Volkswagen CEO Reportedly Warns of 30,000 Job Losses in Shift to Electric Vehicles

With plans to stop selling gas cars in Europe by 2035, Volkswagen is already working its way to transition to electric vehicles (EVs) – though the company’s head says the transition is not fast enough amidst growing competition.

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess told a supervisory board in September that transitioning to EVs too slowly could cost the company up to 30,000 jobs, according to two sources familiar with the subject (via Reuters). Diess also emphasized that rapidly-increasing competition in the German market is forcing the company to speed up the transition, the sources said.

Tesla’s new Gigafactory Berlin-Brandenburg, located in Grünheide, Germany, is expected to produce around 500,000 vehicles per year, using just 12,000 employees. In contrast, Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg, Germany plant produces only about 700,000 cars per year with roughly 25,000 employees.

Diess has spoken about Tesla’s German factory increasing competition before, though the recent set of statements were reportedly not made with specific calculations in mind, according to a Volkswagen spokesperson.

Volkswagen spokesperson Michael Manske said, “There is no question that we have to address the competitiveness of our plant in Wolfsburg in view of new market entrants.” Manske continued, “Tesla is setting new standards for productivity and scale in Grünheide,” referring to Giga Berlin.

Manske did not affirm or deny whether Diess had made those specific statements, also adding that despite an ongoing debate about how to handle these issues, the company has “no concrete scenarios” as of yet.

The Volkswagen’s workers’ council told Reuters, “a reduction of 30,000 jobs is absurd and baseless”.

A union spokesperson from the Lower-Saxony region, Volkswagen’s second-largest shareholder, said job cuts of the reportedly mentioned 30,000 were, “out of the question”.

Electric vehicles contain fewer parts than regular gas cars, resulting in fewer workers required. Volkswagen’s Wolfsburg car plant is the largest in the world and employs 50,000 workers alone.