The Volkswagen brand is calling plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) up to the plate as global demand for electric vehicles (EVs) falls.

    Bloomberg reports word from the Volkswagen brand’s global CEO Thomas Schäfer earlier this month that customers “want plug-in hybrids now, including in China and the US” rather than full electric vehicles (EVs).

    The Volkswagen brand doesn’t currently sell any PHEVs in Australia, though they can be found in the lineups of fellow Volkswagen Group brands Audi, Bentley, Cupra and Porsche.

    Mr Schäfer’s remarks come after first-quarter results overseas showed China experienced its slowest EV growth in almost a year, the US rose by its smallest amount and EV sales in Europe fell by 11 per cent compared to 2023.

    While plug-in hybrid sales in these regions are nowhere near full EVs, the demand is increasing or at least stagnant for PHEVs rather than going backwards.

    Mr Schäfer also expressed his desire for Volkswagen to continue with PHEVs to UK publication Autocar, despite prior scepticism from the brand’s critics.

    “Hybrids were a thing of the past. Last year, if you asked the same question, it would have been: ‘Forget hybrids, it’s expensive technology, it’s not worth it.’ Within the last six months, all of a sudden everyone wants hybrids,” Mr Schäfer said.

    “When we said we were going to offer [plug-in] hybrid on the Tiguan, Golf, Passat and so on, we were frowned upon. People said: ‘Why are you doing this? Go faster [towards full electrification].’ 

    “Now I’m very glad we did. We have an offer and we will probably have to even extend it.

    “It’s a bridge technology. While battery-electric drive is plateauing out a bit at the moment, we still need this transitional technology.”

    Mr Schäfer added it’s unlikely Volkswagen will develop a new-generation plug-in hybrid system, with future models to adopt a variation of the powertrain in the aforementioned PHEV offerings.

    Volkswagen Australia is launching its first PHEV this year with the Touareg R, though it has yet to lock in plug-in Golf and Tiguan models.

    The changing market for EVs has resulted in Volkswagen making adjustments to its future plans, including the cancellation of construction on a new factory for its upcoming flagship ‘Trinity’ electric car, which will now be based at the Zwickau plant where it already builds EVs.

    Volkswagen was also reportedly in talks with Renault to develop entry-level, affordable EVs, which could’ve launched as soon as 2026 with European pricing starting from less than €20,000 ($32,560).

    However, in recent days Reuters reported Volkswagen had walked away from the potential joint venture, with Renault continuing development of its new electric Twingo on its own.

    Volkswagen Australia is finally introducing its first EVs this year with the ID.4, ID.5, ID. Buzz and ID. Buzz Cargo, with the ID.3 and the as-yet unrevealed ID.2 to follow at some point.

    In other markets, it also offers the ID.7 liftback and wagon and ID.6 crossover.

    MORE: Everything Volkswagen

    Jordan Mulach

    Born and raised in Canberra, Jordan has worked as a full-time automotive journalist since 2021, being one of the most-published automotive news writers in Australia before joining CarExpert in 2024.

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