Audi chief executive Rupert Stadler reportedly has said the automaker dropped plans to sell Italian motorcycle brand Ducati.

Steps to reduce costs by EUR10bn (US$11.8bn), cut red tape and deepen ties with fellow VW owned brand Porsche are "gradually increasing our financial and organisational leeway for the strategic realignment", Stadler told Reuters.

There is therefore no economic need to sell Ducati, Stadler reportedly said. Earlier this year, Volkswagen had asked banks to evaluate options for Ducati and transmissions maker Renk as it sought to become more nimble in its shift towards electric and self driving cars following its diesel emissions cheating scandal.

"I can assure you that Ducati belongs to the Audi family," Stadler told Reuters. "Ducati is the perfect implementation of our premium philosophy in the world of motorbikes."

The news agency noted that, last summer, VW's powerful labour unions, backed by the controlling Porsche-Piech families, opposed the logic and need for asset sales given the group's financial resilience.

Investors and potential Ducati buyers, however, expect VW could change its mind again and eventually opt to sell the asset which they say has least strategic importance to VW.

"For Volkswagen's powerful works council it could be an easy bargaining chip they could offer to push through something completely different," a source told Reuters which noted investors have long favoured divestments to simplify VW's group structure and to strengthen its management's ability to push through structural changes against the unions' wishes.

While pushing the costly shift to zero-emissions and autonomous technologies, holding on to the profitable Ducati division and the lucrative Lamborghini brand has become more important, Stadler told Reuters.

"Looking after a premium bouquet is as difficult as the work of a gardener," Stadler said. "Therefore I am pleased with every new flower, with every promising new branch," he added, predicting Lamborghini's sales would double on the back of its new SUV.

Separately, Stadler said Audi would spend nearly half a billion euros over the next eight years on training staff for the digital age with steps to develop as well as hire experts such as automotive app designers and car robotics specialists.

The CEO told Reuters Audi wants to keep headcount stable, at least over the next two to three years, even as it plans to have more than 20 electrified vehicles on the market by 2025 and pushes into digitised mobility services, to control costs.

With two thirds of Audi's 60 or so models by 2025 still slated to be combustion engine cars, tightening carbon dioxide (CO2) rules will pose the "biggest risk" in coming years, he told Reuters, adding Audi would face EUR1bn in fines if its average fleet CO2 emissions exceed EU limits by no more than 11g/km.

Reuters said Audi plans early next year to dissolve a task force set up to monitor fixes for 850,000 diesel cars the automaker said in July needed updates with emissions control software to help avoid potential driving bans.

"It's a sign that we can slowly shift from crisis mode back into standard operation," Stadler told Reuters, predicting the check-ups would be completed by the end of the first quarter.