The company has rapidly denied that the group’s CEO would have said that. Still, Reuters said two different sources confirmed the conversation, first reported by the German newspaper Handelsblatt. What it confirmed is that the competition is making Volkswagen speed up the EV shift even more.
A Volkswagen spokesman called Michael Manske told Reuters that Tesla and Chinese competitors made the carmaker “address the competitiveness” of its Wolfsburg plant. Apart from being the oldest and largest Volkswagen plant in the world, Wolfsburg has a political meaning that can’t be underestimated.
The German carmaker would be studying alternatives to make the factory produce electric cars as soon as possible. According to Manske, there’s nothing defined about that so far. However, he mentioned that “Tesla is setting new standards for productivity and scale in Grünheide,” which is curious for a plant that has not produced a single vehicle so far.
Until Tesla’s factory really starts to pump out the Model Y, its threat is only theoretical. Apart from that, it is debatable if a single product could represent any danger to Volkswagen. Although it is a direct competitor to the ID.4, Volkswagen also sells the ID.3, a vehicle that Tesla has no competitors for.
By generically mentioning Chinese competitors, the company probably did not want to bring awareness to BYD, NIO, and Xpeng. The first is the one that poses the most risk for Volkswagen, as a recent video from Fully Charged clearly showed. With the Dolphin, BYD could reach very high sales volumes in Europe if it can manufacture enough cars for the Chinese and European markets.
Costing the equivalent of €12,500 in China, the Dolphin has about the same size as a Honda Fit/Jazz and presents LFP batteries with an 800V system. That allows it to recover 150 km (93 miles) of range in only five minutes with suitable chargers. If there is any car Volkswagen should be worried about, it is this one.
Apart from the Dolphin, NIO and Xpeng have aggressive expansion plans. NIO offers a successful battery swapping system that could make all other electric cars somewhat inconvenient if it manages to establish a battery swapping network in Europe. Xpeng wants to offer an ADAS that can seduce Tesla owners as a more robust trustworthy option to Autopilot and FSD.
Both companies are already the preferred used EV brands in China: Tesla comes third. It makes sense that Volkswagen did not name any of them: it could make European customers start paying attention to what they can offer. If it is more than Tesla can in EV terms, that will also be a problem for the German automaker.