Sales were up 2.6 percent in 2019.

Even as it looks like auto sales are facing a downturn, Volkswagen was still able to close 2019 on the plus side. It ended the year with sales up 2.6 percent. While not a banner year for the automaker, the company still managed to sell 363,322 vehicles in the U.S., including two models that left the U.S. market in 2017. Now, VW is announcing it's giving its employees a performance-related bonus.

VW employees will receive a bonus of up to $5,600 (€4,950 at current exchange rates), with VW CEO Dr. Herbert Diess praising employees for a strong performance. "The employees of Volkswagen again demonstrated a strong team performance in 2019," Diess said in the statement announcing the employee performance bonus. "They have made a key contribution to the business success of Volkswagen."

Bernd Osterloh, Chairman of the General Works Council, said last year was a tough one for the company, but VW employees "got down to work to bring Volkswagen forward again." The bonus was laid out in previous collective bargaining agreements with workers already receiving some of the bonus last November. VW will distribute the rest to employees with their salaries in May. "They have earned it," he added.

However, what goes up must come down, and that appears to be what's happening with auto sales with many automakers preparing for them to dip in 2020, which is even more likely as COVID-19 continues to spread, upending economies around the world.

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"For 2020, it is clear that expectations may be more limited," warned Volkswagen HR Board Member Gunnar Kilian. "The transformation will call for dedication, flexibility, and efficiency. "Not only in view of coronavirus, the economy and therefore also Volkswagen face a highly challenging year."

This is a time when Volkswagen is charging full speed ahead on its electrification. Just last week, VW confirmed the ID.4 would be the brand's first electric crossover. The next several months will be crucial for VW and other automakers as they look to make drastic changes in a turbulent economy.

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