WOLFSBURG -- Volkswagen Groups core brand aims to raise its profit margin faster than previously planned despite rising investments for electric vehicles, the automaker said on Thursday.

The Volkswagen brand now aims to raise its profit margin to at least 6 percent in 2022, three years earlier than initially forecast. Most recently, the margin stood at 4 percent. VW had previously said it seeks to achieve an operating return on sales of at least 6 percent by 2025.

VW brand aims to invest more than 11 billion euros ($12.5 billion) in e-mobility, digitalization, autonomous driving and mobility services by 2023, with the bulk earmarked for the electrification of its cars, the automaker said.

To shoulder the investments, VW aims for bigger cost cuts than previously planned, with the productivity of its plants to rise by about 30 percent by 2025. The automaker will extend a cost savings and efficiency program at its core brand beyond 2020 and seek an additional 3 billion euros in cost savings by 2023.

The group did not reveal details about whether jobs would be affected but has ruled out forced layoffs.

There will be a "massive reduction" in the complexity of the model portfolio, it said. In Europe, the brand will be discontinuing 25 percent of the engine-transmission variants with low customer demand in the coming model year. This will have positive effects on the complexity of production and the supply chain, VW said.

VW said that talks with Ford about extending a potential alliance beyond commercial vehicles continue and remain constructive. The company said it could cooperate in the area of electric and autonomous cars and that it had plans to increase the number of cars on offer to customers in the U.S. by at least two SUVs.

VW will also make electric cars in the U.S. in the medium term, although no decision has been made about the production site, the automaker said at a press conference at its headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Source: Autonews

December 6, 2018