Volkswagen Must “Become Relevant In The U.S.” Says CEO Herbert Diess

Volkswagen Must “Become Relevant In The U.S.” Says CEO Herbert Diess

The Volkswagen brand, despite having some North American fans, has long struggled to make an impression on the U.S. market. If, however, its ambition to become the biggest EV manufacturer in the world is to come true, it will have to find a way to capture the market, according to VW Group CEO Herbert Diess.

Asked by 60 Minutes in a wide-ranging interview if the brand would ever give up on the market that has for so long eluded it, Diess admitted the company does sometimes have internal discussions about just how worthwhile fighting for American market share really is.

“There always have been discussions, although internally, ‘Shouldn’t we give up the U.S. because we are losing money? We are going nowhere,’” Diess said. But he added that simply giving up isn’t possible because it is such an important market.

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“No, we have to come back in the U.S. We have to become relevant in the U.S. And we are in the right way,” said Diess. And that means electric vehicles like the ID. Buzz, a modernization of the much-loved Volkswagen Type 2 microbus.

The ID. Buzz is also part of an important global movement to decarbonize the automotive sector. Diess said that electrification is the only feasible way to improve the carbon footprint of the industry, though that will be a challenge.

“Historically there haven’t been too many cases where the successful companies in the old world could demonstrate that they are still successful in the new world,” he said, adding that startups and tech companies are some of the competitors that VW has to take the most seriously in order to survive the transition to electric vehicles, and in its fight for American market share.

A big part of both missions is new infrastructure being set up at VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant that will allow it to make the all-electric ID.4, as well as other EVs in the U.S. It’s a race that the automaker got into early as a result of its diesel scandal and Diess said that it’s one that the company is taking even more seriously because of Dieselgate.

The scandal “is a long-lasting thing. And we have to convince our customers that we are worthwhile considering, and we are delivering a good product,” said Diess.

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