VW’s EV sales target suggests Tesla gap could close this year

Christoph Rauwald

Volkswagen AG plans to at least double the share of its sales that are fully electric this year, with the high end of its target range suggesting it could come close to Tesla Inc.’s expected global deliveries.

The German carmaker aims for battery-electric vehicles to be 6% to 8% of sales this year, up from about 3% in 2020, according to a presentation by Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess that was published on VW’s website.

In this Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, file photo, CEO of Volkswagen Herbert Diess introduces the new VW ID.3 at the IAA Auto Show in Frankfurt, Germany.

VW sold more than 9.3 million vehicles worldwide last year. If deliveries are flat in 2021 – a conservative assumption – and 8% of sales are EVs, the company will sell roughly 745,000 battery-powered autos. Tesla delivered almost 500,000 cars last year and expects more than 50% growth in 2021, implying it will hand over at least 750,000 vehicles.

Diess, 62, has openly admired Tesla’s expansion the last few years and told his top managers to measure up against the Model 3 maker on everything from software prowess to production efficiency. New models including the VW ID.4, Audi Q4 e-tron and Skoda Enyaq are expected to help the German group build on the momentum of the VW ID.3, Audi e-tron and Porsche Taycan.

Volkswagen's electric ID.4.

Delivering on his pledge to churn out EVs across VW’s stable of brands without eroding profits could help Diess defy persistent investor skepticism about prospects for traditional carmakers. Shares of VW and other incumbents have hovered at depressed levels as investors have bid up the valuations of EV makers including Tesla and Nio Inc.

Efforts by VW and other established carmakers to boost EV output have been hampered by technical problems and battery supply constraints. But they’re increasingly setting aggressive goals as Tesla steals more of the limelight, with General Motors Co. announcing Thursday that it will sell only zero-emission models by 2035.

VW will further expand its electric lineup next year with an iteration of the hippie-era microbus, dubbed ID. Buzz; a battery-powered version of Porsche’s best-selling Macan; and a new Audi sport-utility vehicle. The group is targeting EVs to be at least 20% of global deliveries in 2025 and more than 30% in 2030.

VW will further expand its electric lineup next year with an iteration of the hippie-era microbus, dubbed ID. Buzz.

The VW ID.4 heralds the global rollout of the group’s electric cars, as it will be made in Europe, China and North America. Tesla is meanwhile stepping up its international expansion with the planned opening of factory near Berlin later this year, its first in Europe.