Volkswagen is to put into production one of the most exotic vehicles ever to carry the VW badge - a two-seater with many features normally only seen on concept cars at motor shows.
It will start producing the hybrid XL1, which burns less than one litre of diesel per 100 kilometres, has gullwing doors, enclosed rear wheels, and camera-based mirrors, in the first half of 2013.
It did not give a price - analysts have pegged the XL1 at €30 000-€50 000 euros (R350 000-R560 000) - nor how many it will make. VW has permission to produce up to 1000 annually.
Power for the XL1 is provided by a system comprising a 35kW twin-cylinder diesel engine and a 20kW electric motor.
Europe's biggest automaker is a late starter on electric powertrains after saying for years that clean diesel was a better fuel-efficiency strategy than hybrids, which combine a combustion engine with battery-powered electric propulsion.
SIGNIFICANT TECHNOLOGY CARRIER
Brand development chief Ulrich Hackenberg told reporters at VW's factory in Osnabrueck, Germany, where the XL1 will be made, that the new model underscored the company's growing push into plug-in hybrid technology.
The XL1, lower than a Porsche Boxster and shorter than VW's Polo hatch, weighs no more than 795kg thanks to a safety cabin and other parts made of carbon-fibre plastics.
Frankfurt-based analyst Christoph Stuermer said: “The XL1 is a very significant technology carrier for Volkswagen.”
Toyota, the world's biggest carmaker, introduced the Prius hybrid compact vehicle in 1997, 13 years before VW's Touareg hybrid SUV came to market in 2010, and started delivering a Prius plug-in version this year.
VW's electric car chief Rudolf Krebs said in December VW had been planning to roll out plug-in hybrid versions of its Golf hatchback in 2014 and also the Passat model, flanked by the Audi Q7 SUV, A3 compact and the Porsche Cayenne SUV.