inside
The employee magazine
of the Volkswagen brand

Strategy

»Implementation is the important thing«

Christian Eisenlohr (43) heads the General Secretariat and Corporate Strategy for the Volkswagen Brand. In his interview with inside, he speaks about TRANSFORM 2025+.

Mr. Eisenlohr, do you play chess?
Yes. But unfortunately I haven’t had much time for it recently.

What do you like about chess?
What I like is that there isn’t just one solution. On one hand, you need to figure out the next moves that your opponent will make. On the other, there will always be surprises, so you have to keep modifying your strategy.

Does that also apply to TRANSFORM 2025+, the new strategy for the Volkswagen Brand?
Our strategy maps out the general direction that we want to take. You could say it represents the guardrails on our road into the ­future. But of course a strategy should be ­understood as a dynamic process. We will ­continue to monitor how the automotive ­environment develops, and can adjust our strategy accordingly at any time.

Why did Volkswagen need a new strategy at all?
The automotive industry will be undergoing greater changes than ever before over the coming years. We’re talking about electric mobility, connectivity, and autonomous driving, just to name a few key points. Then there are factors like new legislation on emissions and ­pollutants, market growth in many emerging ­economies, and the appearance of new players from outside the car industry.

In short: Volkswagen’s traditional business ­model is under pressure  …
Exactly. So TRANSFORM 2025+ is all the more important, because it now gives us clear guidelines on how the Brand can master these challenges. The brand initiatives cover everything we need from today’s perspective to take Volkswagen successfully up to 2025 and beyond.

General Secretary Christian Eisenlohr says: “Implementing the strategy is the real challenge.”

»The brand initiatives cover everything we need from today’s perspective to take Volkswagen successfully up to 2025 and beyond.«

A lot can happen before then in this fast-paced age. Can you and your colleagues from the ­strategy department read the future?
(laughs) No, of course we can’t do that. Our strategy is a product of comprehensive analysis. We’ve examined what possible trends might develop. Based on that, we’ve divided the ­strategy into three stages.

And those are?
In the first, most crucial stage, we want to make the Brand the world’s largest manufacturer in terms of volume by 2020. To do so, we must ­become more profitable, which means increasing our returns. During this stage, our business will continue to be based around conventional drive systems, i.e. combustion engines.

But that will change at some point.
Right. By 2025, we want to lead the market in electric mobility, and by 2030 we want to lead the automobile market in general. For each of these three stages, the Brand’s Board of Directors has defined milestones that we need to reach. We know perfectly well that on our way to achieving these goals, we will encounter things that we had not foreseen. Take, for ­example, the presentation of the first iPhone in January of 2007. Nobody knew at that time how much this smartphone would change our way of communicating.

You mention the Brand’s Board of Directors. Who else was involved in developing the strategy?
The content of the strategy was developed by 19 interdepartmental teams consisting of more than 100 employees. Then there were ­colleagues from Corporate Strategy, who took on the job of coordination among the people responsible for the brand initiatives and those in the individual departments.

The new strategy was presented in late November. When will the employees find out what TRANSFORM 2025+ means in concrete terms for them and their everyday work?
There will be informational events for all ­employees starting in January. In addition, all management personnel will be sitting down with their teams and determining how the strategy will be implemented in their ­respective areas.

Mr. Eisenlohr, how would you complete this ­sentence? A strategy is only good, if …
… it can be implemented successfully on a ­step-by-step basis. That is the most important thing. And it will only be possible to implement the strategy if every employee is ­convinced by the necessity of change, identifies with the strategy, and can work together.