The deepening crisis in the global car industry resulted in two of Germany's top carmakers announcing Tuesday plans to introduce shorter working hours as auto sales plummet in the face of the global economic slump.

While the world's leading luxury carmaker BMW AG unveiled plans to implement shorter working hours for 26,000 employees at four plants, Europe's biggest auto manufacturer Volkswagen AG said about 61,000 of its workers would be hit by a move to shorter hours at its German production sites.

This represents about two thirds of north-Germany based Volkswagen's workforce of 92,000 in Germany.

Adding to the signs of the impact on German business of the world economic slowdown, the country's giant retailer Metro AG said it wanted to cut 15,000 jobs from its worldwide workforce over the next three years.

The job cuts formed part of a 750-billion euro ($A1.5 trillion) cost-cutting program announced by the company.

Dusseldorf-based Metro announced it was launching the big restructuring program called Shape 2012 to boost corporate operating profit by 1.5 billion euros ($A2.98 billion) by 2012.

German companies have been announcing layoffs and production cuts as the global economic downturn has tightened its grip on Europe's biggest economy with the nation's key car sector in particular feeling the full force of the deterioration in world economic growth.

European new-car registrations dropped to a 15-year low in 2008, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) said last week.

The ACEA said new-car registrations slumped 7.8 per cent to 14.7 million last year.

"The international financial crisis and the sharply slowing economy had a negative impact on car sales in Europe," the German car manufacturers association (VDA) also said last week.

Announcing the move to shorter working hours, Munich-based BMW said that about 38,000 fewer vehicles would be produced in February and March as previously planned.

Volkswagen's shorter working hour plans are to be introduced for five days next month.

Rival Daimler AG, the manufacturer of Mercedes Benz luxury cars announced last month that it was placing part of its workforce on shorter working hours as global orders shrank.