German auto giant Volkswagen said it plans to broaden its range of electric vehicles (EVs) in China, calling the world’s largest automobile market a “giant fitness centre for the [auto] industry”.
“We don’t want to give up this competition – we want to participate,” Volkswagen China chief Ralf Brandstaetter said at a media roundtable on Monday. The carmaker wants to expand both its higher-end and lower-end offerings in the Chinese car market.
Brandstaetter added that Volkswagen must act “from a position of strength” within China, referring to the ongoing debate in Germany over how to diversify its economic relationships to rely less on China.
“Diversification doesn’t mean shutting down in China and ramping up America. It means continuing to use the market opportunities in China and ramping up America,” he said.
Volkswagen has long dominated the combustion engine car market in China, but lags domestic competitors on electric vehicles. Data from Chinese brokerage CMBI show Volkswagen’s passenger brand sold 1,962 EVs between January 1-8 in the country, its most notable rival, BYD, sold 40,046 EV units.
Asked if the carmaker aspired to remain the number 1 foreign carmaker in China in the electric era, Brandstaetter said: “We want to play a leading role… the cards are being mixed anew.”
The carmaker aims to speed up its time to market for new models from four years closer to the 2.5-year average for its Chinese counterparts. It plans to do so, in part, by further localising research and development for Chinese models.
“We give ourselves more time because of our quality standards, but we could be faster,” Brandstaetter said.
Volkswagen plans on releasing the upper-end ID.7 in China, as well as a new model below the ID.4 like a smaller sedan or SUV, though not the entry-level ID.2 planned for Europe, Brandstaetter said.
The China chief attributed the fast growth of China’s EV market in part to cheaper electricity, with one charge of an ID.4 costing nearly five times more in Germany than in China.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena