Head of VW Herbert Diess offered ID test drive for Elon Musk
The two most unlikely automotive CEOs to be secret buddies seem to spend a lot of time together
On the first week of September all-round tech-pope Elon Musk toured Germany to inspect his business interests first at the site of a new Tesla factory being built east of Berlin and then in a medical company, CureVac developing coronavirus vaccine. However, after his official programme was over, his private jet did not head straight back to the United States, but it landed on the airport of Braunschweig, just in the forecourt of Volkswagen's Wolfsburg headquarter. He spent around two hours on the ground in the evening, during which he reportedly met Herbert Diess, the CEO of rival car empire Volkswagen and got to try out VW's new ID line of cars, the ID.3 compact and the ID.4 crossover.
Elon Musk and Herbert Diess in discussion last year. Image courtesy of Auto Bild / Axel Spriger SE
This was not the first time Elon Musk and Herbert Diess threw a party - the two executives often talk to each other about electric mobility. During the 2019 German Golden Steering Wheel award ceremony they even shared the stage for a conversation on the outlooks of automotive technology and both CEO seemed to have a common vision regarding safety, connectivity features and of course: electricity as the fuel of the future. Herr Diess even regularly mentions Tesla as an ultimate role model for Volkswagen and have used the Nokia - Apple metaphor before, urging employees to catch up with the electric competition's thinking, or else the German company may totally loose it's market just like Nokia did.
While the ID.3 will not be sold in Tesla's home market, the ID.4 is planned to launch in the United States
Although business reporters jumped on the story due to the secretive nature of the meeting and many imagine deeper co-operation or technology-sharing between the two companies, the reasons may be simpler than that. It is well known that Herbert Diess is struggling to govern Volkswagen into the electric future he desires, as a group of influential managers within VW still believe electric vehicles are only haloware (an unimportant product only good to project a green company image), thus the VW Group shouldn't spend so much money on their development. With the software issues that reportedly delayed the introduction of the ID platform Herr Diess is likely seeking to strengthen his, and the electric car's legitimacy within the company by hanging out with EV top-dogs such as Musk. Meanwhile Elon is probably trying to capitalize on the fame of more conventional manufacturers, so that the nerdy and high-tech image of Tesla won't scare away wealthy, but more conservative customers. In short: he needs Tesla to be a bit more Volkswagen to increase sales numbers and these occasions provide the best hands-on experience for that desire.