Connect with us


VW takes leaf out of Musk’s Twitter playbook



It was an April Fool’s joke that went wrong. In an embarrassing apology, Volkswagen was forced to confirm in late March that its US rebranding to “Voltswagen” to embrace an all-electric future was a stunt.

Yet the botched announcement, which prompted a Securities and Exchange Commission probe after coinciding with a surge in the group’s US shares, was in tune with a social media strategy set in motion at the carmaker’s German headquarters.

Last summer, VW chief executive Herbert Diess told staff he wanted to be more vocal online. He felt the group, which is investing more than €35bn in electric technology, needed to wrestle back attention from the likes of Elon Musk, according to people close to senior management.

“Maybe we need a big boom,” is how one person familiar with the strategy described the approach, which involved Diess taking to LinkedIn and then Twitter with ever more provocative posts.

Diess is also active on China’s Weibo, where he is hot on the heels of the Tesla founder — who has used social media for years to promote himself and his company — in terms of followers.

In a series of stunts to get VW more noticed, Diess posed for a selfie with Tesla boss Elon Musk © Herbert Diess/Twitter

VW launched its first dedicated electric car, the ID.3, last year, and sold almost 232,000 battery-powered vehicles in 2020, becoming Europe’s largest electric vehicle company in the process. By the end of the decade, it wants 70 per cent of its sales in Europe to be emissions-free.

Despite such ambitions, the German company is worth less than a third of Tesla, which is building a factory just 150 miles away from VW Group’s base in Wolfsburg.

In an unusual move for Germany’s staid corporate class, Diess has engaged in a series of stunts to get VW noticed.

The Bavarian donned a Batman mask while demonstrating one of the group’s cars in a LinkedIn post, posed for a selfie with Musk when he visited VW to test the ID.3, and after joining Twitter at the start of the year, playfully taunted the Tesla executive, who had tried to recruit Diess when he was a BMW manager.

The VW boss has also sparred with climate activists and politicians online, over the best way to achieve carbon neutral transport.

VW's performance and recent key moments

The importance of this strategy is underlined by a weekly social media planning meeting, which is chaired by Diess and can last for two hours, one person said. The analytics of previous posts are pored over and potential “viral content” for the days ahead is discussed.

Some say the tactic has helped get VW more recognition.

“Diess got some attention, because [Daimler boss Ola] Kallenius and [BMW’s Oliver] Zipse are not going out there,” said Michael Muders, a portfolio manager at Union Investment, a top seven VW shareholder.

“You need a lot of money to master the transition,” he added. “This is part of the game plan.”

Key to this plan is the ability to attract the attention of fund managers in the US, who are much more focused on VW’s younger competitors. In pursuit of this goal, VW recently started doing its quarterly press calls in English.

“After Dieselgate there was no interest from American investors,” said a person close to VW’s executive board. More than half of Diess’ Twitter followers are from the US, they added.

With GM and Ford making headlines for naming dates when they will stop selling combustion engine cars, VW is attempting to stress that it has an edge on its traditional competitors, in the form of dedicated electric platforms, one of which is licensed to Ford.

This technology “gives VW a lead over peers”, said Daniel Schwarz, an analyst at Stifel. “Now we have the European Green Deal and VW’s strategy looks even more promising.”

Diess chairs a weekly social media planning meeting that studies the analytics of previous posts © Twitter

Along with other events, such as a “Power Day” focused on battery technology designed to create a buzz online, VW’s online offensive has coincided with a sharp rise in the manufacturer’s stock.

For a short while this spring, the Beetle-maker once again wore the crown of Germany’s most valuable public company, despite no significant shift in its already ambitious electric plans, and almost regained the ground lost since the diesel emissions scandal in 2015.

Critically, though, it is unclear how much Diess’ tweets are helping.

Although VW’s shares have more than doubled since hitting 10-year lows in March last year, Daimler’s stock has tripled over the same period, despite its reserved Swedish chief executive staying off Twitter.

“I use LinkedIn, because we have found out that that’s a very good tool to attract talent to our company,” Kallenius told the Financial Times, “and I’m sticking with that for now.

