Former Tesla exec who leads VW’s $100 billion electric car commitment reveals 4 lessons for success in a transforming auto industry
- Dustin Krause formerly led Tesla’s sales and retail strategies.
- He’s now head of electric mobility at VW, steering the automaker on its $100 billion electric vehicle push.
- Here’s what Krause said he learned from Tesla and the advice he has for people stepping into space.
During the eight years that he built Tesla’s sales and retail strategy, Dustin Krause learned an important thing about electric cars.
“If you can get someone to think about it, and if your product can show its uniqueness, it will eventually sell itself,” Krause said.
The former Tesla exec brings that mindset to Volkswagen, where he’s now spearheading a $100 billion electrification push. “The best executed strategies and products will win,” he told Insider.
That goes with some of Krause’s best advice for industry newbies.
Krause joined Tesla in 2009 and founded its used car business in addition to leading retail. He left Tesla and co-founded Current Automotive, a Chicago-based online retailer of used electric vehicles, before becoming head of Volkswagen’s electric mobility business in 2018.
Volkswagen has reinvented itself after its $14.7 billion Dieselgate settlement that resulted from the scandal when it was found to have cheated on vehicle emissions tests. The company is spending $100 billion over the next five years and plans to have a quarter of its global vehicle sales electrified by 2026.
Given his experience with Tesla and Volkswagen, Krause has four pieces of advice for those looking to get into the industry.
There is room to grow
Established companies are also undergoing unprecedented transformations, Krause said. This is what makes entering the industry so exciting.
“We’re all a startup here,” he said. “No matter what you’re going to do, you’re going to walk on green grass. And that’s really exciting, because if you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve in the process, there are no limits.
“For someone starting out,” he added, “there’s a lot of room to grow.”
Krause said Volkswagen is recruiting people with backgrounds in engineering and user experience, but those aren’t the only opportunities available.
“Beginner mentality is important here because there is certainly the core of what we do and there is a lot of VW soul in this product, but there are also many new things. We’re working on over-the-air updates. We are working on completely new user experiences in the car. We look at different driving aspects. We check charging. It’s the untapped opportunity that’s out there.”
Roadblocks aren’t always bad
Converting trucks, vans and other commercial vehicles to electric vehicles and getting most consumers on board with an electric vehicle will take time, Krause said.
“We will encounter roadblocks. You will encounter roadblocks in infrastructure. You’re going to come across different product segments that are difficult,” he said.
“You have to make a few mistakes, and that’s actually okay because you’ll learn from them, but you have to be able to turn things around quickly.”
Don’t think about everyone else
Aside from Tesla, Volkswagen faces stiff competition in the electric vehicle industry, with incumbents Ford, General Motors, and even Toyota, as well as start-ups like Rivian and Lucid investing billions of dollars in electric vehicles. But focusing on others can be harmful, Krause said.
“The best thing you can do is focus on what you have and not think about what everyone is doing,” he said. “I don’t sit around really thinking about what other people are doing or what the industry is doing because that would distract me.
“It’s pretty clear: the transformation is coming and everyone is trying to find their way in, but there will be winners and losers.”