I’m bound for a 45-minute meeting with its CEO, Matthias Müller, which I’m told will be his only one-on-one interview in English. Why choose us? I presume it’s because Autocar reports things very fully compared with glib dailies and because our much-consulted website gets everywhere.
High on our talk agenda is Müller’s announcement the previous evening of the company’s business plan between now and 2025, called Roadmap E and self-described as “the most comprehensive electrification initiative in the automotive industry”. And we’re bound to touch on Dieselgate.
Earth-shaking morning headlines have sprung up everywhere, and rightly so. The VW Group will launch 80 electric vehicles by 2025, they say, and have 300 electrified models on the market by 2030. The group has earmarked an eye-watering £18 billion “for the industrialisation of e-mobility” and will soon seek tenders for the £45bn worth of batteries it estimates “transformation in our industry” will need.
Rounding everything off is a stirring quote from Müller himself: “We have got the message and we will deliver. This is not some vague declaration of intent. It is a strong self-commitment which, from today, becomes the yardstick by which we measure our own performance.”
I’m expecting this to be a formal interview: German top executives usually prefer formality. These are serious topics and top bosses generally have their dignity to protect. So I’m surprised as we enter the inner sanctum of meeting rooms to find Müller leaning casually against one of the corridor walls, chatting with colleagues.
He’s an imposing figure: white-haired but youthful without glasses, and tanned from what I presume must be several recent weeks off in the sun. He looks like he could be a sailor. He smiles, proffers a firm hand, uses my Christian name, ushers me easily into one of the little rooms, sits obligingly where the photographer suggests (some don’t) and generally acts as if this meeting matters (again, some don’t).