Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Herbert Diess said cash-rich technology giants invading the auto industry pose a much bigger challenge for the German manufacturer than traditional rivals like Toyota Motor Corp.
"We look forward to new competitors who will certainly accelerate the change in our industry and bring in new skills,” Diess said in a LinkedIn post when asked about reports that Apple Inc. is developing a self-driving car. "The unbelievable valuation and the practically unlimited access to resources instill a lot of respect in us."
Diess, 62, received a fresh vote of confidence from the VW supervisory board this month to make the sprawling industrial conglomerate more nimble after internal wrangling had spooked investors. VW faces a critical year in 2021 to escalate its electric-car push with new models like the ID.4 compact SUV and a more spacious version of the Porsche Taycan.
Diess mapped out a plan during an internal meeting last week to pit VW's huge Wolfsburg plant against Tesla Inc.'s factory that's under construction outside Berlin. The electric-car maker's new site in Gruenheide is bound to stoke competition for engineers, workers and customers on VW's home turf.
"I've said it before: the most valuable company in the world will again be a mobility company," Diess said. "It could be Tesla, Apple or Volkswagen."