If the share rally — boosted in part by a boom in car demand — is to keep going, German carmakers will probably have to do more than deploy hashtags.

“The easy money in the market has probably been made,” said Union’s Muders. “The question is what are the margins in the electric vehicle business. That will be the focus of the market.”

Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


'It’s more than sport – every day we are fighting for our rights to be equal’




French pro basketball player and podcaster Diandra Tchatchouang on her role beyond the court

Source link

Continue Reading


Emily Dean on how allyship amplifies the female experience on film




You can enable subtitles (captions) in the video player

When I was six years old, I decided to be an artist. When I was 12, I decided to be a filmmaker. And instead of saying no, you can’t do that, or it’s not possible, my mum bought me a video camera.

After several years of working in the industry, I’m working with a female director for the first time. And it’s been such a gratifying experience. Women express leadership in different ways. Maybe you don’t have to be the loudest person in the room. But you can have great ideas.

And the best thing about being mentored by women and being a mentor to women is that make friends with women.

There’s something so powerful the women coming alongside other women, especially in a group setting. Because it means that you can and back each other up. You can support each other’s decisions, and you can amplify each other’s voices.

It’s about seeing yourself in your work. Seeing some part of yourself reflected is really gratifying. It’s also important that we speak up for female characters. I want to see girls and women on screen who have the whole cacophony of experience of what it’s like to be female.

I want to see their flaws. I want to feel their struggles. I want to see their joy. That is so important to making a character feel real. And it took me a little while to settle into myself and realise, if the characters I like to come up with are not your everyday run of the mill characters you see in animation, that’s fine. Because this is who I am.

When you walk into a story room, when you’re working on a film, you have to leave your ego at the door. I think that can be interpreted like keep your ego out of the work. But I’d also say for women who are maybe more shy that leaving your ego at the door means you walk in. And your job is to focus on what’s best for the story and for the film.

The story needs you. The film needs you, and it needs your best ideas. It won’t thrive unless you speak up.

Source link

Continue Reading


Crimea ‘water war’ opens new front in Russia-Ukraine conflict




When a cyclone drenched Crimea in rainfall last month, rivers burst their banks and thousands of people in the Russia-annexed peninsula had to be evacuated from the floods.

The silver lining to the deluge was that the rains also filled Crimea’s depleted reservoirs, temporarily alleviating a crisis brought on by an extended drought and a Ukrainian blockade of the Soviet-built canal that previously provided up to 85 per cent of the peninsula’s water supplies.

Moscow’s struggle to supply Crimea’s 2.4m residents with fresh water has become a flashpoint in an undeclared war, seven years after Russian troops seized Crimea from Ukraine. An even longer conflict between Kyiv and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has claimed more than 14,000 lives.

Russia has accused Ukraine of “genocide” over the building of a concrete dam across the North Crimean Canal, in addition to the existing sandbag and earth dam that was built in 2014. Kyiv fears that Moscow is plotting a military incursion to secure water flows from the nearby Dnipro river.

Coupled with surging food prices and international isolation because of western sanctions, the water shortages threaten to undermine President Vladimir Putin’s promise of a better life for Crimeans under Russian rule.

Though state-run pollsters claim Putin remains more popular in Crimea than on average across Russia, the patriotic fervour that sent his approval ratings to record levels after the 2014 annexation has long since subsided.

Map showing Ukraine and the North Crimean Canal, Crimea

“The water reserves and fields have dried up,” said Viktor, 47, a Crimean who regularly travels to Ukraine for work. “Each year it’s getting worse and worse. We didn’t have this problem before annexation,” he said, adding that most Crimeans blamed Ukraine for the crisis.

A $3.7bn bridge across the Kerch Strait linking Crimea with mainland Russia has become a conduit for trucks ferrying water for locals to take away in plastic containers. Popular Black Sea tourist resorts can turn on their taps for just a few hours a day during peak droughts, while the canal has filled with grass and weeds.

Crimea’s agricultural output has fallen owing to a lack of irrigation, making it all but impossible to grow water-intensive crops such as rice.

