Volkswagen Group said it will boost sales in China this year by adding new models that will help avoid the downward pull of a market that is expected to see its first annual decline in at least two decades.
The automaker is “confident” of more growth in 2019, incoming China CEO Stephan Wollenstein said Monday at a briefing in Beijing. Sales at the group, which includes the luxury Audi brand, climbed about 20,000 units last year compared with the 4.2 million units it delivered in 2017.
Trade tensions between the U.S. and China as well as the car industry’s unprecedented transformation toward automation and electrification have contributed to damp car demand. Unit sales in China dropped for a sixth straight month in November and are headed for the first full-year decline since at least the 1990s, intensifying pressure on automakers that have been counting on the world’s biggest auto market to support growth.
VW predicted China market sales to fall in the first half of 2019 from the same period a year earlier, said China head Jochem Heizmann, who will retire at the end of this year. The automaker makes vehicles in China through three joint ventures, with FAW Group, SAIC Motor and Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group.
Other highlights from the briefing, which was also attended by VW Group CEO Herbert Diess:
- VW will not reduce its research and development capabilities in Germany even as it builds up r&d in China.
- In response to a question on whether China’s car policy is working, Diess said: "So far we have no reason to question [it]."
- VW said it may be in a position to share more details on its commercial-vehicle plan in China in a couple of months.