Stefan Jacoby, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. spoke to students about challenges facing the automobile industry.

March 12, 2009

By Paul Feinberg

Stefan Jacoby, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. today addressed a filled-to-capacity Korn Convocation Hall on the UCLA campus, as part of UCLA Anderson School of Management's "Distinguished Speaker Series." Jacoby touched on some of the challenges facing the automobile industry and his views on potential solutions, while describing Volkswagen Group's growth strategy, its sustainable mobility platform and the company's decision to invest $1 billion in a new U.S. plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Watch the presentation (Windows Media)

Jacoby began with some general remarks on the automobile industry and the current, global economic woes, while citing the falling sales plaguing every major car manufacturer (though, he noted, Volkswagen's market share in the United States actually increased in 2008). "But," Jacoby said, "(Volkswagen) want(s) to turn challenges into opportunities."

Turning his attention to Volkswagen, Jacoby focused on the company's notion of "sustainable mobility" -- the idea that the life-cycle of a car from development and design through its road life and its afterlife is considerate of environmental sustainability. Exhibit A in this regard is the new VW plant being built in Chattanooga.

"It's not just a new plant, it's a new company," Jacoby said, referring both to the plant and the move of Volkswagen Group of America's corporate headquarters from Michigan to Virginia. "We want to create an atmosphere of innovation, creativity and collaboration." The factory is costing the company $1 billion to build and when complete will create 2,000 direct new jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs. Among its environmentally-friendly features are a reduction in energy consumption and reductions in emissions and waste. "And when there is waste, we will clean it up ourselves," Jacoby said.

To the disappointment of some in the audience, Jacoby believes that the electric car is perhaps two decades away from achieving any sort of market share. But there are a host of other innovations in the automotive-technology pipeline, including zero-emission cars and hydrogen-fuel cars, that will meet consumer's growing desire for cars that have lower or no negative impacts on the environment.

"Some of the most exciting work is being done in California, in our design center in Santa Monica," Jacoby said. "We are taking full advantage of new fuel sources on the horizon, including nanotechnology," Jacoby said, emphasizing the need for automakers to keep innovating, even during challenging times.

The event was co-sponsored by the UCLA Anderson Automotive Business Association, the UCLA Sustainable Resource Center, Net Impact, the UCLA Office of Sustainability and the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.

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