Volkswagen Group will need years to repair its namesake brand's tarnished image following its emissions-cheating scandal before returning to what unit chief Herbert Diess called the "good times," when cars such as the I.D. electric concept hit the market.
By 2020, "we will have finished the hard work," Diess said Thursday in a Bloomberg TV interview at the Paris auto show. "We have three to four tough years ahead of us to really restructure the company and getting more profitable and more competitive."
During a press conference at the show Diess said he expects sales of its VW-branded cars to rise this year. "VW is getting back on track. We are dealing with the current challenges," he said.
Through August, VW brand's global sales fell by 0.2 percent to 3.83 million, the company said in a statement last month. Sales rose by 4.7 percent in August, helped by new models such as the Tiguan SUV and Touran minivan. Total eight-month sales at the 12-brand group were up 1.8 percent to 6.66 million while August volume rose 6.3 percent.
VW Group has been using the emissions-cheating scandal as a catalyst for deeper reforms. The VW brand, the German carmaker's biggest unit, was struggling even before the crisis, and the company is now in discussions with unions over concessions in exchange for investment guarantees and agreements to retrain workers in the transition away from traditional combustion engines.
The I.D. concept is a flag bearer for VW's new direction. The battery-powered hatchback, which Volkswagen is likening to groundbreaking models such as the Beetle and the Golf, boasts a 400- to 600-km (250- to 370-mile) range, almost twice as far as Tesla's forthcoming Model 3 sedan.
As part of the transformation, Volkswagen is also pushing into services such as ride-hailing and self-driving shuttles. The company said the new services division would be its 13th brand, putting it on the same footing as Audi, Porsche and Skoda and underscoring its ambitions. The shift in direction puts VW Group on a collision course with a new kind of competitor.
"We are mainly targeting with this new product -- which is always online and only electric -- the new competitors like Tesla could be or Apple might be or some others," said Diess, who joined Volkswagen from BMW Group a few months before the crisis erupted in September 2015. "The good times will start with the new age of mobility."
Reuters and Automotive News Europe contributed to this report