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Volkswagen may bet heavy on electric cars

Volkswagen AG (VOW), Europe’s biggest carmaker, outlined plans to offer as many as 40 electric or hybrid-drive vehicles in a bet that customers will have enough confidence in performance to shift to low-emissions models.

Volkswagen will produce 14 vehicles with alternative drive by next year, it said in a statement. VW will widen the lineup should demand increase, Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn said late yesterday in Frankfurt at an International Auto Show press briefing to introduce the e-Up! electric car and and a battery-powered version of the Golf hatchback.

“The electric car cannot be a compromise on wheels,” Winterkorn said. “It must convince customers in every respect.” The plug-in hybrid, which can switch between rechargable battery power and conventional combustion engines, has the “greatest market potential.”

VW is expanding in a niche that has yet to meet mass-market competitors’ targets. Renault SA (RNO) CEO Carlos Ghosn said in an interview in early September that the French carmaker and Japanese partner Nissan Motor Co. (7201) will miss a goal of selling a combined 1.5 million electric cars by 2016. German buyers registered 435 electric autos out of a market of 214,044 new cars in August, according to the Federal Motor Vehicle Office.
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