Mired in a self imposed malaise composed of equal parts diesel exhaust and corporate malfeasance, Volkswagen is trying desperately to reposition itself as an electric car company and put the stink of its emissions cheating scandal behind it. During an interview near the company’s factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee recently, Hinrich Woebcken, the newest and latest head of Volkswagen’s US operations, confirmed the German auto maker plans to build electric vehicles in North America by 2020. “We believe that this country, especially in urban mobility, will have a very strong shift from petrol engines into hybridization and electric cars,” Mr. Woebcken said. “We are heavily investing in this one—including production in this North American region.”

Woebcken was short on details. He did not specify which models the company would build or where they would be built. In addition to the factory in Tennessee, Volkswagen also has a large production facility in Mexico. It would be good politics to build electric cars in the US to help mollify regulators who are threatening the company with billions in fines. The company has already agreed to pay nearly $15 billion to resolve legal claims brought by federal and state authorities.

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