Volkswagen dropped a bombshell announcement late last week: Herbert Diess was out as CEO.
As a manager, Diess was controversial, with a style that chafed both executives and labor leaders alike. But as a strategist, he was on firmer ground, deftly steering Volkswagen out of the Dieselgate scandal and setting it on a path toward full electrification.
With Diess leaving at the end of August, Porsche CEO Oliver Blume will step into Volkswagen’s corner office. There are plenty of reasons to think that Blume will continue the company’s EV push. After all, he oversaw the development and rollout of the sports car maker’s first electric model, the Taycan, which is already outselling the flagship 911.
But Blume is also an advocate for e-fuels, which are fossil-fuel replacements made from hydrogen and carbon dioxide. Last year, he reportedly went so far as to personally lobby for them with the German finance minister, who subsequently pushed back against EU plans to phase out fossil fuel vehicles entirely. (The whole business, known as Porschegate in the German press, has roiled national politics.)
Under Diess, Volkswagen’s path toward an electric future appeared to be set. Now, under Blume, it seems less certain. His push for e-fuels could bring the company some much-needed stability. But it also risks becoming a strategically perilous distraction at a time of great turmoil in the automotive industry.