Construction of the canal began in 1957 after the Soviet Union transferred the arid peninsula to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic to manage rebuilding after the second world war. The waterway allowed for the cultivation of arable land and helped transform Crimea into a haven for tourists.

“The canal symbolises the stupidity of the Kremlin in occupying Crimea. They didn’t weigh the consequences at a moment of electoral euphoria that was fed by their own propaganda,” said Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister in charge of reintegration policies for the occupied territories.

“Why didn’t you think about water?” he asked.

The North Crimean Canal is seen with a low level of water
The severely depleted North Crimean Canal previously provided up to 85% of the peninsula’s water supplies © Pierre Crom/Getty

Workers collect potatoes on the North Crimean Canal
Workers collect potatoes on the North Crimean Canal. Ukraine blocked the irrigation channel after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea © Pierre Crom/Getty

Russia, while pressing Ukraine to reopen the waterway, has launched a Rbs50bn ($680m) programme to bolster Crimea’s supplies, repairing crumbling infrastructure, drilling wells, adding storage and desalination capacity.

Russian prosecutors last week filed a lawsuit in the European Court of Human Rights accusing Ukraine of “flagrant violations” over the issue. Crimea’s governor plans to file a separate complaint demanding up to Rbs1.5tn in compensation.

“Kyiv has essentially used Crimea’s infrastructure dependence on Ukraine, which came about in the Soviet era, as a weapon of mass destruction against all Crimeans. The water blockade is an act of state terrorism and ecocide, but the international community is failing to notice the Kyiv regime’s crimes,” Sergei Aksyonov, the peninsula’s governor, said in written comments to the Financial Times.

Reznikov said Russia, as the occupation force, was responsible under the Geneva Conventions for securing water and other basic needs for local the population. Ukraine has filed its own multi-billion-dollar claims against Russia, citing losses caused by what it describes as an illegal land grab.

With tensions rising, Russia deployed tens of thousands of troops and advanced weapons to Crimea this spring, as well as to the border of the two breakaway eastern regions where Moscow-backed separatists have battled government troops into an eighth year.

Col Kyrylo Budanov, chief of Ukraine’s army intelligence unit, said Russia was looking to seize the canal as well as adjacent territory to connect Crimea with the breakaway regions. Russian troops could advance on Nova Kakhovka, the Dnipro river town where the canal begins.

Some Crimean Tatars, an indigenous ethnic group whose members largely opposed Russia’s annexation, have set up a makeshift camp near the dams to make sure the water flow does not resume.

A Crimean Tatar activist on the North Crimean Canal
A Crimean Tatar activist enters his base on the North Crimean Canal. Tatars have set up camp to make sure the water flow does not resume © Pierre Crom/Getty

A Ukraine military vehicle drives past a Soviet monument marking the entrance to Brylivka
A Ukraine military vehicle drives past a Soviet monument marking the entrance to Brylivka, a village on the North Crimean Canal © Pierre Crom/Getty

“It will be a full-scale war,” said a 55-year-old activist who gave his name as Alibaba. He said he and his fellow activists were willing to take up arms to defend the blockaded canal. “There will be nowhere to hide in these fields. Let them try,” he added.

At the Kalanchak border crossing near the new dam, Russian and Ukrainian troops have dug trench positions a few hundred meters apart.

Tensions have also flared in the Black Sea, not just with Ukraine but also with western navies. Russia fired warning shots in the path of a British destroyer sailing through contested waters off Crimea last month. Sevastopol, Crimea’s largest city, is home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

Moscow has insisted it would not go to war over Crimea’s water supplies, even as it conceded that Ukraine was unlikely to restore them. “All these hysterical statements from Ukrainian politicians are completely baseless — they’re just stupid, aggressive propaganda aimed at inciting hatred between the Russian and Ukrainian people. There won’t be any ‘water war’,” Crimea governor Aksyonov said.

Reznikov, the Ukrainian minister, said Kyiv was ready to provide Crimea with humanitarian assistance, including drinking water, which it already does for the separatist-run eastern territories, but no request had been made.

“For Russia to admit they’re weak is very difficult . . . it would amount to an admission that they made the wrong decision,” he said.

Source link

Continue Reading