Audi AG is set to launch the largest investment program in the company’s history, with plans to spend €11.6 billion ($15.3 billion) on fixed assets by 2015.

The German auto maker says it also intends to hire about 1,200 skilled employees in 2011 to help ensure leadership in the premium-car segment.

Audi’s spending primarily will involve new products and technologies, as well as upgrading its manufacturing facilities. More than €5 billion ($6.6 billion) is earmarked for Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm in Germany.

“With this investment, we are laying the foundation for sustained, profitable growth and supporting our claim to leadership in the premium-car segment,” Axel Strotbek, Audi board member for finance and organization, says in a statement.

“In addition to our foreign sites, the German sites will also profit greatly from the Audi brand’s good worldwide prospects for growth, especially in China.”

Thomas Sigi, Audi board of management member for human resources, says innovation requires people.

“For this reason we want to hire around 1,200 experts in 2011, who will primarily bolster our electromobility and lightweight construction fields of competence, as well as the implementation of our growth strategy.”

Audi says this year it recruited about 500 experts and 780 trainees, who began their vocational training in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm.

Strotbek says about 80% of the investment, or more than E9.5 billion ($12.5 billion), will go to developing new products and technologies of the future, such as electric- and hybrid-drive systems.

One example is the Audi R8 e-tron, the auto maker’s first electric sports car, which goes on sale in Europe in late 2012.

Audi, meanwhile, is planning to introduce numerous models in 2011, including the new A6 and Q5 Hybrid cross/utility vehicle, the auto maker’s first full hybrid.

Once the new Q3, to be manufactured in Martorell, Spain, is launched, Audi will have an entrant in the midsize-premium CUV segment for the first time.