Porsche and Volkswagen could merge as soon as next year instead of 2011 as currently planned, German newspaper Die Welt reported on Monday.

VW CFO Hans Dieter Poetsch told the newspaper that in a “very optimistic scenario” and if the economy and financial markets offer particularly favourable conditions, both companies might be able to accelerate the merger.

Porsche will deliver “very impressive” results for its operating business for the 2009 financial year and the combined group might beat its target and become world market leader before 2018, Poetsch said. VW CEO Martin Winterkorn said last week that he wants the company to become the world’s biggest automaker by unit sales by 2018.

Poetsch told Die Welt that the two companies, which consider themselves partners, would save money through joint purchasing and logistics, closer cooperation in financial services, joint development projects and the use of similar modules in both groups.

It will take about three years for the cost benefits of the merger to be achieved, said Poetsch.