently controlled by shareholders and companions like Geely sooner or later. Geely owns about 10% today and would possibly improve that share soon.


Although Porsche belongs to Volkswagen Group, it’s an impartial unit that may resolve on its future. Major strategic decisions are made independently, and Volkswagen Group and Porsche high managers even disagree on certain aspects of the core business. With a technique that continues to push and develop ICE aand PHEV, and even intends to put cash into eFuels, the model is focusing on its premium phase.

Like the opposite German OEMs, Porsche is taken into account as a high-value model itself that triggers a certain volume of demand just because of its brand value or shiny name. The mantra of the brand has without a doubt guaranteed essential demand levers, but the tendency to overestimate the model value in a world during which BEVs achieve more attraction, acceptance, and market share every year is dangerous for required development — which is urgently needed to compensate for decrease ICE sales. As of now, all German automakers cannibalize their ICE enterprise with every BEV they promote.

The Taycan, as Porsche’s first flagship BEV, has efficiently proven the Porsche DNA could be implemented in a BEV. But the mannequin is pricey even for a Porsche and didn’t reside as a lot as all of its technical guarantees. However, as a first-ever BEV, the engineering team didn’t totally disappoint — despite the fact that many compromises have been made with effectivity, vary, and costs. The car won’t be a future cash cow.

Image by Ryan R. Mitchell, CleanTechnica.

Since Porsche is a popular brand for a purchaser phase that’s prepared to pay more than a mean shopper for a car, the ability to take a position in the future considering the cost-effective partnership with Volkswagen and Audi is a priceless asset. Lower prices are additionally achieved with the PPE platform that, as a premium normal, is a method for high-performance BEVs for Audi as well, whereas Volkswagen is targeted on the medium-and lower-level MEB solution.

Although Porsche has come underneath strain in certain necessary segments already, its customers are loyal. I anticipate them to shrink in volume, while revenue earnings could stay wholesome. That will have a stabilizing impact on the corporate and maintain it in its strategy unbiased from Volkswagen.

Porsche has most likely developed the best German BEV but, and assuming it continues to focus and invest in BEVs, Porsche may establish a brand new area of interest once more.


The Ingolstadt-headquartered premium automaker is like BMW in a buyer phase that attracts Tesla consumers too. Again, ICE, PHEV, and BEVs are on their roadmap, and with that their technique is barely nearer to Volkswagen than to Porsche.

Audi’s first flagship BEV, the e-tron, is built on an ICE platform and has not lived up to advertising promises. With one of many lowest efficiencies and vary levels, Audi did its greatest to attract consumers via the premium interior and design to attract customers and demand. While the e-tron has been closely criticized, it gained extra traction lately in certain markets with high reductions and low cost offers.

Like the Taycan, the e-tron is a first-of-its-kind in its section, and despite all its shortcomings, is is appreciated and liked by a certain shopper section.

Many e-tron variations are being pushed in the marketplace proper now with an accepted monetary loss to seize a market share and tackle the new know-how movement. While the variations get slightly better in certain features of their efficiency, the challenges and shortcomings have been built on an ICE platform remain. To handle this, Audi has started the Artemis project, internally also called project T for Tesla. Its aim is to develop a world-class and main BEV in 2024. To accomplish that, Audi partnered with Porsche and makes use of software program growth capability from Volkswagen.

Audi is beneath pressure to lose additional quantity and income, however has with the etron a primary offering in the marketplace that may help them to bridge the next years. The plan to become a expertise chief again with the Artemis project in 4 years, which is questionable, just because the pace of innovation at Tesla is larger than at Audi.

CEO shrink too, nevertheless it has the model new CEO Duesmann, an innovative and open-minded manager on high that made optimistic decisions already to help the group moving into the longer term. The threat stage stays excessive, however as an important a half of the Volkswagen Group, I expect them to benefit from the fee discount they’ll materialize via VW, a benefit BMW and Daimler wouldn’t have.


Volkswagen is located in Wolfsburg and is part of the multi-brand Volkswagen Group while also being a core model. Having been the most important automaker in 2019, with eleven million items sold, VW has so much to lose with the ongoing transformation into BEVs. VW is the one German automaker that has defined a clear full BEV technique and declared that hydrogen, e-fuels, and even hybrids can’t compete. To transform the massive organization with all its belongings from ICE into BEV is an epic endeavor, and the finish result is unclear.

The technique to build a platform called MEB that offers the capability to construct BEVs on a share manufacturing line for external automakers too is unique and intended to reduce prices. Also, VW has in a massive method invested in battery know-how and is making an attempt to construction and succeed with a software organization of 10,000 workers to build a digitalized car. VW is also trying to use its shopping for power to cut back costs. Its first vegetation at the second are BEV solely, and plenty of extra are deliberate.

While the marketing and PR group did an excellent job creating the impression VW is a significant BEV player, the truth is that VW has equipped former ICE automobiles (eGolf, eUP!) with batteries and sold them. Their specifications have been far below standards, but nonetheless ok for many clients to purchase them. The first real Volkswagen BEV, the ID.three has been sold for simply two months now, and in contrast with the huge PR effort, has so far solely seen low volumes.

Considering that the BEV sales numbers are outpacing BEV sales from international ICE opponents who began earlier is a hit, but those ICE corporations don’t ship compelling BEVs on a big scale both. To be stronger than a weak manufacturer just isn’t a sign of success.

Like is often the case in multi-unit organizations, adding all unbiased manufacturers together (with Audi and Porsche) creates the impression of a large BEV market share from VW, but in reality, they’re as of right now very small in comparability with market-leading Tesla and different worldwide brands.

The US producer is the blueprint VW is attempting to repeat, but the legacy ICE business stays a burden financially and isn’t straightforward to rework into the electric business, the place software program is a key worth of the future. The Volkswagen Group CEO, Herbert Diess, rightfully admires what his peer Elon Musk has achieved at Tesla in just a decade, and uses him as an example to encourage a highly hierarchical, huge, and slow group. In an interview in early November, he confirmed that Tesla’s market capitalization is deserved, which provides us deep insights into where he sees future worth creation within the automotive trade. Volume in items is, in his opinion, not any longer a measure for measurement or value.

Financially, VW has the highest debt of all automakers globally, and adding unfunded pension obligations and different liabilities makes Volkswagen Group susceptible and weak towards exterior influences, challenges, and investors. With a shareholder structure that features the Piech and Porsche families in addition to the federal state of Lower-Saxony in Germany, it’s unlikely that the German government will let a company that is of systemic importance go down. Volkswagen is merely too big to fail. Cash move challenges will probably be mitigated — already right now there are indirect incentives, but in the future there may be even be more direct investments.

Although Volkswagen is in a weak position proper now, its strategy to go absolutely into the BEV business is the right strategy to overcome the bottleneck, and it could emerge with luck as a sound #2 BEV firm globally. That is what I consider CEO Herbert Diess is aiming for, as a result of it’s merely not sensible to turn into #1.

The transformation will probably require VW to shrink in terms of manufacturing units and income — as has been announced from Daimler and is anticipated from Porsche, Audi, and BMW — but if VW can design and manufacture compelling BEVs for low price, for the plenty, it ought to have the opportunity to fall not too far behind.

The 5 well-known German automakers are all in a weak position at present, and we now have not seen anything that provides confidence they’ll succeed sooner or later. Most of their efforts are in entrance of them, not behind, however probably the most worrisome aspect is their short-term profit and shareholder-focused choices that hinders all of them from positioning themselves for a successful future.

The real enemy of the German automakers just isn’t Tesla, but their inability and unwillingness to change.

My issues expressed two years ago not solely remain, however have grown.

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