VW Hypes Tesla-Like Battery Event as CEO Builds Social Media Presence

Volkswagen AG plans to give an update on batteries next week at an event echoing a Tesla Inc. briefing that helped boost its share price last year.

Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess sent out the invitation to VW’s first “Power Day” event on March 15 using his Twitter and LinkedIn accounts on Tuesday. “Please note: This is not a car presentation,” he said.

Diess, 62, made his Twitter debut early this year and promptly engaged in some good-natured ribbing of Elon Musk. Tesla’s CEO has been on the platform almost a dozen years and has used it to great effect to promote what is now far and away the world’s most valuable automaker. The company spends an immaterial amount of money on traditional advertising.

VW’s Diess has been active since joining the social network in January, mixing it up with the likes of former Siemens AG CEO Joe Kaeser and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates. He has accumulated more than 25,400 followers, well behind Musk’s 48.7 million.

Battery Battleground

Boosting battery expertise and securing sufficient supplies will be vital for Europe’s largest automaker to deliver on plans for the industry’s biggest fleet of electric vehicles. At the VW brand, the ID.4 SUV is joining the ID.3 hatchback this year and will be sold in China and North America in addition to Europe.

VW’s other divisions also are boosting their electric offerings, with the premium Audi and Porsche brands as well as the Skoda and Seat units rolling out EV models this year. VW intends to roughly double the share of its global sales that are purely battery-powered cars to between 6% and 8% in 2021 and narrow the volume gap to Tesla.

Still, getting enough batteries is a challenge for many manufacturers as demand is surging especially in Europe in China. VW’s designated battery supplier in the U.S., SK Innovation Co. Ltd, is embroiled in a legal spat with rival LG Chem Ltd. that risks undermining supplies.

UBS Group AG analysts praised VW’s electric-car technology last week after a teardown of the ID.3. They also cautioned that “there are still deficits in battery cost and IT hard- and software vs. Tesla.” The VW brand’s newly unveiled strategy update “focuses on making a big leap in this area,” UBS said in a note on Monday.

VW teamed up with Swedish startup Northvolt AB to make batteries in Europe and is an early backer of solid-state battery specialist QuantumScape Corp., which listed in the U.S. last year.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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