Volkswagen Group

InfluenceMap Score
C
Performance Band
71%
Organisation Score
50%
Relationship Score
Sector:
Automobiles
Head​quarters:
Wolfsburg, Germany
Brands and Associated Companies:
Audi, Porsche, Seat, Skoda
Official Web Site:
Wikipedia:

Climate Lobbying Overview: Volkswagen is actively engaged with European and US climate regulation, and appears to have become more positive on climate regulation since early 2019. In 2020-21, Volkswagen has stated support for certain policies to electrify transportation, while having mixed engagement on policies to phase out ICE vehicles and EU CO2 targets for cars and vans.

Top-line Messaging on Climate Policy: Volkswagen supports the EU’s 2050 climate neutrality target, according to its 2020 Sustainability Report and an October 2021 position paper. The company has repeatedly voiced its commitment to the Paris Agreement, for example in a in a June 2020 open letter by the CEO Initiative for Europe's Recovery, Reform and Resilience to the European Commission, and has advocated for a 1.5°C global warming target in a November 2020 joint letter signed by the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders. In the US, it has also shown support for the goals of the Paris Agreement in an August 2021 joint statement. A December 2020 public affairs statement also indicated Volkswagen supported government policy around carbon pricing, which was further highlighted by Volkswagen’s CEO, Herbert Diess, in a March 2021 LinkedIn post. Diess has also continuously advocated for increased ambition on climate regulations, for example in media reports in November 2020 and March 2021, and specifically in a November 2020 European CEO Alliance press release about the EU.

Engagement with Climate-Related Regulations: Volkswagen appears to have mixed engagement with CO2 standards for light-duty vehicles, with some evidence of more positive positioning in 2021. The company has become increasingly supportive of EU CO2 standards for vehicles, with Volkswagen CEO, Herbert Diess, supporting their maintenance through the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020. Diess has also signalled his support for the revision of vehicle CO2 standards to align with the EU’s revised 2030 GHG target. In October 2021, a Volkswagen position paper appeared to explicitly support the EU's proposed higher 2030 and 2035 CO2 targets for cars and vans for the first time, recommending that the new German coalition government support them. Moreover, in June 2022, Volkswagen appeared supportive of the EU's proposed 2035 zero-emissions CO2 targets for cars in a media statement reported by Automotive News, calling the EU's plan an "ambitious but achievable goal". In contrast, a February 2021 consultation response from Volkswagen appeared unsupportive of increasing the EU’s 2025 CO2 standards and qualified its support for increased 2030 CO2 vehicle standards with major exceptions, including the need for mandatory charging infrastructure in member states. However, a May 2021 Reuters article suggested that Volkswagen had “softened its stance on tough new European carbon dioxide emissions targets for automakers”, privately supporting more ambitious CO2 targets than other automakers in talks with EU policymakers. In 2021, Volkswagen also disclosed to CDP its support for a target reduction of -50% for EU CO2 standards for light-duty vehicles.

In December 2020, Volkswagen entered into a voluntary arrangement with California regulators that accepts the state's GHG emission standard and ZEV programs, despite proposals by the federal government to revoke the state's power to implement them. Whilst this agreement represents a weakening for an overall regulatory program in California, the deal represents a significant increase in stringency compared to what is suggested by the US Federal Administration. Volkswagen also expressed support for federal US GHG emissions standards for vehicles in an August 2021 joint statement on the Biden Administration’s Steps to Strengthen American Leadership on Clean Cars and Trucks.

Volkswagen frames much of its lobbying around the idea of putting a price on carbon. As such, the company has supported the expansion of the EU ETS to road transport, according to its 2021 CDP Climate Change Information Request response and policy recommendations issued by the European CEO Alliance in July 2021 signed by CEO, Herbert Diess. Evidence suggests that Volkswagen supports higher carbon costs in the EU, with the company’s chief lobbyist, Thomas Steg, stating that all sectors should face a price of at least “60 euros per tonne of CO2 in 2023” according to a September 2020 Euractiv article. Volkswagen has also advocated for emissions trading under the EU ETS in its June 2020 corporate blog. In a September 2021 LinkedIn post, Herbert Diess recommended that the new German government support a €65 carbon price by 2024.

Evidence from a July 2021 letter signed by Herbert Diess and an October 2021 position paper suggests that Volkswagen supports a carbon border adjustment mechanism, however without specifying a position on the removal of existing carbon leakage protection measures in the EU ETS. Moreover, according to an October 2021 position paper, the company appears to support higher renewable energy targets in Germany for wind, solar and offshore wind. It has also repeatedly advocated for the EU 2030 55% GHG emissions target, as evidenced in a May 2021 press release and in its 2020 Sustainability Report.

