SHANGHAI (Reuters) -- Volkswagen Group said it will launch more than 20 electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in China by the end of 2018, as it capitalizes on the government's support for low-emission vehicles in the country's campaign against pollution.
By 2020 there could be "some hundred thousand" pure electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in China from VW Group, most of which would be locally made, Jochem Heizmann, head of Volkswagen Group China, said on Tuesday.
"In the near future, Volkswagen will be offering Chinese drivers over 20 new-energy vehicles, from small cars to large-sized SUVs, from plug-in hybrids to pure electric cars," Heizmann said.
Heizmann was speaking to reporters in Shanghai, where the German carmaker is launching a week-long campaign to promote e-mobility in China's financial hub.
China has set a target of putting 5 million green vehicles on roads by 2020 and carmakers such as Volkswagen, BMW Group, Tesla Motors Inc. and Nissan Motor are vying for a share of that.
At last year’s Frankfurt auto show, VW Group CEO Martin Winterkorn said the company’s brands could produce 40 pure electric or plug-in hybrids if there was sufficient demand. EV production is being integrated into existing factories such as Wolfsburg and Leipzig in Germany and in Puebla, Mexico, he said.
Beijing, enveloped by thick smog over the past few days, has announced various long-term schemes over recent years to end the problem but there is little sign of improvement.
"I spend a big portion of my time in Beijing, and everyone is suffering there...," Heizmann told reporters.
The Chinese government is subsidizing purchases of low-emission vehicles and has published rules that require foreign and Chinese carmakers to meet stringent fuel-consumption targets. Heizmann said the targets would be difficult to meet without the help of electric vehicles.
Volkswagen will launch its electric minicar, the e-up in China this year, and plans to launch its e-Golf and the plug-in hybrid Golf GTE next year.
Electrification will also gradually be extended to other models such as the midsize Passat and could be extended to almost every product segment, Heizmann said, thanks to a particular strategy that enables the automaker to produce cars more cost efficiently.
"With this modular strategy, we don't need a different car factory. The e-Golf can be produced in the same body shop and assembly line as a normal Golf," he said. "This is an advantage."
Automotive News Europe contributed to this report