PARIS -- Volkswagen AG is laying out a bold plan to bring electric vehicles to the masses with dozens of new models and unprecedented driving ranges, challenging other carmakers to keep pace a year after an emissions scandal rocked the German automaker.
The process will get a boost at the Paris auto show on Thursday, when the company will unveil a battery-powered hatchback concept car, the I.D., that boasts a range almost twice as far as Tesla Motors Inc.'s Model 3 sedan.
Rather than an offshoot of an existing model in VW's portfolio, the car is the company's first electric vehicle built around a unique platform, a major commitment in financial and engineering resources.
The stakes are high for Volkswagen to reboot the company, with the scandal bleeding billions in fines and absorbing senior management's attention. To emphasize the importance of the new direction, VW is likening the hatchback to groundbreaking models such as the iconic Beetle, which put it on the map around the world, and the Golf compact that propelled the company to the top of the European auto industry in the 1980s.
The September 2015 revelation of diesel-emissions manipulation forced VW to change course. The emphasis is now on new technologies such as battery power and autonomous driving rather than the diesel engines that it pushed in the U.S., where the cheating was uncovered.
With that technology besmirched, diesel cars accounted for 46.8 percent of German auto sales in the first eight months of 2016, the lowest level since 2012.