The directive of Volkswagen had prepared yesterday an announcement to maintain the initiative before the meeting of shareholders celebrated in Berlin and retire the focus of the scandal of the fraud of the diesel engines, that has cost until now some 30,000 million Euros to the company according to the calculations of the supervisory board. The coup was the novelty of a project to buy and condition an electric battery factory in Salzgitter, Lower Saxony, in which the company will invest 1,000 million euros, hire 700 employees and serve the current production strategy of about 22 million electric vehicles in the next ten years.
The group's president, Herbert Diess, explained to the general shareholders' meeting that "the battery is a key and strategically important component in the electric vehicle", arguing that the production of batteries does not meet the market demand in the future and that Volkswagen an important one will be scored making theirs without depending on suppliers. Until now the European automobile manufacturers have imported batteries from Asia and the time has come to produce them at home, it was their argument. But where Diess believed he was discovering the philosopher's stone of the group's survival, he ran into the refusal of the shareholders, who do not see the strategy clearly and suspect that it will only serve to continue digging into the bottom of the results.
"In the foreseeable future, there is no alternative to the development of the electric battery", defended Diess, to which several shareholders responded in disfavor. "I do not know, nobody knows if people are going to buy those cars or not," said Heinrich Bäustmann, a small shareholder worried about the long load times demanded by this type of vehicle, which require deep changes of habits on the part of the drivers. Bäustmann, who before retiring worked all his life as a Volkswagen mechanic, criticized that "it is a mistake to produce such large volumes of battery cars, it would be better to start small, limit yourself to one, at most three models, and see what's happening ». The directive thinks, on the contrary, that only through mass production can costs be reduced and achieve a definitive introduction into the market.
Another retail investor, Gerd Klimke, mistrusts the electric option as a definitive solution. "As much as it will be a transitional technology, the combustion engine, possibly hydrogen, will prevail, which is a very abundant substance and which pollutes less than the electric battery," he said during the Berlin meeting. And not only the small shareholders rebelled. "Electric batteries contain lithium, a light metal whose production causes massive environmental damage, for example in large deposits in Chile where groundwater has been seriously contaminated," contradicted Hendrik Schmidt, asset manager at DWS, "we know that extraction Lithium will have to have tripled by 2025 and we will meet again in just a few years with another problem of unsustainable pollution. "
In the same vein, the portfolio manager of Deka Investments, the securities division of the Sparkassen Savings Bank, took the microphone to ask Diess about the kilos of cobalt required for the manufacture of electric battery poop and how it can be used. ensure the extraction of this raw material without human rights abuses. Two thirds of the cobalt needed to fuel the production of batteries is currently supplied by large companies working in Congo in "inhumane" working conditions, he complained, a circumstance that shareholders do not approve. The board failed to answer the question "can Volkswagen risk a cobalt scandal after the diesel scandal?" And only succeeded in promising: "We will work hard to reduce the level of cobalt used in the manufacture of batteries »
And in addition to the reprimand of the shareholders, Diess had to face the youth movement "Fridays for Future", which is successfully demonstrated every Friday in various European capitals and requires a stronger commitment by governments in climate protection . A hundred environmental protesters booed the Volkswagen shareholders, denouncing the impact on climate and environmental pollution that the German automotive construction giant has and accusing the company of «representing the immoral avidity of capitalism». This was the expression used by Clara Marisa Mayer, an 18-year-old activist who spoke before the assembly to warn: "If you insist on destroying our planet, on stealing our future, you must understand that you are only making very short-term benefits because for our generation you will be a cursed company ». On the doorstep of the assembly, the demonstrators staged a mock massacre amid tires and rims of Volkswagen vehicles behind a false police cordon and under a large sign that attracted the attention of passers-by: "Scene of the climate crime". .