Audi AG plans to continue increasing its work force globally in 2012 and will step up its annual pace of spending on new products and technologies to 2.6 billion euros (or about $3.40 billion) over the next five years, the company said in a release today.
The German carmaker previously had planned to spend about $3.03 billion yearly on new investments, but the company has decided instead to sink more money into its global operations as it seeks to scale up internationally.
Audi also said today it plans to hire 1,200 "specialists" next year to increase expertise in lightweight materials and electric technology. The hiring will come on top of the 3,500 jobs added in 2011.
Volkswagen AG, Audi's parent company, has made surpassing Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co. as the world's best-selling automaker a primary goal.
Audi, too, has some ambitious goals. It plans to target annual sales of more than 1.5 million cars globally by 2015. It said it sold 1.1 million in 2010. The carmaker also hopes to increase its worldwide lineup by 2015 to 42 models, up from the 32 models it sells now.
CEO Rupert Stadler said earlier this month that Audi is already tracking ahead of the 1.5 million car goal and expects to hit the target sales number before 2015.
Nevertheless, Stadler told Reuters today that the auto industry faces a tougher year in 2012 than it did in 2011.
"But this should not be a reason to fall into pessimism," he said, adding that the automotive industry will continue to grow over the next 10 years thanks to the enormous appetite for mobility among people in developing economies.
China's auto market is poised to grow 8 to 9 percent, with its premium segment outpacing that growth at 20 percent or even 30 percent, Stadler told Reuters. He didn't give a timeframe.
Audi is a market leader in China's luxury segment, ahead of German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
All told, Audi plans to invest about $16.98 billion from 2012 through 2016 to expand manufacturing sites, increase its product portfolio and develop new technologies. According to the company, the sum represents its biggest investment program ever.
About $10.45 billion of that money will go to sites in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm, Germany.
Last year, Audi had committed to spending about $15.15 billion -- or about $3.03 billion annually -- from 2011 through 2015 for the same effort. It also said it would hire 1,200 skilled workers in 2011 but ended up hiring about 1,000 more than promised, the company said. It also gave 400 temporary workers permanent contracts.
Reuters contributed to this report