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Volkswagen Group tasks ex-Porsche 919 Hybrid engineer with beating Tesla at its own game

The engineer, Alexander Hitzinger, has been working on self-driving cars at VW.

Alexander Hitzinger is back at the VW Group and he's hunting Tesla.
Getty Images/Hoch Zwei

The Volkswagen Group has been throwing money at EV development in ever more ludicrous amounts in hopes to distance itself from Dieselgate as well as futureproof itself against increasingly strict emissions requirements.

So far, VW has released the ID 3 and ID 4, while Porsche has the Taycan and Audi has its E-Tron line. These are all competent vehicles, but they still trail behind Tesla's models in several tangible ways, as well as in the mind of the public. That's why -- according to a report published Tuesday by Reuters -- the VW Group is tasking Alexander Hitzinger, aka the engineer behind the world-beating Porsche 919 race car to not just close that gap, but sprint ahead of the Big T.

Hitzinger was a longtime VW group veteran before decamping to join Apple's self-driving car program in 2016, returning to VW in 2019 to work on self-driving cars and now heading up what VW is calling "Project Artemis," in honor of the Greek goddess of hunting. Because it's hunting Tesla? That's a very German joke, in case you missed it.

"At Porsche, I always thought of a vehicle as a comprehensive system. This is a very important point. It is what Tesla does well," he explained in a video interview. This seems congruent with his plans to develop an electric vehicle that doesn't make use of separately developed systems, instead using a single, ground-up design to integrate all of the self-driving, powertrain, safety and infotainment systems as one -- something he confirmed to Reuters.

So, does this mean that the folks in Fremont should be worrying? Of course it should. The VW Group has nearly limitless resources and is actually really good at building cars at scale. Tesla should be very nervous about this.

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