Updated German motor manufacturing megalith Volkswagen has been involved in a major collision with public sentiment over the future of its most popular product: its VW-branded currywurst sausage.
Volkswagen has been producing the sausage in-house at its Wolfsburg plant since 1973 and in recent years has produced more sausages than cars, with over 7 million of the spicy pork products emerging from the factory in its HQ in 2019 alone.
The tasty item is so entrenched in company folklore that it has its own official VW part number (Originalteil – or “original part” – 199 398 500 A officially refers to a pack of five sausages) and is served in the company's numerous restaurants and cafeterias, as well as in supermarkets and at football stadiums. Volkswagen even developed a special ketchup (Originalteil 199 398 500 B) to accompany the sausage.
“It’s a cult,” VW head butcher Franco Lo Presti told Autocar in 2019. “It’s a statement for Volkswagen. If there wasn’t currywurst in the canteen, there would be trouble.” In a nod to one of Volkswagen's other brands, he also dubbed the sausage “the Bentley of currywurst”.
It seems that prediction may now be tested, at least in the in-house canteen of the Wolfsburg plant.
In an effort to move with the increasingly environmentally conscious times – and perhaps to help clean up the company's tarnished image after it was caught cheating on diesel emissions tests in 2015 – VW CEO Herbert Diess deemed that the pork banger is carbon-intensive, and that – for the Wolfsburg canteen, at least – the much-beloved Passatwurst should be entirely replaced with its plant-based vegan alternative, which has been available in all VW canteens since 2010.
The move brought condemnation from many, most notably from former German chancellor and VW board member Gerhard Schröder. He voiced his displeasure at the move on LinkedIn [in German], stating: “If I were still on the board of VW, something like this would not have happened... Currywurst with French fries is one of the power bars of the skilled worker in production. It should stay that way.”
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“I don't want to do without that, and I think: many others don't want that in their company canteens either,” he thundered.
Diess has already laudably suggested he wants to do away with factory-farmed meat from its canteens by 2025 in his own LinkedIn post [in German] and has pledged that the company's workers will be able to choose from a menu featuring “less meat, more vegetables, better ingredients”, adding that “good food is important; it is crucial for the health, the mood and thus also for the productivity of the employees”.
It is hoped that any dissatisfaction with future menu options in the Wolfsburg canteen will not replicate the scenes witnessed at a Daimler AGM in 2016, when a furious argument over sausages at the carmaker's shareholder buffet led to police being called to break it up. ®
This article was updated to clarify that the veggie sausages are fully replacing meat cylinders in the canteen of the Wolfburg plant alone rather than in all VW canteens.