He added that in order to meet the cost of the VW Group’s electrification programme the group “must make further improvements in efficiency and performance in all areas”.
VW says that by 2022, it will have 13 factories - eight in Europe, four in China and one in the US - on three continents producing electric cars. The first MEB-based VW ID hatch will roll off the line at the re-fitted Zwickau plant at the end of this year.
VW says that wants the new MEB platform to become the "new standard for industry", although it has not yet found a major carmaker partner. However VW has secured a cooperation deal with Ford on building future vans and pick-ups, including the next-generation Amarok pick-up.
Other joint venture deals include Microsoft for the creation of the VW Automotive Cloud. VW Group Components has been established as an independent business which will cover battery life production from the mineral purchased to end-of-life recycling. The new division will also offer electric drive units ‘to third parties’.
VW also says that it wants to become more like a mobile phone company, with drivers ‘buying into’ the VW connected network. In the near future all VW cars will get an individual ID, allowing VW to be in direct connect with drivers.
The group has secured agreements with LG Chem, SKI, CATL and Samsung for supplies of battery cells, but is also looking at establishing a battery cell manufacturing facility in Europe. It is also working with QuantumScape on solid-state battery technology.
The VW Group says it has received more than 20,000 reservations each for the Audi E-tron and Porsche Taycan EVs that will launch later this year. Following the ID hatch, other brands will launch models based on MEB, including the Seat el-Born and production version of the Skoda Vision.
The VW Group is also investigating partnerships with other firms to help expand the use of the MEB platform, starting with a tie-up with e.Go mobile announced at the Geneva show recently.
VW Group: 2018 a success despite hit from WLTP changeover
Covering the VW Group's financial health last year, Diess described it as having "operative strength". He said: "2018 was a successful year despite the strong headwinds. We delivered 10.8m vehicles globally, up from 10.77m in 2017, which included 17 new models.
"VW’s total 2018 sales revenue was up slightly at €235bn (£200.7bn) with €17.1bn (£14.6bn) was profit. This was 7.3% return on sales, at the upper end of the Group’s target corridor’.
Diess said that VW’s biggest challenge in 2018 was the shift to the new WLTP fuel economy test regime in Europe: "This change over caused a downturn in sales and loss of market share, because numerous vehicles were delayed in coming to market. Having a complex product portfolio hit us and hit Audi very hard."
Diess predicted that it would be the end of April this year before all the Audi brand model variants would be in available at dealers.
The WLTP shock meant that the Group’s engine developers "were working around clock". As well as building more vehicle test cells, the VW brand reduced the number of model variants it offers by a massive 25%. Audi’s range reduction was even larger, by some 30% . Diess said these range simplifications also reduced fixed and manufacturing costs.