VW to speed up electric shift in five-year plan

BERLIN (Reuters) -Volkswagen will speed up its shift to electric cars and revamp its software strategy in a five-year investment plan presented by management to the supervisory board on Friday, the automaker said in a statement.

Bosses discussed how to rejig the German group’s production network to accelerate the move to cleaner driving, the statement said, without elaborating.

Volkswagen, whose brands range from premium Audis and Porsches to mass-market VWs and Seats, has also been looking at how to fix a software strategy plagued by delays and cost overruns.

Full details of what was discussed will be presented at the company’s annual media conference on March 14.

Reuters reported earlier on Friday that board members were due to discuss whether to build a new plant for the Trinity electric sedan at Friday’s meeting, a decision the VW brand chief had said in December would be made this month.

Volkswagen’s statement did not say whether the plan, drawn up under former CEO Herbert Diess, would go ahead or whether it would produce the new car at its main Wolfsburg plant, an idea executives floated at the end of last year.

The board was also due to discuss which new models could be produced at Volkswagen’s Hannover plant after production of the VW Bus 6.1 comes to an end, and its Osnabrueck plant, which could be assigned a new Porsche model, according to German business paper Handelsblatt, citing unidentified sources.

Employees fear 1,000 jobs could be at risk in Hannover if the plant is not allocated a new model, the paper said, citing sources close to the workforce.

A spokesperson for the works council denied the Handelsblatt report, saying jobs in Hannover were guaranteed under an agreement with the company until 2029. “There will be a viable solution for Hannover,” the spokesperson said.

The planning round, first reported by Handelsblatt, was the first since Volkswagen and Porsche CEO Oliver Blume took the helm of the company last autumn and postponed the meeting from its original planned date in November.

The CEO has swept through the carmaker’s strategic plans since taking over to streamline its operations, a marked contrast from Diess, who was known for ambitious plans but criticised by some, including the works council, for lacking clear execution.

(Reporting by Jan Schwartz; Writing by Victoria Waldersee; Editing by Jan Harvey and Mark Potter)