Volkswagen plans to halt production of cars with internal combustion engines in Europe for its eponymous flagship brand between 2033 and 2035, the German automotive giant announced Sunday as it accelerates its drive toward electric vehicles.
Carmakers around the world have started setting timetables to phase out combustion engines in the face of increasingly strict anti-pollution standards put in place to fight climate change, with Volkswagen's electric push also following lingering reputational harm from the "dieselgate" scandal.
Klaus Zellmer, board member for sales and marketing at Volkswagen's passenger cars brand, told the Bavarian newspaper Muenchner Merkur that "we will make our entire fleet CO2 neutral by 2050 at the latest.
"In Europe, we will leave the combustion engine vehicle market between 2033 and 2035," he said in an interview published online Sunday.
He added that the change will take place "a little later in the United States and China. In South America and Africa, due to the lack of political framework conditions and infrastructure, it will take a little longer."
Volkswagen's flagship brand had already said in March it was aiming for electric vehicles to account for 70% of its European sales by 2030.
Zellmer said that "as a mass-market manufacturer, VW has to adapt to different speeds of transformation in different regions."
"Our competitors who sell vehicles mainly in Europe, for example, will certainly have to face a far less complex transformation."
Audi, a subsidiary of Volkswagen, announced last week it would launch only fully electric vehicles from 2026 and halt manufacturing cars with internal combustion engines by 2033.
Sweden's Volvo has said it plans to sell only electric models from 2030.
The European Union will unveil tougher 2030 CO2 emissions targets and regulatory proposals on July 14, which are expected to force carmakers to speed up the transition to electric cars.
Volkswagen's electric push has additionally been accelerated by its "dieselgate" scandal, which rocked Germany's car industry and cost the company dearly in both cash and reputational harm.
Legal cases grind on over Volkswagen's admission in 2015 that it illegally fitted 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide with software to make them appear less polluting.