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Elon Musk reportedly tried to hire VW’s Herbert Diess as Tesla CEO

Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly attempted to hire Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess to take his own role as chief executive officer at Tesla in 2015.

Diess is one of the most respected automotive executives in the business. After more than 15 years at BMW where he was one of the top executives, he decided to leave in 2014. Since then, BMW’s electrification efforts have faltered.

It was rumored that the coveted exec would make the move to Volkswagen, but someone else apparently tried to swoop in.

A report from Business Insider Germany states that Musk offered the CEO role at Tesla to Diess in 2015, and the latter even had the contract in hands:

Herbert Diess undoubtedly knows that himself. In fact, not much was missing and the Austrian would not have switched from BMW to Volkswagen in 2015 – he would have become Tesla’s new CEO. According to research by Business Insider, Diess had an employment contract from the Americans that was ready to be signed. Accordingly, Elon Musk wanted to hand over the management of Tesla to Diess. A spectacular process that Diess has so far only let in on to a few people at Volkswagen. When asked, a VW spokesman said: “No comment.”

In recent years, we have learned of Musk and Diess’s relationship, as they both publicly compliment each other’s leadership roles in the electrification of the auto industry.

But now we know from the report that the two knew each other from Diess’s days at BMW. They apparently met in person in 2014, which is surprising since Tesla didn’t have a relationship with BMW like it did with BMW’s rival Daimler, who was a Tesla shareholder.

While the report doesn’t explain why Diess didn’t take the role at Tesla and went to Volkswagen instead, it did state that Diess still had a positive view of Tesla and even reportedly personally invested in the electric automaker.

After just a few years at Volkswagen and following the Dieselgate scandal, Diess took the reins as CEO of the group and has been accelerating the automaker’s electrification effort. He took inspiration from Tesla in the process.

Diess also implemented what he internally called the “Tesla catch-up plan” in order to close the software gap between the German automaker and Tesla. 

Late last year, he had Musk do a test drive of the VW ID.3 and later, he himself did a test drive of the Model Y.

Electrek’s Take

That’s an interesting tidbit of information, as we already knew that Elon didn’t even want to be CEO of Tesla in the first place.

Martin Eberhard, Tesla’s original CEO and cofounder, couldn’t get the Roadster out to customers and he was pushed out in 2008.

Tesla tried to find a new CEO, but it wasn’t easy to find a good executive at a failing EV startup in the middle of a massive financial crisis. Musk ended up taking over, and 13 years later, he is still CEO.

However, he has always stated that while he will always remain at Tesla in some capacity, he didn’t want to be CEO forever.

It looks like he saw an opportunity to put Tesla in the hands of a competent auto exec since Diess was leaving BMW and tried to take that opportunity, but it didn’t work out.

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