December 8, 2021, 5:50 p.m.
Wolfsburg / Neckarsulm The VW supervisory board is rebuilding the executive board. It already seems clear that Audi board member Hildegard Wortmann will probably move to Wolfsburg. But many more decisions will be made this Thursday. At the Audi site in Neckarsulm, it is hoped that it will be clear when the first high-volume e-model will arrive.
The pressure of expectation is greater than it has been for a long time: At Volkswagen, key decisions will be made on Thursday. One has already leaked through: The previous Audi Marketing and Sales Director Hildegard Wortmann will take on responsibility for the VW Group in the same position. At the Audi site in Neckarsulm, people are excited to see when high-volume e-models can also be built here.
The staggering Diess remains VW boss
The fact that CEO Herbert Diess will remain head of the largest European car manufacturer is almost inevitable from the personal details that have become known. The 63-year-old’s position has been wobbling for weeks. This was triggered by proposals for savings related to a turbulent meeting of the supervisory board in September, which should not have previously been discussed with the influential works council.
So now this old companion from BMW times, Hildegard Wortmann, is coming to Wolfsburg. The previous head of the VW brand, Ralf Brandsttter, is to become a board member for China. The company did not comment on reports from, among others, “Spiegel Online” on Wednesday.
In addition to the top personal details, managers and inspectors had to rework a number of points, such as the specification of multi-billion dollar investment projects and the plant occupancy.
Just don’t fall behind in the transformation
From Neckarsulm’s point of view, this is particularly exciting because it is still not clear when a high-volume electric model will be built here. The fear is that the location – regardless of the medium-term capacity utilization – will fall behind during the transformation and that disadvantages will arise that can hardly be caught up.
Originally, the company wanted to have the questions resolved in mid-November, now everything came down to December 9th as an alternative date. Here too, “everything is in flux” right up to the end, as a source from the local area estimated.
Gruff tone, but with the right approach
Diess is highly regarded in the industry as a whole for the extent and the speed with which he wants to lead VW further into e-mobility and digitization. On the part of the works council, IG Metall and partly also the state of Lower Saxony, his sometimes rough, provocative tone and his communication, which was sometimes perceived as unpredictable, often aroused alienation.
It has not yet been decided whether he will emerge from the restructuring stronger or weakened. Theoretically, it would be conceivable that although he would formally remain CEO, his function would concentrate on a kind of overall strategic planning. Because in terms of content, he should hand over some tasks. When Wortmann comes, Diess will hand over sales. If Brandsttter becomes China boss, Diess is no longer responsible for this either.
Uncertainty remains until the end
A mediation committee of the supervisory board had recently met several times to look for solutions that could keep the reform-minded Diess in office and at the same time permanently smooth the waves in the dispute with the employee bank. Until recently, it was unclear whether there was a compromise.
And there are other topics that were discussed intensively. This includes, for example, the question of where exactly the other of the six European battery cell plants are going. The VW works council had also called for another cell plant in Germany.
It is unclear whether a decision will also be taken on Porsche’s high-performance cell development in this context. The Tbingen, Gerlingen and Heilbronn locations were discussed here. It is known that Audi receives high-voltage battery development in Neckarsulm.
Will Wolfsburg get another work?
The question of whether and when a separate electric model will be located in Wolfsburg in addition to Trinity is also controversial. The VW headquarters is currently underused due to the supply crisis for microchips. Mind games that up to 30,000 or even 35,000 jobs could become superfluous at VW in the coming years, said General Works Council chief Daniela Cavallo “content nonsense”.
VW and Formula 1
The motorsport world could also look to Wolfsburg. Again and again there was speculation about a Formula 1 entry by VW – representatives of the subsidiaries Audi and Porsche should at least be involved in preliminary talks about new technologies for partially electrified engines. The world motor sport federation, which is also responsible for Formula 1, will meet on December 15th, so any relevant plans will be approved in good time.