Positioning on Energy Transition: Volkswagen appears to support the electrification of transportation, stating in its 2020 Sustainability Report “we are convinced that the battery-electric drive is, for the foreseeable future, the only solution for achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement”. In an October 2021 position paper, it advocated for extended German purchase premium for EVs, supporting higher company car taxes for ICE-powered vehicles and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) over EVs, as well as the electrification of heavy-duty transport. Volkswagen has also signalled support for the Biden Administration’s steps towards electrification in the US in an August 2021 joint statement. The company has publicly supported the expansion of electrified infrastructure across the EU in 2021, advocating for mandatory charging infrastructure requirements for all EU member states in a February 2021 EU consultation response, and supporting higher EV infrastructure targets across the EU and Germany in an October 2021 position paper. Volkswagen CEO, Herbert Diess, has also vocally supported higher EV charging infrastructure across the EU, including in a September 2021 LinkedIn post, and in a speech at a January 2020 Volkswagen Group event where he advocated for binding member state targets. However, the company did appear unsupportive of a potential EU 100% ZEV mandate in a February 2021 EU consultation response, emphasizing concerns around "market uptake" and "charging development". In a September 2021 UK consultation response both VW and its subsidiary Bentley, opposed a UK ZEV mandate, including for heavy-duty vehicles.

Regarding ICE phase-out policies, in a May 2021 press release, Volkswagen CEO, Herbert Diess, noted that in the EU, the end of the combustion engine might come earlier than in Latin America, without taking a clear position on European phase-out dates. Similarly, in September 2021, Diess, in an interview with CNN, stated that “we don't say we will finish production of combustion engine cars so soon because we will need them in some parts of the world”, and that “electrification is not the solution in every place”, suggesting an unsupportive position to a global phase-out of ICE vehicles. A July 2021 Volkswagen statement in response to the EU Fit for 55 argued that a combustion engine ban was not necessary, as e-mobility would dominate in the EU by 2030. Moreover, Volkswagen subsidiary, Porsche, appeared to oppose a UK 2030 ICE phase-out date, arguing in a March 2021 media article that “the problem is not the ICE itself, it's the fuel you burn”. However, an October 2021 position paper by Volkswagen appeared to support the EU’s 2035 zero-emissions CO2 target for the first time, which would effectively phase-out ICE vehicles. In contrast, in November 2021, Volkswagen did not sign global pledge made at COP26 to phase out ICE-powered vehicles in leading markets by 2035 and globally by 2040, attributing its decision to the challenge of “regions developing at different speed combined with different local prerequisites”, which “need different pathways towards zero emissions”, according a November 2021 Detroit News media report. A November 2021 Auto News article further reported that Volkswagen CEO, Herbert Diess, dismissed the proposed phase-out as “not doable”. Additionally, in a February 2022 Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland interview, the CEO of Porsche (a Volkswagen subsidiary), Oliver Blume, appeared to support the long-term role of internal combustion engine vehicles, alongside advocating for the use of e-fuels to decarbonize ICE vehicles over the electrification of transportation. A September 2021 UK consultation response appeared to support only the inclusion of plug-in electric vehicles and zero-emission vehicles in the UK ICE phase-out between 2030-35.

Volkswagen CEO, Herbert Diess, has also been a vocal critic of the continued use of coal in the EU’s energy mix, in June 2021 advocating for strict government policy intervention to ensure the phase out of coal. In September 2021, Diess further listed ten recommended policies for German parliamentary coalition negotiations, including ending fossil fuel subsidies and supporting renewable energy expansion. Volkswagen also supported the end of fossil fuel subsidies in Germany in an October 2021 position paper. In an April 2022 Automotive News media report, Markus Duesmann, CEO of Audi (a Volkswagen subsidiary), advocated for the complete phase-out of fossil fuel use across the European automotive industry by 2040, urging Europeans to "put all their energy towards battery-electric vehicles for individual mobility".

Industry Association Governance: Volkswagen publicly discloses a list of its industry associations on its memberships, but it does not provide any further details of the company's role within each organization's governing bodies, nor its influence over their climate change policy positions. Volkswagen has not published an audit of its alignment with its trade associations. Volkswagen’s CEO, Herbert Diess, sits on the board of both European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) and the German Automotive Association (VDA). It is worth noting, however, that Volkswagen has publicly distanced itself from the VDA on several occasions, for example in March 2019 when Volkswagen reportedly threatened to withdraw from the VDA due to the association's failure to promote electric vehicles. Additionally, evidence from 2021 suggests that VW has been internally pushing ACEA to advocate for more ambitious EU policies around the electrification of vehicles and vehicle CO2 standards. The company is also a member of numerous groups, which have opposed climate policies including Business Europe, the US-based Alliance for Automotive Innovation, and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

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Strength of Relationship
STRONG
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
WEAK
 
50%
 
50%
 
41%
 
41%
 
45%
 
45%
 
41%
 
41%
 
48%
 
48%
 
36%
 
36%
 
54%
 
54%
 
43%
 
43%
 
67%
 
67%
 
54%
 
54%
 
72%
 
72%
 
67%
 
67%
 
75%
 
75%

How to Read our Relationship Score Map

In this section, we depict graphically the relationships the corporation has with trade associations, federations, advocacy groups and other third parties who may be acting on their behalf to influence climate change policy. Each of the columns above represents one relationship the corporation appears to have with such a third party. In these columns, the top, dark section represents the strength of the relationship the corporation has with the influencer. For example if a corporation's senior executive also held a key role in the trade association, we would deem this to be a strong relationship and it would be on the far left of the chart above, with the weaker ones to the right. Click on these grey shaded upper sections for details of these relationships. The middle section contains a link to the organization score details of the influencer concerned, so you can see the details of its climate change policy influence. Click on the middle sections for for details of the trade associations. The lower section contains the organization score of that influencer, the lower the more negatively it is influencing climate policy.