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Volkswagen admits it has become a necessity to join the electric car race in order to satisfy ever-tightening emission regulations.

Speaking with CarAdvice at the Detroit auto show, Volkswagen Group of America CEO and president Michael Horn confessed that Volkswagen had changed its stance on electric cars.

“I think we have to play in all fields [now], clearly,” Horn said.

“In the US you have to do it, in other markets it depends very much on the legislation. So the business model around electric cars is not too good if they [business models] are small, that’s why we build fully zero-emission cars, plug-in hybrids and hybrids [to cater to different markets].”

Volkswagen recently showed the full electric e-Up! and e-Golf at September’s Frankfurt motor show, with the latter making its North American debut in Detroit today, claiming to be the best-performing electric vehicle in its class.

Volkswagen-e-Golf-2

The electric Volkswagen Golf is powered by a 24.2-kWh lithium-ion battery with 85kW of power and 270Nm of torque. It claims 0-100km/h acceleration of 10.4 seconds and an impressive 190km range.

Volkswagen Group global CEO Martin Winterkorn recently said the company intends to be number one in electric vehicles by 2018, but Horn is still unsure how sales will proceed in the short term.

“As far electric vehicles are concerned, it’s a one million dollar question, it’s very much dependent on government regulations. If governments are putting more concentration and effort into this it could be a big market in mega cities for instance. If not, [since] the cars [come] with a high cost for the batteries, it’s very difficult to reach customers,” Horn said.

He went on to further explain that a diesel-powered Golf TDI still makes more sense than an electric Golf to most buyers.

“If you look at the range of a [Golf] TDI compared to an e-Golf they are both great cars but usually the customer will go for a TDI.”

Nissan recently hit back at Volkswagen’s claims that it will be first in electric vehicles by 2018.

For now Volkswagen has no plans to bring the e-Golf or e-Up! to the Australian market.




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