For a while now, engine downsizing appeared to be the way forward, particularly towards meeting emissions regulations. However, it is a trend that has peaked, according to Volkswagen brand chief Herbert Diess. “The reduction in the number of cylinders has achieved its goals. Whether it is moving from four cylinders to three or six to four, then we have achieved efficiency benefits while retaining the qualities of drivability,” he said.

“That trend made a lot of sense — but it comes to an end now. If we go smaller, we will run into emissions and cost problems,” he added. The cost of developing diesel engines to meet new emissions regulations – estimated at around 1,000 euro (RM4,809.18) per car – also mean new buyers of these cars won’t accept the increased price of admission for the newfound gains, Diess said.

Where powertrains are concerned, 48V hybrid systems are likely to gradually replace diesels in city cars and superminis as they can offer the same efficiency for less money, according to Diess. “The internal combustion engine has a long life ahead of it yet, but as we hit the limits of thermo-dynamics, then the cost of hybridisation will be less than that of pursuing gains without them,” he said.

To that end, the company has indicated its approach with concepts shown at this year’s annual Wörthersee gathering, including a commemorative GTI concept with all-wheel drive and 410 PS.