CEO Hints Volkswagen North America Will Not Target Tesla with the ID.4

Volkswagen ID.4 6 photos
Photo: Volkswagen
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Volkswagen is getting ready for the very first ID.3 customer deliveries this month, a moment that represents the concrete start of the company's penitence for the whole Dieselgate fiasco from back in 2015.
It's taken Volkswagen five years to bring to market a viable electric vehicle - after the e-Golf and e-Up acted as nothing more than fillers - but as far as the North American market is concerned, the wait is going to be even longer. The ID.3 hatchback will not make its way across the ocean, with the ID.4 crossover set to mark Volkswagen's revival over there.

The company is obviously anxious about this potentially pivotal moment, so it's trying to build up the expectation as best it can. Case in point this talk at the highest level between Herbert Diess, CEO of VAG, and Scott Keogh, Volkswagen Group of America CEO.

The video call starts with Dr. Diess making a sort of introduction for Keogh, naming him as the main cause for Audi's meteoric rise in the USA from "that German brand" to "that Mercedes-Benz and BMW rival." With him now plying his trade for the Volkswagen brand, the hope is he'll be able to pull a similar stunt.

The discussion is quickly veered toward the main topic: the Electrify America project and its future main beneficiary, the Volkswagen ID.4. Keogh starts by dismissing the myth of the wasteful American who, it's said, likes to "burn, burn, burn, buy, buy, buy" by saying it is "fundamentally not true."

Looking at the numbers, you could say he's not entirely right, but at the same time, there's clearly a large portion of the population who is more than willing to embrace a zero-emissions motoring initiative. Otherwise, we wouldn't still have Tesla around.

Keogh tells the story of his own experience out in Atlanta driving the ID.4 together with the vehicles it's being benchmarked against - the Tesla Model Y, obviously, and also a Hyundai (presumably Kona). While taking a break inside a suburban community, the people there started noticing the weird cavalcade of vehicles. As they approached and started inspecting the ID.4, Keogh realized what the vehicle must have looked like to somebody driving a ten or 15-year-old car: "a spaceship."

That's hard to argue against, but it says something about VW's strategy: instead of going for Tesla's jugular, it looks like the ID family will recruit its members out of the people who would have normally bought a traditional ICE vehicle.

That approach seems like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's easier than having to build a vehicle that competes with Tesla on every level - price, range, performance, charging network, etc. On the other, convincing people to go electric might be even more difficult, especially in a country where fuel is still relatively cheap compared to the income level.

Keogh seems confident it can be done. "It's an ambitious plan, no debate, but [...] you don't go to the Moon without ambition." His conviction comes from the fact he regards the ID.4 as "the best Volkswagen we've assembled for the US market since the last Golf," and also the fact there will be "upwards of 800 stations and 3,500 fast chargers by the time ID.4 ramps up."

The two go on to discuss about other things such as the Puebla factory in Mexico or the incentives program in the EU, so if you want to know more about these subjects - or just enjoy the banter between a German and an American - you can watch the full talk below.

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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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