Losses and profits. In 1947, what remained of the Volkswagen (VW) factories in Wolfsburg (Lower Saxony) produced, in premises half destroyed by bombardments, cars for the occupying troops. The British officer who ran the site offered to buy it back from manufacturers from across the Channel, then from the United States and France. All decline, seeing only an ephemeral future for the producer of the Ladybug. Too bad for them. It was, much later, the descendants of the creator Ferdinand Porsche (1875-1951), a great admirer of Hitler, who took back control of the company, which had become the leading car manufacturer in Europe. The Porsche family will be in the front row, Thursday, December 9, for the company’s supervisory board.
Officially, the topic of the day is the colossal plan to invest in the electric car, more than 70 billion euros over five years, to bring the company into the era of the zero carbon and autonomous car. An existential challenge, imposed by the new European standards, which will ban the heat engine from 2035. But other more immediate subjects will occupy the minds. First, the fate of the boss himself. Willingly breaking with the unions, this former Austrian engineer from BMW said in September that there were probably 30,000 too many people in the company in Germany. This was to forget the weight of the employee representatives, present on the supervisory board, and their objective alliance with the Land of Lower Saxony, which holds 20% of the company. According to Reuters, Herbert Diess would save his post, but will be flanked by a new member of the board, Ralf Brandstätter, already in charge of the VW brand, to manage operations.
This obviously does not resolve the issue of the cost of the transition and its consequences on employment. Adding fuel to the fire, a survey commissioned by the European Association of Automotive Equipment Manufacturers, published on December 6, estimates that the end of the heat engine should lead to 500,000 job cuts, within five years, in Europe . They will only be partially offset by 226,000 job creations in new technologies. The pressure is all the stronger at VW as a two-hour drive from its head office, the new Tesla factory in Grünheide, near Berlin, will release cars from 2022, with a productivity much higher than that of the German manufacturer. .
The Porsche family, which, following the merger of its famous company with Volkswagen in 2012, now owns 31.4% of the group, does not intend to stand idly by. German financial daily Handelsblatt understands that it plans to sell part of its VW shares to participate in the Porsche listing that the parent company would consider, in order to free up new resources. Decisions are not made, but it would be a stunning throwback for Ferdinand’s great-grandchildren. It is also a way of inviting oneself to the major restructuring, which should soon shake up the global automobile industry.