WOLFSBURG, Germany — Volkswagen Group is increasing the global production and product scope of its upcoming full-electric cars, while warning the EV push will lead to job cuts.
The 12-brand group, which includes Audi, Porsche and Bentley, now plans to launch 70 full-electric models over the next decade, accounting for 22 million battery-powered vehicles.
Previously, Volkswagen had said it planned to build up to 15 million battery-electric vehicles globally by 2025 across 50 models.
VW Group CEO Herbert Diess committed the auto maker to a "fully CO2-neutral balance" in all areas from fleet to production to administration by 2050.
"Volkswagen is taking on responsibility with regard to the key trends of the future — particularly in connection with climate protection. The targets of the Paris Agreement are our yardstick," Mr. Diess said in a statement at the auto maker's annual press conference March 12.
To pay for the global transition to electric mobility, VW has set aggressive financial goals to improve efficiency and performance across the company, Mr. Diess said.
VW plans to reduce average CO2 emissions from its new vehicles by 30 percent by 2025 and 40 percent by 2030, compared with 2015 levels, he said.
VW Group's brands are rolling out their new electric models this year.
Audi this month started sales of its E-tron electric SUV in Europe. Porsche will unveil the Taycan, its first electric model, in September. Other models will follow, including VW brand's Golf-sized I.D. hatchback and I.D. Crozz electric crossover, which go on sale next year, and EVs from the Skoda and Seat brands.
Mr. Diess said that the time for debate within the industry over the future viability of electric vehicles was settled, and he called on the rest of society to jump aboard the train.
"In our view, there is no alternative to e-mobility over the next few decades," he said.
"Political and social forces must join up to focus on making the transformation to e-mobility in order to build up the critical mass and vital infrastructure," he added.
To accomplish this, Mr. Diess said societies globally have to give up coal and rely on CO2-free power. VW is converting its giant home plant in Wolfsburg from coal to natural gas, but that project will not be done for several years.
The transformation to EVs will lead to job cuts, Mr. Diess predicted.
"The reality is that building an electric car involves some 30 percent less effort than one powered by an (internal combustion engine)," he said. "That means we will need to make job cuts, and achieving this purely through fluctuation and partial retirement will be difficult."
Mr. Diess said VW's electric transformation will involve an internal switch to a faster, leaner, software-intensive company.
"Software will account for 90 percent of future innovations in the car," he said. "Where we previously thought and worked in the seven-year cycles traditional to the automotive industry, we now need to think in periods of weeks or merely days."