VW CEO says he hopes he's done enough to please Trump and avoid tariffs

  • On a global basis VW Group posted 2018 full-year revenues of 235.8 billion euros ($267.5 billion) on Friday.
  • Volkswagen has said it will spend 44 billion euros on electric cars, digitalization, autonomous driving and new mobility services by 2023.

Volkswagen Group Chief Executive Herbert Diess told CNBC Friday that he hopes the German auto firm has done enough to please President Donald Trump and avoid punitive import tariffs.

Washington is currently holding out for fresh trade talks with the European Union and has said if it's not satisfied it could slap tariffs on EU cars and parts coming into the United States. Trump has complained about German cars' presence on U.S. streets and tweeted threats to tax European, and particularly German, vehicles.

Diess has said import tariffs could cost VW as much 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 billion) each year.

The German firm announced in January that it's investing $800 million in its factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee to prepare the location for the production of new electric cars.

Speaking to CNBC's Annette Weisbach at VW's Wolfsburg headquarters, the German car chief said the investment appeared to please the U.S. president.

"We received a positive tweet," said Diess, before adding that he hoped VW would "do everything to avoid import taxes."

Diess added that currently VW only has a 4 percent market share in the United States and is committed to growing that number to become a "volume producer."

On a global basis VW Group posted 2018 full-year revenues of 235.8 billion euros on Friday. In its outlook for 2019, Diess said he expected a challenging year but predicted sales to rise by around 5 percent.

The key market of China could prove a challenge, however, with Diess admitting that sales there had slowed in the final quarter of 2018 and January 2019 had witnessed a 10 percent slump year-on-year.

Shares of Volkswagen initially rose after the news, but were 0.25 percent lower by 3:45 p.m. London time on Friday afternoon.