FRANKFURT -- The world's fourth- and fifth-largest carmakers, Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler, are in talks on a range of joint projects, Volkswagen's chief executive told a magazine.
"We have been discussing this since 2001," Bernd Pischetsrieder told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport in an interview released ahead of publication on Wednesday.
"Strategic teams from both sides are now discussing a list of various projects," he added, but he made clear VW would not cooperate with Daimler's premium Mercedes Car Group in any area that would compete against VW's Audi brand.
Pischetsrieder had said nearly two weeks ago that VW was in talks with Stuttgart-based DaimlerChrysler over potential partnerships beyond current plans with Daimler's U.S. arm Chrysler to build a VW van for the North American market.
"I hope that the van project we are discussing can be signed and sealed this year," he said. "And why shouldn't one also consider, for example, cooperating with Dodge on the (VW) Polo?"
He said cooperation on a subcompact car did not mean that the two models had to be built on the same platform and noted that they could have sharply differentiated modules.
"If you really want to attain maximum independence in a partnership, then we have to open our entire tool kit for the partner," he said. "We will not do this if we only have a contract on one car. Our goal for DaimlerChrysler is a basic governing agreement as with Porsche."
German sports car maker Porsche has become Volkswagen's biggest shareholder by amassing a voting stake of around 19 percent. The two companies are negotiating a governing accord that spells out ties between the companies, which already work together on building SUVs.
Pischetsrieder said a joint project with DaimlerChrysler on delivery vans with the Mercedes Sprinter and VW LT was a perfect example of how such ties could work.
"Volkswagen's delivering 120,000 diesel motors a year to the DaimlerChrysler group is also a further step," he added.
Asked if VW sought more partnerships, he said. "These two suffice. And this has nothing to do with Germany Inc in case anyone has this wrong idea," he said, referring to a system of interlocking ties between German companies to protect them from hostile takeovers.
On other subjects, Pischetsrieder said it will be impossible for the automotive industry to hit the European Union's target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from cars to 120 grams per km driven by 2012.
He also thought the future for reducing emissions from diesel motors lay in using urea-based additives, technology that DaimlerChrysler has shown at car shows.
"Basically this technology has to be implemented," he said, although he thought the urea should come in tablet rather than liquid form.
"We are counting on being able to sell diesels in California and the New England states even after the year 2007," he said, referring to the advent of tougher U.S. emissions standards.
Pischetsrieder added that VW would cease development of its unit injection system for its diesel engines to focus on common rail in order to reduce complexity and increase efficiency.
VW had made a name for itself by developing jointly with parts supplier and diesel specialist Robert Bosch the unit injection technology, which was capable of creating a much higher pressure in the cylinder and hence fuel efficiency than traditional common rail designs.
As a result, VW was able to offer diesels in 1999 that could already meet Euro4 emission standards due to first take effect in 2005.
The unit injection system integrates on each separate cylinder the high-pressure pump and fuel injection valve in one assembly, achieving the highest possible injection pressures exceeding 2000 bar.
By comparison, the common rail injection system compresses the fuel utilizing a high-pressure pump and supplies it to the fuel injection valves through a single conduit or "common rail" linked to all cylinders.