Until Tesla came along, electric cars were mostly glorified golf carts and one-off garage projects. But with the success of the Model S, Tesla not only changed how people think of electric vehicles, it also pushed the rest of the auto industry to take EVs seriously. Because Tesla has established itself as the most popular electric automaker in the world, you might think legacy automakers are afraid it will drive them out of business before they can catch up. Based on CEO Matthias Muller’s recent comments, though, it sounds like he still thinks it will be a while before Tesla becomes a true threat.
During a recent panel discussion on the future of electric cars, the moderator said something about the attention Tesla gets for selling EVs. And while he didn’t criticize the cars themselves, Muller took that opportunity to level some sharp criticisms at Tesla as a company. Specifically, he took issue with Tesla’s relatively low production volume, continued losses, and the recent firing of several hundred employees.
“Now I really need to say a few words about Tesla: With all due respect, there are some world champions of big announcements in this world I don’t want to name names. There are companies that barely sell 80,000 cars a year. Then there are companies like Volkswagen that sell 11 million cars this year, and produce a profit of 13 or 14 billion euro. If I am correctly informed, Tesla each quarter destroys millions of dollars in the three digits, and it willy-nilly fires its workers. Social responsibility? Please. We should not get carried away and compare apples with oranges,” said Muller, according to the Daily Kanban’s translation.
This isn’t the first time Muller has dismissed Tesla as a competitor, either. Back in September, he told CNBC that he doesn’t see Tesla as a threat to Volkswagen. “We respect any competitor, including Tesla,” he said at the time. “[But] it seems that their business model is different from ours.”
Soon, however, Volkswagen and Tesla will compete much more directly than they do now. VW recently confirmed plans to produce the I.D. Buzz electric microbus concept, and by 2025, its plan is to offer at least 30 all-electric vehicles, including a production version of the Porsche Mission E concept, which will be aimed directly at the Model S.