Herbert Diess did what other auto bosses typically avoid on Wednesday nights: he appeared on a TV show. And the VW boss used his stage at Markus Lanz – among other things for the message that in the future there will not be fewer, but more cars in the world. And that’s good news, after all, mobility is important. If all of these vehicles are also environmentally friendly (thanks to battery drives) and particularly safe (thanks to robot control) – what is the problem?
Of course, Diess said all of this knowing that Volkswagen would have some very strong sales figures one day later. Precisely because the group sold a particularly large number of vehicles in the first half of the year, the Wolfsburg-based company made a higher profit than ever in the first half: operating profit of 11.4 billion euros, a record. To this end, Diess continues to restructure the company, moving from a vintage car manufacturer to a mobility provider. With the help of a consortium, VW acquires the French car rental company Europcar. If possible, the deal should come to an end this year.
This is also a new but coherent turnaround under the responsibility of Herbert Diess, as Europcar was part of the Volkswagen group at the end of the 90s. In 2006, Lower Saxony had sold the car rental company and justified it by wanting to focus on its core business. At that time, that still meant: selling cars, not lending them, and certainly not sharing them. Today, VW wants to use the planned Europcar takeover to transform the French company from a pure car rental company into a service network for its own offerings. “A car rental company is not our goal,” Diess said Thursday during the first half revenue presentation. “We want to make it a new platform for mobility.”
It’s a puzzle that fits together: Europcar has existing infrastructure at strategic points such as airports and train stations for carsharing provider WeShare and the Moia shuttle service, which VW plans to use to operate. axis robots in Germany from 2025. According to industry observers, the vast network of Europcar locations should also be of interest to VW as part of the extension of the charging infrastructure for electric cars.
Porsche remains the group’s most profitable brand
If this is a bet on the future, at VW on Thursday they were also very happy with the last six months. No later than Daimler and Tesla, Volkswagen announced excellent sales figures: operating profit is now higher than last year. After taxes, the Wolfsburg-based company ended up with around 8.4 billion euros from January to June. In the first half of 2020, they were still in the red with more than a billion euros. According to Diess, “the premium business with double-digit returns in particular has been doing very well lately.” Sales increased by more than a third to 130 billion euros and deliveries increased by 28% to five million vehicles. The VW subsidiary in Zuffenhausen once again provided particularly good figures: Porsche recorded a return on sales of 16.9%, far exceeding its own target of 15%.
But with all the success reports, the company is also cautious about forecasting similar records for the remainder of the year. Because as long as microchips remain scarce and millions less cars can be built, manufacturers will only have partial control over how many cars will actually be on the world’s roads at the end of the year.