Diess has planned that the million Chinese-market BEVs a year will anchor Volkswagen’s electric push globally, providing the company with scale, cash flow and a strong negotiating position with battery suppliers.
"China is our strategic advantage. We are so strong in China that we have to bring electric cars faster to volume than anybody else, so we could give commitments to our suppliers, which far exceed those of our competitors.
"So we get battery prices others can’t and we think we have a brilliant package and that is why we believe that we can stop Tesla," says Diess.
"The MEB (electric car architecture) cars will not only be electric cars, but in connectivity, different electronic architecture with three domain computers in the car and over the air updates," he says.
"With that package we think we will stop Tesla worldwide, because we are faster in scaling and we are faster in ramping up on three continents and we think we can keep up the pace in the development indefinitely."
It has five new BEVs planned for China from its new MEB electric-car architecture, starting with the entry-level ID, then two SUVs and one sedan in two different sizes.
"This gives us huge economies of scale, with the same technology starting in China and Europe and then moving to the US
"It will be tough because Tesla is terribly fast in doing things, also updating the architecture is good, but our strengths are running global platforms, battery supply and a stronghold in China."
Oddly, Diess doesn’t cite BMW as a key BEV competitor, in spite of its dedicated i brand and his own history as BMW’s former director of development. Nor does he cite GM, which is the second-biggest car maker in China.
"I think Elon [Musk] is much more advanced in the connected world than BMW and GM is not as committed to China as we are. GM is still thinking about one brand or the other.
"You always look at the car regarding the drivetrain. Tesla’s is only OK, and GM’s drivetrain is OK," he says.
"But when it comes down to the architecture of the car, from the assistance systems in the car, Elon will develop much faster than the competitors. He has more cars on the road, he does faster updates and he develops very quickly."
The auto industry is definitely gearing up for major change, but as the reality of it all begins to hit home, it is clear that it is not going to be as straightforward as the PR statements of many governments make out.