Volkswagen is intent on becoming the world’s leading automaker by 2018 and that means being the top dog in every segment, including hybrid and electric vehicles. Recently the automaker announced plans to start building its own electric powertrains, as well as confirming plans to expand its fleet of electric vehicles over the next couple of years.

However, the German automaker is the first to admit that it lags behind electric vehicle stalwarts Toyota, Honda and Nissan when it comes to the latest technology so in order to catch up Volkswagen knows that it needs to be different. The solution? Offer hybrid technology that not only saves fuel but also boosts performance.

“We’re not an experienced hybrid maker like Toyota or Honda, so we don’t just want to come up with what everyone else already has,” Volkswagen technical project manager Michael Hinz revealed to Autocar during a recent interview. “We want to do something unique.”

Hinz is currently working on a hybrid version of the Jetta, which was previewed by the New Compact Coupe Hybrid Concept that was unveiled at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show back in January. The concept’s hybrid system mated a 150 horsepower 1.4-liter TSI four-cylinder engine to a small electric motor and a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. In this configuration the small electric motor mostly adds power to the engine output, though the system can also operate in all-electric mode for coasting or cruising at low loads.

Volkswagen claims the setup returned a fuel economy of up to 45 mpg and performance similar to a 2.0-liter model.

Hinz went on to explain that the setup in the New Compact Coupe Hybrid Concept helps boost performance more than it helps with efficiency. A production version will debut in the Jetta in the 2012 model year and will eventually feature in the Golf as well.

[Autocar]