VW relishes competition in EVs

BERLIN — Volkswagen Group wants to expand both its higher-end and lower-end offering in the Chinese market, China chief Ralf Brandstätter said, calling the country’s high-paced, competitive market a “giant fitness center for the industry.”

Volkswagen has long dominated the combustion engine car market in China but lags domestic competitors on electric vehicles – most notably BYD, which sold 40,046 EVs between Jan. 1-8 compared to VW brand’s 1,962, according to Chinese brokerage CMBI.

“We do not want to give up this competition – we want to participate,” Brandstätter said at a media roundtable.

Asked if the automaker aspired to remain the number 1 foreign automaker in China in the electric era, he said: “We want to play a leading role… the cards are being mixed anew.”

The company 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, in part by localizing research and development for Chinese models even further.

“We give ourselves more time because of our quality standards, but we could be faster,” Brandstätter said.

It plans on releasing the upper-end ID7 in China, as well as a new model below the ID4 like a smaller sedan or SUV, though not the entry-level ID2 planned for Europe, Brandstätter said.

The China chief attributed the fast growth of China’s EV market in part to cheaper electricity, with one charge of an ID4 costing nearly five times more in Germany than in China.

VW must act “from a position of strength” within China, Brandstätter said, referring to the ongoing debate in Germany over how to diversify its economic relationships to rely less on China.

“Diversification does not 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.

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