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Tesla is no niche automaker anymore: Volkswagen CEO

The words of praise may have been a response in kind to Musk who tweeted last month that Volkswagen's Herbert Diess was “doing more than any big carmaker to go electric.”

Bloomberg|
Oct 26, 2019, 08.16 AM IST
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“We have a lot of respect for Tesla,” Diess said. “It's a competitor we take very seriously.”
FRANKFURT: There appears to be a budding bromance between the CEOs of Volkswagen AG, the world's largest automaker, and Tesla Inc, the electric-car company suddenly back on the ascent.

At an event where VW was presenting the new Golf hatchback late on Thursday, Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess quibbled with reporters who suggested Tesla is in trouble because it's too small.

“Tesla is not niche,” Diess said in Wolfsburg, Germany, where VW is based. “The Model 3 is a large-series model and they are one of the biggest manufacturers of electric-car batteries.”

“We have a lot of respect for Tesla,” Diess continued. “It's a competitor we take very seriously.”

Diess, 61, jumped to Musk’s defence on a day the billionaire needed little help dispelling doubters. Tesla shares soared 18% on Thursday — the biggest jump in 6 1/2 years — following a surprise quarterly profit report. The rally vaulted the company back above General Motors Co as the top US automaker by market capitalisation.

The words of praise may have been a response in kind to Musk, 48, who tweeted last month that Diess was “doing more than any big carmaker to go electric.” Four years after VW admitted to cheating on diesel emissions tests — a scandal that has cost the company more than $30 billion — it's committed to spend almost $50 billion on electric vehicles.

China's Tesla Inc. fans expecting to get the new, locally built Model 3s on the cheap were just dealt a surprise.

Tesla said Friday its Chinamade vehicles will start at $50,000 in the country, only about 3% less than what the most basic imported models have been going for, after the US company decided to include the Autopilot driver-assistance software in each vehicle. Variants without Autopilot will be phased out in China.

The first Tesla vehicles to be produced outside the US are part of Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk's efforts to expand in Asia and take on local electric-vehicle upstarts.

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