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Home  /  July 2022  /  Comment

It’s hard working for a family company, just ask Herbie Diess.

Until this week, Herb was the boss of the $116bn Volkswagen that has 673,000 workers toiling in 120 factories and even more dealerships, usually selling about 11 million Volkswagens, SKODAs, SEATs, CUPRAs, Audis, Lambos, Bentleys, Porkers and Ducati bikes for temporary citizens of the planet, every year BC (Before Covid).

Anyway, despite being handed the golden hospital pass, taking over at the height of Dieselgate, turning the business around by putting in a successful new strategy, including electric and putting the mojo back in the VW brand, the family suddenly gave Herb the flick.

Departed VW chief executive Herbert Diess poses with the Volkswagen ID Buzz electric van during its presentation in Hamburg, northern Germany. Picture: AFP

Departed VW chief executive Herbert Diess poses with the Volkswagen ID Buzz electric van during its presentation in Hamburg, northern Germany. Picture: AFP

And he was serious about cost-cutting – never a great thing when union reps make up half the board.

Easy to forget that so far VW has paid out more than $46bn in fines and the CEO before Herb is facing criminal charges. And that when Herb took over VW in 2015 the bottom line was worse off by $23bn. And that just before the VW family shot Herb, he produced a profit for the first half of this year of $19bn.

The dirty little secret at VW (apart from diesel) is just what a profit powerhouse Porsche is. In the first six months of this year, Porsche sold the smallest number of cars (149,000) of the group’s 10 brands. Despite that, it made the most money ($4.6bn) of any single brand and not much less than the Audi Premium Group, which makes 513,000 cars like Lamborghinis, Bentleys and Ducatis.

Herbert Diess may have been considered an “outsider” at Volkswagen. Picture: AFP

For the bean counters Porsche makes about 16 per cent on sales.

Anyway, the Porsche-Piech family have replaced Herb, who will probably join space cadet Elon Musk at Tesla, with Porker boss Ollie Blume. Ollie has a lot to recommend him. He was born in Braunschweig a mere 32 minutes from VW’s global HQ at Wolfsburg. And he has been at VW all his working life. And he is jolly, social and loves the unions. Whatever happens, don’t expect to buy an electric VW in Australia for about six years and don’t expect the Porker IPO anytime soon.

Talking of cars, US-based, JD Power, the world leading rating agency of cars, has released its Quality Study, now in its 36th year, and based on responses from 84,165 owners of new 2022 model-year vehicles who were surveyed early in the ownership period.

You won’t be surprised to learn AC (After Covid) car quality is not great. Key points: both new and continuing models had more problems this year; mass market vehicles experience fewer problems than premium vehicles; premium buyers purchase more technology in their vehicles, and the added complexity of that tech increases the likelihood of problems; infotainment systems remain the most problematic area; and, in very good news, owners of electric cars cite more problems with their vehicles than do owners of vehicles with internal combustion engines. Volvo’s Polestar ranked worst of the 36 brands and Tesla was 30th.

Oliver Blume has been appointed chief of VW. Picture: AFP

Meanwhile the UK’s Telegraph ranked electric vehicles on how long their batteries last. Before the results, some useful hints if you’re useless enough to buy an EV. Slow charging prolongs battery life, but rapid charging will cause faster degradation.

“Temperature is potentially an even bigger factor. Cars run in moderate climates (an area with fewer than five days a year at below -5C or above 27C) retained on average 96 per cent of their battery’s performance after four years. But cars run in hot climates (more than five days a year at above 27C) lost battery health much faster.”

Best on battery is the 2017 Kia Soul EV. Worst is 2017 BMW i3.

Fortunately, no electric cars but the Shannon’s online August auction will be a great test of the classic car market. 

VW’s other famous Herbie – the Love Bug.

Yours with no three-year warranty, no fixed price service and no choice of colour for only $1.5m. Next is a 2012 V-10 Lexus LFA. Toyota Premium Group (aka Lexus) only made 500 of these, 10 came to Australia, selling for $750k. Jeremy Clarkson said the LFA was “the best car I’ve ever driven”. The LFA is a car for a sophisticated, knowledgeable owner. Akio Toyoda personally backed the 10-year development of the car. It’s got a Yamaha V-10, and

While the car looks fast standing still, there’s a lot of better performance for a lot less money elsewhere. But the LFA is the cheapest supercar you’ll ever own. No one needs to fly out for Europe (or Japan) to service them. And unlike some Italians, they are very reliable.

Shannon’s is quoting $1m-$1.3m. This is cheaper than you would have been paying in the US, but who knows in the inflationary, recessionary, renewable economy we are in now. Just remember once you get behind the wheel, go through the complex starting sequence and get it on the road, you’ll forget whatever you paid for it. For the same money you could have the 1973 Holden LJ Torana GTR XU-1 Race Car (’74 Brock Australian Touring Car Championship winner). Today I’d feel safer buying the Lexus.

Have to mention the passing of Paddy Hopkirk this week. Paddy, 89, famously won the Monte Carlo Rally but more importantly was one of motor racing’s greatest sportspeople. In the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon, Hopkirk was running third with Lucien Bianchi and Jean-Claude Ogier’s Citroen DS in the lead. Near the end of the second stage with only 158km to Sydney, the Citroen had a head-on with a motorist who mistakenly popped up on the course. Paddy and Tony Nash stopped and pulled their French rivals out of the Citroen. Winner Andrew Cowan went by.

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