FRANKFURT, Germany – Volkswagen Group CEO Martin Winterkorn tells a gathering at the auto maker’s traditional Group Night, on the eve of the auto show here, that VW is entering Europe’s electric-vehicle segment “at exactly the right time.

“We are electrifying all vehicle classes and therefore have everything we need to make the Volkswagen Group the top auto maker in all respects, including electric mobility, by 2018,” he says.

While Winterkorn concedes VW Group is getting a late start compared with its competitors, he says it is making a considerable investment in electrifying all of its brands, drawing a greater share of the €7 billion ($9.3 billion) earmarked for its research and development each year.

According to VW’s industrial strategy, the key to rolling out electric mobility swiftly and efficiently across all brands and vehicles is the modular toolkit systems that have been designed for assembling electric powertrains.

Production in Bratislava, Puebla, Wolfsburg, Leipzig or Ingolstadt now can respond flexibly to demand and can reduce both weight and costs through the use of proven components.

At the show, VW is showcasing its all-electric e-Up! and e-Golf as well as the Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid and Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid plug-in.

The A3 e-tron can travel up to 31 miles (50 km) on electric, the e-Golf has a range of 118 miles (190 km), while the Panamera can reach a top speed of 168 mph (270 km/h).

Winterkorn says by the end of next year VW Group will have 14 electrified models on sale in Europe.

“If there is sufficient demand, up to 40 new models could be fitted with alternative drivetrains by 2016,” he says.

“We have developed the know-how for electric motors and battery systems at our own components plants (and) we have recruited 400 top experts for electric traction and qualified almost 70,000 development, production and service employees in this new technology – the biggest electrification training program in our industry.”