Vegan Wagen

Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 13 August 2021

What is the most successful Volkswagen (VW) model? No, it is not the Golf, not the Tiguan and not the all-electric ID.3.

No, the German car manufacturer’s biggest seller is a sausage, the famous Volkswagen Currywurst. It even has its own Wikipedia entry.

But times are changing, and Volkswagen is changing with them.

The company’s CEO Herbert Diess just announced that when workers return to the factory after the European summer, they would no longer find the wildly popular sausage on the menu.

Indeed, they would no longer see any meat-based products at all. In their stead, Volkswagen has developed 400 new recipes for vegan and vegetarian dishes – including vegetarian currywurst.

In a post on LinkedIn, Diess explained his priorities: “This topic is really a concern for me personally: The food in our VW canteens. It’s getting better and healthier all the time!” In a VW memo to staff, the company explained that vegan canteen food was better for the environment, too.

It must be a relief for Diess to be taking a personal interest in canteen food. For the past years, he was busy with the fallout of a scandal in which Volkswagen had manipulated its car’s emissions. Last year, a court trial against Diess for deceiving investors was narrowly averted by accepting a €4.5 million fine.

Freed from such legal concerns, Diess can now turn his mind to other challenges. Not content with electrifying Volkswagen’s entire fleet by the early 2030s, it is his new mission to change the diets of his employees, too.

Still, for Volkswagen, this meat-free revolution is a culture shock. The automobile manufacturer produces more sausages than cars: 18,000 sausages a day.

So popular is the sausage, it even has its own VW part number: 199 398 500 A. That makes it go along with Volkswagen’s own ketchup (199 398 500 B), all to be served on a Volkswagen original plate (33D 069 602). Try ordering these extras next time you see your local VW dealer.

The VW sausage revolution has created a political backlash. Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder felt compelled to issue a statement: “If I were still on the supervisory board of VW, there would have been no such thing,” the Social Democrat blustered. “Currywurst with fries is one of the power bars of the skilled production worker.”

But what do Social Democrats know about factory workers’ needs?

The real progressives these days are business leaders like Diess: producing electric cars for which they can no longer manipulate emissions – and sausages that no longer contain meat.

They should rename their company Vegan Wagen.

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