Volkswagen expects global car markets to stagnate next year, a senior executive said as he asked workers to help the world's third largest automaker catch up with the leaders.

"In our current planning for 2010 we are assuming a similar sales volume level for the overall passenger car market as in 2009," VW quoted Francisco Garcia Sanz as telling a works council meeting at its Wolfsburg headquarters, according to Reuters.

"Worldwide we are still number three by unit sales but have really closed the gap with the leaders. That should spur us on to shift up a gear, especially in the current situation," Sanz added.

VW group were behind Toyota and General Motors by under 300,000 units in the first half of 2009.

VW is also close to agreeing a new pay deal with over 90,000 workers in six western German plants.

"Our goal is to negotiate a result on Monday," a union spokesman told Reuters.

At the works council meeting in Wolfsburg, council head Bernd Osterloh decribed VW's current pay offer as "not bad" but called for improvements.

VW has accepted union IG Metall's demand for a 4.2% pay hike but wants to pay part of it only after seven months given the tough economic conditions, the news agency noted.