Volkswagen, the world’s second largest automaker, gave no reason for Diess’ exit.
The number of battery electric vehicles sold by VW has nearly doubled to nearly 453,000 worldwide in 2021, climbing to third place behind only Tesla and General Motors in pure electric vehicle sales – and most of the latter’s sales come from a Chinese joint venture . VW surpassed all other automakers, including Tesla, in European EV sales with 310,000 vehicles.
Tesla was still selling more than twice as many pure electric vehicles as VW in 2021 — and electric vehicles accounted for just 5% of VW’s sales last year — but the shift in focus under Diess was important to the company’s future plans.
“Herbert Diess played a key role in driving forward the transformation of the company. The group and its brands are fit for the future, their innovative power and earning power will be strengthened,” said Hans Dieter Pötsch, CEO of the company, in a statement. “He not only steered the company through extremely turbulent waters, but also implemented a fundamentally new strategy.”
But not everything was rosy. While Volkswagen may be further along in its planned transition to electric vehicles than most traditional automakers, it has fallen further behind Toyota in the race for total vehicle sales — a key metric in the sector.
Last year, Toyota reported total sales of 10.5 million cars in 2021, surpassing Volkswagen by more than 1.5 million. Before the pandemic in 2019, Volkswagen had ousted Toyota by 200,000 cars with 10.9 million vehicles sold.
As part of the restructuring of the management, Chief Financial Officer Arno Antlitz will become Chief Operating Officer.
— Peter Valdes-Dapena of CNN Business contributed to this report.