Manila, Philippines – VW has made mistakes in electric car, but can still overtake Tesla, assumes auto professor Stefan Bratzel. He advises CEO Herbert Diess to be more careful.

From a strategic point of view, Düsseldorf VW is on the right track. But Tesla is three years ahead. The US manufacturer is “the benchmark for the entire automotive industry,” says Stefan Bratzel, professor at the Center of Automotive Management (CAM) at the Bergisch Gladbach University of Applied Sciences, in an interview with Handelsblatt.

Because of the frequent software problems, the car researcher advises the company from Wolfsburg: “VW has to remove some originally planned software functions from the cars in order to make the whole thing manageable.”

Read the full interview here:

Mr. Bratzel, VW makes just back negative headlines . Where do you see the group?
On the one hand, Volkswagen comes from the deep valley of the exhaust gas scandal. On the other hand, the group was always heavily geared towards internal combustion engines. Building on this, a great transformation has started in the company. Current problems show that such a conversion is not always easy.

Where is Volkswagen at the electric drive?

Tesla is the benchmark for the entire automotive industry. The US manufacturer is at least three years ahead of all other companies. This can be seen in various key figures, such as range, consumption and costs. I would say positively for Volkswagen: Wolfsburg has recognized that Tesla is the measure of all things. With the MEB electrical kit, VW also has the opportunity to turn the electric car into a real mass product.

And what about the software?

In this area too, Volkswagen has recognized that much more has to be done. That is why the group wants to increase its own value added share in software from the current ten to 60 percent. Volkswagen will not be able to make this change in a short time. With organizational changes, CEO Diess has initiated the first stages of this change process.

Nevertheless, a lot went wrong in Wolfsburg.

One reason seems to be that you may have undertaken too much in a short time. The error rate goes up rather than down. The current cases show that one should not overwhelm one’s own organization. Software problems were a topic in Wolfsburg a year ago. So I am not surprised that the works council has become restless and is now raising the alarm.

Is there a recipe to get the current problems under control?

Only patience and a good dose of pragmatism help. I would assume that it will take Volkswagen between three and five years to become a car manufacturer with sufficient software competence. Pragmatism means that you have to be satisfied with less. VW must take some originally planned software functionalities out of the cars to make the whole thing manageable

Couldn’t Volkswagen just hire more software engineers?

Unfortunately, that will not be enough. The entire company Volkswagen has to learn the topic of software anew, because additional employees are not enough. The structures have to be right, as Tesla example shows. There cars are developed and designed entirely around the topic of software. Such a new product creation process must also exist at Volkswagen.

Where does Volkswagen compare to Daimler and BMW ?

The VW Group is ahead of the others in pure electromobility thanks to the MEB electrical kit – although there is still no evidence that the quality is really good. When it comes to digital issues such as vehicle connectivity, the two southern German manufacturers are ahead of Volkswagen, especially BMW .

The gaps are not particularly large, however, so Volkswagen could still catch up. All three German manufacturers are basically moving in the right direction. There are only problems with the practical implementation everywhere.

What role does Herbert Diess play at VW ?

He campaigned massively for the change to an electrical provider. That is thanks to him, no question. This is also shown by his many public appearances with which he explains the changes in the automotive industry to a wide audience. It is clear to him that we are living in a different time that requires a change in consciousness.

Nevertheless, there is talk that Diess could lose the chief position in Wolfsburg in the foreseeable future.

He has to be careful not to destroy his earnings in the restructuring of the group at an exaggerated pace. Because change must also be communicated and understood within your own company. A manager like Herbert Diess needs his advocates internally so that such a change does not end in a blockade.

Will this be able to hold its own?

I wish he could do it. He still has the backing of important shareholders such as the owner families Porsche. But the backing is crumbling. A lot will depend on whether the new ID.3 electric car will be a success in the coming months and whether Herbert Diess can deliver on the promises made.

What role does the works council play?

Every management also needs the workforce for a comprehensive transformation. Herbert Diess is therefore dependent on unity with the employee side. He has to get the works council on his side again.