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Big surprise! Volkswagen ropes in arch rival Elon Musk for pep talk to top brass on electric cars

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Tesla chief Elon Musk has given a pep talk to 200 top executives of arch rival Volkswagen

In a surprise development, Tesla chief Elon Musk has given a pep talk to 200 top executives of arch rival Volkswagen after an invitation from the German auto giant’s CEO Herbert Diess, who wants VW to expedite the shift to electric vehicles.

Musk’s speech to a VW managers conference in Austria via a video call was confirmed by Diess on Saturday via Twitter after the news was reported in Handelsblatt daily. Musk in his speech praised for being an “icon” and Tesla’s greatest challenger.  

The paper said that when asked by Diess why Tesla was quicker than its rivals, Musk said it was because of his management style and he considers himself an engineer, first of all, with a focus on supply chains, logistics and production.

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In a post on Linkedin, Diess added that he had brought in Musk as a "surprise guest" to drive home the point that VW needs faster decisions and less bureaucracy for its biggest transformation in history.

"Happy to hear that even our strongest competitor thinks that we will succeed in the transition if we drive the transformation with full power," Diess said on Linkedin.

Diess pointed out that it took Tesla only two to three weeks to rewrite software to allow for a switch from one type of microchip, which went out of stock, to another.

Diess said in his Saturday tweet that VW, which has emerged as the main contender to Tesla for global electric vehicle supremacy, would continue its dialogue with Tesla.

Diess warned last month that the planned opening of Tesla's car factory at Gruenheide near Berlin will force local industry to improve its performance to compete against the fast-growing U.S. electric vehicle maker.

Tesla has drawn up a $6.8 billion investment plan for Germany.

VW has also drawn up ambitious plans to go electric and is building six large battery factories in Europe by 2030.