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Volkswagen aims to be electric car leader
Germany's Volkswagen AG will roll out gas-electric hybrids and all-electric cars in the next couple of years as part of its plan to stake a leading position in the battery-powered electric car sector.

"I am deeply convinced Volkswagen will play a key role in electrifying the automotive world," Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn told reporters here Monday.

Winterkorn was in California to visit the automaker's Electronics Research Laboratory in Palo Alto and to mark the launch of the all-new, sixth-generation VW Jetta compact.

The automaker, the largest in Europe, has been a leader in clean diesel technology and fuel-efficient gas engines for many years. It is now developing zero-emission electric cars, too, in response to increasingly strict regulations in most regions that call for emission-free vehicles.

Volkswagen has begun producing a VW Touareg SUV hybrid, and plans to launch a Jetta hybrid in 2012, followed by Passat and Golf hybrids a year later. It will begin a trial fleet of all-electric E-Golf cars next year, and it will launch the E-Golf and E-Up! in 2013. One of the two cars will be available that year in the U.S., Winterkorn said.

Volkswagen is investing heavily in the U.S. now as part of its plan to become the world's biggest automaker by 2018.

In sales terms, the most important new model is the 2011 Jetta, which is larger, yet more affordable, than the outgoing model. It will go on sale later this year, and a hybrid version will follow in 2012.

"The Jetta not only stands for the new self-confidence of Volkswagen. It also marks the beginning of a promising new chapter for Volkswagen in the United States," Winterkorn said.

"We want to take Volkswagen to the top of the industry by 2018. ... We know that the United States is one of our main destinations on our way to the top." Detroit News

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