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What was Top Gear's biggest shock of 2022?

There was the time the office coffee machine broke, but this Volkswagen earthquake was even more seismic

Published: 28 Dec 2022

Jaguar Land Rover CEO Thierry Bolloré stepping suddenly down from his post after less than two years in office in November was a late contender for shock of the year, but Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess’s departure will have a much more significant impact on the wider car industry.

On the face of it, Diess’s resignation announcement in July was merely a benign politico-style ‘spending more time with the family’ job, but like the old swan imagery it hinted at the frantic activity going on beneath the serene surface floating.

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We all know that Volkswagen was dented by the vast, duplicitous diesel trickery it wreaked on the world and was rightly punished for. And yet, under the firm leadership of Herbert Diess it has seemed to bounce back quicker than it really had a right to.

Diess hammered through the move to electric power, evidenced by the ever-expanding range of ID-badged cars at Volkswagen and plethora of zero emission options across the VW Group. The move fuelled by seemingly limited R&D cash that has meant VW could develop its own modular platforms for EVs and get the build costs down quicker than its rivals.

Cracks have begun to appear, though, and perhaps the costs have been driven down harder and faster than they should have done. Volkswagen’s software provision is notably lacking, new technology forced out into the public sphere before it’s either proven or ready (and yet still delaying the launch of the MkVIII Golf). Where once VW sat imperiously ahead of the competition it has started to drop back.

And so the Volkswagen board has become impatient – as CEO of one of the world’s biggest car companies everyone is your friend when the sun is shining, but those backseat drivers are soon full of ideas when things start to slow down. The Diess vision no longer tallied up with that of the board of directors, and so Herbert finds himself with a lot of time to spend in his garden. Tschüss.

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