The VW boss is asking for a settlement to end the war in Ukraine to help the EU economy

The head of Volkswagen has asked the EU to pursue a negotiated solution to the war in Ukraine for the sake of the continent’s economy, in an intervention that challenges the attitude of European leaders.

“I think we should do our utmost to really stop this war and get back to the negotiations and come back to try to open up the world again,” Herbert Diess told the Financial Times’ Future of the Car summit on Monday.

“I think we should not give up on open markets and free trade, and I think we should not give up negotiating and trying to settle.”[ads1];

The VW boss’s comments come the day after Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, promised to continue supplying Ukraine with weapons, adding that “capitulating to brute force” was not an option for Europe.

While his stance has been publicly supported by German industry, supply chain disruptions – exacerbated by the war in Ukraine – continue to hurt people like Volkswagen, the world’s second largest carmaker.

A shortage of wiring in the country forced the company to cut production in recent weeks, and VW has sold out of electric models in the US and Europe for the year.

Diess said that if global trade continues to struggle, “Europe will suffer the most, and Germany, but I think it will be bad for the whole world”.

His statements come as Germany discusses whether it can withstand a sudden end to Russian gas supplies. A new study conducted by an adviser to the government found that Germany’s economy could lose around 12 percent of its annual production if supplies stopped abruptly.

Volkswagen’s Diess, which had previously warned that a protracted war would do more damage to Germany and Europe than the Covid-19 pandemic, has sparked criticism for earlier comments.

In 2019, he apologized after using the phrase “Ebit macht frei”, or “Profits will set you free” – an apparent play with the phrase “Arbeit macht frei” or “Work will set you free”, which was forged into the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Later that year, he said he was “unaware” of China’s mass imprisonment of Muslims in Xinjiang province.

On Monday, Diess also warned that the German group would struggle to take over Tesla as the world’s largest manufacturer of electric cars with the company’s goal of 2025.

“I did not expect the growth of our main American competitor to be so rapid,” he said.

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