“It's not about dismantling a few hundred jobs,” VW's head of human resources Karlheinz Blessing told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Saturday edition.
“Over the years, it will amount to a five-digit figure around the world.”
VW has turned its attention to clean-energy electric cars as it seeks to move on from last year's massive emissions cheating scandal, which saw the group admit to fitting 11 million diesel vehicles with software designed to dupe pollution tests.
But electric cars require fewer components than combustion-engine vehicles, meaning fewer employees are needed in the long term, Blessing was quoted as saying.
He added however that there would be no forced dismissals.
While the switch to electric cars would have happened even without dieselgate, Blessing said the crisis did give the project more urgency.
VW has said it plans to develop and manufacture more than 30 new electric vehicles by 2025.
The group employs over 620,000 people worldwide, including 280,000 in Germany.