BBC Report: Does Tesla Have Schadenfreude after VW Scandal?

BBC Report: Does Tesla Have Schadenfreude after VW Scandal?

By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

The VW Scandal is growing in intensity and its repercussions are rippling across the globe. It’s widely predicted that the electric vehicle market will get a boost from this diesel disaster. Prius drivers may be feeling smug, but what of electric car makers like Tesla?

Yesterday, the BBC invited me to join the World Service’s Business Matters to discuss the scandal and its implications on the auto industry. Having attended last week’s launch of Tesla’s Model X all-electric SUV – where CEO, Elon Musk emphasized the company’s focus on air quality – I shared my perspective and that of George Blankenship, former Tesla VP, whom I interviewed at the launch.

Host of the BBC’s Business Matters, Fergus Nicoll, asked me:

“Is there schaudenfraude in the U.S. auto industry as VW scrambles?” BBC’s Fergus Nicoll

Listen to or download the podcast here. VW discussion covers the first 11 minutes of the show.

Here’s a transcript of our interview, edited for length and clarity.

Fergus Nicoll: Thursday is likely to be another painful day for the carmaker, VW. On Capital Hill, its US president and CEO, Michael Horn is scheduled to testify…he’s not the only one in the hot seat. His counterpart in South Korea, local VW boss, Johannes Thammer is due to attend a parliamentary audit in Seoul in about an hour from now. It’s all about the emissions scandal of course…

Let’s get Alison van Diggelen with us from Silicon Valley. Is there schadenfreude in the US auto industry as VW scrambles or is it: there but for the grace of the EPA go we?

Alison van Diggelen: Good to join you Fergus. I think the former. I was at the Model X launch last week in Silicon Valley and Elon Musk referred to it obliquely – about their work on a new air filter and how “air quality is very important” to them. So there is definitely a bit of schadenfreude.

I spoke with George Blankenship, former Tesla VP…he actually addressed the issue of (VW) cheating straight on. We have a clip here:

George Blankenship, interviewed by Alison van Diggelen. Photo: Fresh DialoguesGeorge Blankenship: I think his (Elon Musk’s) message has always been: the reason he’s doing this is to save the planet. Everything he does rolls up to that. Everything for him, whether you look at SolarCity, Tesla, SpaceX…it’s all about the survival of this planet and the atmosphere is what’s going to make it possible to live here for a long time, or not.

Alison van Diggelen: Any comment…on the VW scandal and their attitude to emissions?

George Blankenship: It’s unfortunate that others feel that they have to do things like that to try to compete. It’s the absolute opposite of what Tesla does…. Tesla comes up with a problem: we can’t get the falcon wing doors to work…we need sonar that goes through metal. They find a solution. It’s unfortunate when another company feels like they have to do something like that, as opposed to taking that same energy that they used to come up with that kind of a solution and put it into a solution that could have done something ground breaking in the car. 


Read more from my interview with Blankenship

Read more reports about Elon Musk and Tesla