Volkswagen has committed to spending tens of billions of dollars as part of a dramatic shift to electric and autonomous vehicles.
The Germany carmaker said Friday that it would invest €44 billion ($50 billion) by 2023 to develop electric cars, self-driving vehicles and other new technology.
Speaking at a press conference following a meeting of the company’s supervisory board, CEO Herbert Diess described the company’s strategy as an “electric offensive.”
Diess acknowledged that increased spending on new technology could initially harm earnings growth. The investment is roughly €10 billion ($11.4 billion) above what the company set aside for new tech in last year’s budget plan.
“Volkswagen must become more efficient, more productive and more profitable in order to finance the high expenditure in the future and in order to stay competitive,” Diess said during the press conference.
Volkswagen’s stock, which declined roughly 12% so far this year, dropped another 1.3% on Friday.
Volkswagen and Ford
Diess said that talks with US automaker Ford (F) about working together were “progressing positively.”
So far the only alliance firmly in place between Ford and Volkswagen involves an agreement to work together on commercial vehicles. But Diess sees potential in more cooperation.
“We can solve the transformation of our business more easily with partnerships,” he said Friday.
Automakers are spending billions of dollars as they try to develop the electric and self-driving vehicles they believe are the future.
They’re also facing more competition from tech companies, including Uber and Google parent Alphabet (GOOG). Upstarts like Tesla (TSLA) have proved formidable too.
Volkswagen said that the first model built under its new strategy, the ID, will begin rolling off the assembly lines in 2022. Diess said the car will have a range of up to 550 km (340 miles) and cost the equivalent of its current diesel Golf.
The car group, which owns the Porsche and Audi brands, said it would attempt to increase the productivity of its plants 30% by 2025. It plans to build vehicles from different brands on the same production lines as part of the effort.
It will also relocate production of the Passat from Germany to the Czech Republic.
Diess said that Volkswagen (VLKAF) was considering whether to build its own battery cells, a key component in electric vehicles.
The carmaker also announced leadership changes in China, the world’s largest car market.
Diess now has direct responsibility for the China business, a move that Volkswagen said reflects “the growing importance of the Chinese market and the high pace of technological development in China.”READ MORE
Due to the wildfires raging in Northern California, San Francisco, Stockton and Sacramento were the world’s three “most polluted cities” on Friday morning, according to Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit that aggregates data from air-quality monitoring sites.
PurpleAir, which has a network of sensors around the world, also showed that California had worse air than traditional smog hotspots in India and China.
Meteorologist Brandon Miller confirmed that “no region on Earth had as many air quality stations in the highest ranges” of particulate matter, or PM, the toxic mixture of particles and droplets that worsens after wildfires.
Those values, he said, “stretched for hundreds of miles over Northern and Central California, from the mountains to the valleys and the coast.”
Schools, colleges and public transit have closed as smoke from the Camp Fire descends on the region.
“It appears to be the worst air quality ever experienced in San Francisco,” said Dan Jaffe, a professor of environmental chemistry at the University of Washington. He called the situation “an air quality emergency,” and experts said the smoke could undo decades of progress on pollution.
“We have made tremendous efforts and investment to clean up our air with considerable benefits for public health,” said Dr. Daniel Jacob, a professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering at Harvard University. “But now it’s like we’re getting stabbed in the back with those wildfires.”
Some call cancellations ‘too little, too late’
San Francisco’s transit agency has taken its cable cars off the streets, several schools have canceled classes, and the National Park service suspended tours to Alcatraz Island.
Public schools in San Francisco and Alameda County were closed Friday, along with UC Davis and UC Merced. UC Berkeley also canceled Friday’s classes, but some students criticized the university’s decision to stay open Thursday as smoke descended on the campus.
The school’s student association wrote a letter to their chancellor denouncing the “administration’s insufficient response to these public health risks” and urging administrators to allocate emergency funds for masks and mobile air filtration units.
“Campus buildings are not equipped to filter out the pollutants making the air indoors just as harmful as it is outside,” the group wrote. Some students, even those without pre-existing conditions, said they felt sick.
“I had a bloody throat, bloody nose, a cough, dry and watering eyes, and my throat is still very sore and dry,” freshman Sabrina Thorn said. “I almost passed out trying to go to class yesterday. My professor told me to go home.”READ MORE