Brexit text with British and Eu flags illustration

I popped home to Monaco this weekend. Great weather, magnificent food; just the place to see out the Brexit storm engulfing Britain.

The Côte d’Azur is its usual sparkling best. The sea temperature is just right – once les petitis ballons have adjusted of course.

And while the guards at the Palais Princier in Monaco are still sticking to their bizarre handover time of 11:55 AM it’s always worth a gander at old Boney’s personal belongings in the Musée des Souvenirs Napoléoniens in the west wing.

Although Brexit will undoubtedly affect me in some shape or form going forward for good or for bad, I’m an EU and Australian citizen and not British, it’s been fascinating to see the fallout from the historic Brexit vote.

Matthias Muller is no slouch.

He ran Porsche before the emissions scandal blew up in VW’s face.  He then took over as VW CEO in September last year.

I’ve been tipping him as a CEO to watch since last December.  And I’ve been watching VW closely –  last year I advised the car giant to get serious about EVs.

Looks like they’re listening.

Muller just announced VW’s new strategic plan.  It’s a big deal and people are sitting up and taking note. He’s called it VW’s “biggest transformation in the company’s history.”

I’m inclined to agree.

The analysts are already getting stuck into the detail.  Efficiency gains, €8Bn savings, a combined Group components business with 70,000 employees, and margins up to 8%.

But the really interesting stuff is VW’s total commitment towards EVs, battery tech, digitization, and autonomous driving.  Muller says he’ll create “entirely new areas of competence for the Group” which includes of course Audi and Porsche.

Development of EVs is going into overdrive. Over the next 10 years, VW will develop around 30 new battery powered electric-car models.  This could rapidly account for 25% of VW total sales.

Muller says he’ll launch the first fully autonomous vehicles by the end of the decade.  That’s in less than four years.  They’re hiring 1,000 software specialists to help them do it.

This caps VW’s recent announced of $300 million investment in GETT, an Uber rival.  His plan is to put GETT at the heart of a new ‘mobility services division’ delivering €1 billion revenues by 2025.

For those of you who don’t know, ‘mobility services’ are going to destroy the traditional model of car ownership.  Who wants to spend tens of thousands on an asset that sits idle in a car parking space 90% of the time?  Mobility services – shared cars – are possibly the single biggest threat to old fashioned car makers, and VW has jumped on that bandwagon good and proper.

And Muller announced his plans to make battery technology a core competency at the group. At the moment, car makers rely heavily on suppliers for their batteries.

VW is investing €11bn on innovation in batteries, electrification, and related technologies, and the car company is in a good place, literally.  Just across the border, in the Czech republic, lies Europe’s largest lithium deposit.  This deposit at Cinovec, is perfectly located to supply VW and others with this vital element which Goldman Sachs has dubbed the ‘new gasoline.

So good for you, Herr Muller.  VW had a brush with the grim reaper last year and some thought this venerable brand may not survive.  But (as I have written previously) these events may not have been entirely of VW’s making.

When the going gets tough it is heartening to see bold, clear and smart strategy from the new leadership.  VW’s plans make sense to me.

 

 

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Well well well.  The UK is gearing up to vote leave if the polls and yesterday’s Sun front cover are to be believed.

I’ve been saying all along that Britain will be better off out of Europe.

From a business perspective it’s a no brainer.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve nothing against international cooperation.  It’s a good thing.

The UK should and must cooperate with other nations to strengthen trade, security, and so on.

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I was obviously delighted to see Australia performing at this year’s Eurovision.  In fact we nearly won – the wonderful Dami Im was leading the voting for most of the night.

What on earth was Aus doing anyway, performing at the Eurovision?  Shome mishtake shurely?  Well, no.  Australia was invited to enter last year as a one off, to celebrate Eurovision’s mission of ‘building bridges across the world.’  And it went down so well that the committee invited us back a second time round.

But well done Ukraine for pipping everybody else to the post.  And bad luck Britain, although to be fair I don’t think you Pommies were taking it very seriously this year, as usual.

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So my Brexit post at the start of the week kicked up a bit of a stir.

As I said on Monday, I’m an Aussie so it’s not for me to tell you Pommies how to vote.

But as an Aussie I do have views on our great shared institution The Commonwealth.  And as a businessman I understand the economics, and see the trade implications of EU membership first hand.

It beggars belief why any country would choose to shackle itself to a declining economy such as Europe, in a relationship that acts as a straight jacket.

Because that’s what EU membership does.  It prevents Britain from forging more meaningful trade relations with other more dynamic countries and trading blocs around the world.

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You can’t sit in a London cab, go to the pub, or sit down at a posh dinner party these days without the dreaded Brexit coming up.

I’m an Aussie, with a non-British EU passport, so it’s none of my business really what the UK decides in June.  But as a businessman, with investments and staff on virtually every continent in the world, I’m interested in people’s views on the matter.

My pal James (the English spook) is obsessed by the new EU rules on toasters.  Apparently the French and the Germans have conspired to reduce the power of toasters so we’ll all be chewing warm soggy bread when they have their way.  That nails that then!