VW's imperialist enterprise in the media sphere

Dieselgate : and the winner is...

This November, Volkswagen's offensive in the electrical vehicle resulted in an impressive series of announcements and statements by the group's top executives, who seem to want to convince everyone that the inevitable move towards battery-powered electric vehicles is underway and that Volkswagen is the most ready of all manufacturers to lead this change.
There is undoubtedly a "Coué method" dimension here that leads managers, afraid of the risks they take, to want to convince themselves, their teams and customers that the battery-powered EV is the right choice.
Above all, there is obviously a very political will to impose a global standard and to create competitive rules of the game for the automotive industry, which will be all the easier for Volkswagen to respect as they will have been largely designed around its convictions and proposals.
One of the signs of this political work was given when Angela Merkel, at the beginning of the month, honoured the invitation of the group's leaders to attend the launch of the ID3 assemby plant at the Zwickau plant in eastern Saxony.
While the trial in Germany between Volkswagen and its customers affected by cheating on diesel engines began in September, the visit is worth absolution at the same time as endorsement of Herbert Diess' credo, who said on that occasion: "The question is not whether the electric car will win, but how fast this transition will take place in the various markets".
The Chancellor expressed her conviction that: "This will mark a paradigm shift in mobility that has never been seen in the history of the automobile." She then stated that Germany would make "great efforts" to encourage the country to switch to electric cars. And, in fact, she said that the German government wanted one million electric and hydrogen charging stations to be installed by 2030 and that, to achieve this, a new investment of €3 billion by 2023 is planned.
Obviously, the complicity between the German automotive industry and VW in particular, which had been notoriously weakened by dieselgate, is being restored around the electric vehicle and the German plants where it is manufactured.
Herbert Diess intends very clearly to push this advantage and convince everyone that it is his company that gives the lead. For example, contrary to the claims of many other manufacturers, including the other two German manufacturers, he considers the requirement of "technological neutrality" to be inept and seeks to convince Brussels, Berlin, Beijing and analysts that hydrogen is, for the automobile, an inept option.
Already in March, at the group's annual press conference, Volkswagen's CEO stated that there was "no alternative to the battery car for the coming decades" and, answering a question from a journalist from Die Welt asking if the hydrogen car was abandoned, the VW CEO replied: "We have to make a decision now. We can no longer discuss technological open-mindedness, it will not help, we must change the system. I think the time for debate is over, the situation is clear: climate objectives can only be achieved with electric vehicles." And he added, "Hydrogen is less efficient."
Noting that his victory was not total and that, in Germany as elsewhere, his credo still suffered from a few challenges that he considered damaging, he's taking up the challenge by relying on a series of research studies that are supposed to prove the ineptitude of the hydrogen/FCE solution.
Such relentlessness does not refer to a technical or intellectual debate but to the desire to convince everyone that it is possible, desirable and profitable to commit to the battery electric vehicle, provided that we stop procrastinating and make it the world standard.
Therefore the whole planet must be convinced, like Angela Merkel, that, with VW, the battery electric vehicle will quickly become a good technological, industrial and commercial choice. Indeed, VW is a global company and it is crucial for it that what will be true in Europe is also true in China - unless it is the other way around - or in the United States, otherwise economies of scale and associated dominant positions will no longer be ensured.
The Volkswagen group sold 4.7 million vehicles in Europe in 2018 and as many in China, so it is essential for the group, both Chinese and German, that the choices be the same in Beijing and Brussels and that the manufacturer who embodies the future of the carbon-free car be undoubtedly VW in both regions of the world.
Beyond the policy-makers that must to be convinced to support only pure BEVs and that it is highly desirable, in order to achieve this change, to rely on the world champion in this field, there is a strong challenge for VW to show that its choices are the right ones and that, in counterpoint, those of manufacturers who do not make the same ones will not be able to achieve the same performances.
Two key strategic choices are thus promoted by Herbert Diess and his teams as if to designate those who make other choices as not being up to the level.
The first concerns the platform, or the platforms, on which electric vehicles are based.
The second concerns the integration by manufacturers of cell research and production.
VW chooses specific platforms on the grounds that optimal electrification of a vehicle requires it. Similarly, where some still believe - as VW did some time ago - that it is necessary to leave it to industrial specialists with expertise in electrochemistry to design old and new generation battery cells, VW considers that it is now crucial to master this key component of the new automotive value chain.
Thus, in the flurry of press releases in recent weeks, VW has indicated - and has had the press repeat it - that ID3, thanks to the use of the MEB platform, has achieved a 40% lower manufacturing cost price than that of e-Golf.
Analysts should have understood that those of its competitors who - like PSA - choose multi-energy platforms are mistaken and will offer bad products that are too expensive or unable to generate any profitability.
Similarly, since the announcement in September 2018 of a €100 million investment in startup QuantumScapr, which had made VW the majority shareholder, research director Axel Heinrich has stressed that his group believes that "greater autonomy, faster charging times and the inherent safety of solid-state battery technology will be a decisive factor for the next generation of electrified powertrains".
Let us assume that VW will master these technologies and that many other manufacturers, who consider that this is not their responsibility and/or that we must also invest in hydrogen and the FCE, will not master them.
This communication around the good choices of some and the bad choices of others as well as that around its colossal investments to which those of the competition inevitably seem ridiculous are intended to convince everyone, analysts, journalists, politicians, employees and suppliers, that it is VW that "plays the game" and that it is urgent to imitate it, to follow it and/or to promote its activity and/or all those who will retain the same options.
Beyond the "market judgment" via analysts, what is aimed at here is the imposition of a standard around which public policies and corporate strategies will be built throughout the value chain. VW has made its choices on a Sino-European basis and would like them to be the ones that prevail everywhere. It is still time to wonder, in France in particular, whether it is appropriate for all nations and all manufacturers to do the same.
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Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator, corrections by Géry Deffontaines

La chronique de Bernard Jullien est aussi sur www.autoactu.com.

The weekly column by Bernard Jullien is also on www.autoactu.com.

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