Volkswagen XL1Volkswagen Group boss Martin Winterkorn has fired a warning shot to critics and politicians who accuse it of environmental complacency, stressing VW is already spending billions to meet strict emissions standards well ahead of target.

He also suggested that investment, jobs and even Volkswagen’s industrial position in Europe could be at threat if politicians continued to put pressure on car firms.

“We have no problem with ambitious CO2 targets,” he said on the eve of the Paris Motor Show 2014 (to an audience including VW Group Chairman and CEO Dr Ferdinand Piech). “On the contrary, VW was the first to publically declare a CO2 target of 95g for 2020.”

But some are going too far, he said. In revealing that every 1g/km CO2 fleet reduction costs €100 million, Winterkorn stressed that complaints about the Group’s progress were not rational. Some within the EU are already pushing it to sign up for tough standards years ahead, “but this would be fatal,” said Winterkorn. “We need to achieve the 2020 target first – then let’s think about steps two and three.”

Volkswagen Group spends €10 billion a year on R&D, he said, clearly irritated that some groups and politicians are questioning its environmental commitment. “Often some people forget what a gigantic engineering and economic effort it is. Climate protection is not free of charge.”

The feasibility of such targets is also not for companies or politicians to decide, he added – it is the customer.

“Companies can only invest in the environment if they can afford it. If you forget this, you call into question the competitiveness of the industry.” Winterkorn’s robust speech on the eve of the world’s largest motor show will certainly have politicians thinking hard.