At the wheel of Volkswagen, Oliver Blume wants to “accelerate” the electric change “where possible”

published on Thursday, September 1, 2022 at 2:34 p.m.

Volkswagen entrusts its future to a new boss, Oliver Blume, on Thursday, who intends to “accelerate in the electrical where possible” in a difficult economic environment, after the four years of Herbert Diess’s tumultuous mandate.

A product of Casa broken in the mysteries of the group, the new CEO is not here to turn the tables: he must continue with the main lines of the strategy led by his predecessor: the turn towards electric and connected mobility.

“The board of directors around Herbert Diess has done a good strategic and technological job,” admitted Mr. Blume on Thursday before a seminar that brought together the group’s executives.

He assumes the head of a board of directors reduced from 12 to 9 members and will focus on “strategy, quality, design and the Cariad software subsidiary”, according to a press release.

The 54-year-old German adds that he will be looking forward to “rebuilding the team spirit” within the group.

His predecessor was mainly due to his dismissal in July due to repeated tensions with staff representatives and management, fueled by his direct and provocative style.

However, Blume comes to the controls at “a difficult time” in the life of the leading European manufacturer, observes Matthias Schmidt, an analyst specializing in electric cars.

The context is more uncertain than ever with the war in Ukraine and continuing component shortages.

He will also have to lead the IPO of the Porsche subsidiary this year and solve the difficulties that are holding back the development of Volkswagen’s software, which is supposed to be the heart of the car of the future.

The electric and connected revolution involves tens of billions of euros of investment, while the group obtains mixed results in the second quarter

– No “wars” –

Joining VW in 2015, until then Chairman of the Board of Directors of Porsche, Oliver Blume is reputed to be more conciliatory than Herbert Diess.

“Blume is not someone who leads wars,” summarizes for AFP Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, director of the Center for Automotive Research.

In detail, the new president could stand out on the issue of synthetic fuels.

Manufactured from CO2 in particular in the atmosphere using electricity, they allow the use of traditional engines with very low CO2 emissions.

Herbert Diess had chosen to bet everything on battery-powered cars, unconvinced about the efficiency of synthetic fuels.

“We will keep pace” with the electric strategy and “accelerate where possible”, Oliver Blume launched to the leaders.

However, non-fossil fuels are “complementary” and have certain “advantages”, particularly for transportation and compatibility with existing gasoline pumps, Mr. Blume detailed in an interview.

– Homemade batteries –

If the use of synthetic fuels on a large scale is not an option, talking about it makes it possible to imagine a future for the combustion engine.

The sensitive issue will be decided in Brussels, which is currently working on a possible ban on new non-electric individual cars from 2035.

Oliver Blume could weigh in on an extension of engines using alternative fuels.

At the risk, on the contrary, of not being able to advance “fully” in electrics like Tesla, the American competitor that is a pioneer, experts warn.

Another project for Mr. Blume: the software, the Achilles’ heel that precipitated the former CEO’s departure from the path.

Although Herbert Diess wanted to make significant profits by doing the encoding in-house, his successor could rely more on vendors.

Because “for software to work, you need coders and not automotive engineers,” sums up Mr. Schmidt.

The new boss, on the other hand, should confirm the decision to focus more on the US market to limit dependence on China.

The in-house manufacturing of battery cells, a key component of electric cars, will remain at the core of the strategy.

For its six European battery megafactory projects with a capacity of 40 GWh each, and one in the United States, Volkswagen has created a dedicated “PowerCo” entity, which could receive outside investors.

“That may well be the legacy of Diess, as well as the pioneering electrification after the dieselgate scandal” of rigged engines, according to Schmidt. It is up to his successor to make the legacy bear fruit.

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