Mr. Osterloh, has it always been the case at Volkswagen that Technical Development sets the agenda?
Osterloh: No. Back at Auto5000 GmbH, we built the Touran, a vehicle with little complexity and few equipment variants. That was the right way, especially since the vehicle also sold well. Unfortunately, the issue petered out again afterwards. Don’t misunderstand me: I don’t want a single standardized car. We want to fulfill customers’ individual wishes. But, of course, we still have to keep looking for ways to reduce complexity and diversity of variants. Alone at Wolfsburg in the past years, we’ve built thousands of Golfs that are unique in their combination of engine, color and interior.
Diess: That shows how flexible we are in Production. However, that’s also a great burden and entails a high logistics effort. And that weighs on productivity. Our goal must be to reduce the variants.
Mr. Diess, is it mistaken to say that we seem to be much too slow in software development?
Diess: No, that perception is not mistaken. Digitalization of the car is currently one of our biggest challenges. Many of the problems with start-ups we’ve had recently are due to problems with the software functionality. The importance of software in cars will continue to grow significantly and so become a crucial competitive factor. We still have too little in-house expertise in this field. That’s also because we outsourced almost 80 percent of the electrical equipment/electronics in the past. I want to see us develop more software ourselves once again. To do that, we need to hire new software engineers and qualify employees.
That opens up new opportunities for a lot of colleagues. You don’t necessarily need a degree to be able to program.
Osterloh: The company’s management has simply neglected for years to lay the right foundations in the area of software. Other areas, whether exterior or interior, had greater priority. But the issue of digitalization hasn’t played a sufficient role at Volkswagen. That has to change. It’s not at all easy to find IT experts on the market at the moment.That’s why we on the Works Council have always emphasized that we can retrain colleagues who have a passion for IT from our own ranks. After all, that’s also a big issue in the Pact for the Future. Even more has to be done in that direction.
Now that you mention the Pact for the Future: What’s your verdict on it after two years, Mr. Diess?
Diess: We’ve got off to a good start. At the time the Works Council and company concluded the pact, we aimed to increase our return on sales to five percent. We’ve already managed to do that. But we still need to do far more. Because the burdens on the company, such as the costs of launching e-vehicles, will be higher than expected. Especially since we’ve seen that some of our competitors have made even greater progress.
We need higher profits to be able to fund our future. Four percent is the minimum, you can make a few investments in the future with five or six percent, and seven or eight percent will make us crisis-proof. That’s why we still have to become much more efficient. That also goes specifically for our administration.
Mr. Osterloh, how do you view the progress made under the Pact for the Future?
Osterloh: There are many who envy us for what we’ve already achieved. We can be proud of what we’ve done. Sure, there have also been disagreements now and then. But that’s part and parcel of when you negotiate such a pact. Five percent is an impressive return – and it would have been even higher if we had sold more cars. If 800,000 and not 700,000 cars had come off the line here in Wolfsburg last year. I wish our board member in charge of sales and marketing would inject even more drive here. But I should spell one thing out clearly here: Securing jobs up to 2025 is also one of the successes of the Pact for the Future alongside achievement of the targets for return on sales. It’s thanks to it that our colleagues can focus all their strength on developing our company further.
Mr. Diess, the news that Zwickau of all places will become the center for electromobility came as a surprise to many employees.
Diess: We can already see that focusing on one location for electromobility from the outset was the right decision. That’s the only way we can be competitive and accomplish the start-ups for our brands in a sensible manner.