Volkswagen was the first European car manufacturer to recognise China as an emerging market, and this foresight led to them establishing connections in the Middle Kingdom as far back as 1978.
Volkswagen Group China was founded in 1985, and is now the largest and most successful international partner in China’s rapidly expanding automotive industry. The market leader in China for a quarter of a Century, VGC consists of Joint Ventures and wholly owned companies in Beijing, Changchun, Shanghai, Chengdu, Nanjing, Dalian and Hong Kong.
Their first joint venture, Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive Company Ltd. was established in October 1984, and is known today as SAIC-Volkswagen (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation). The second, much larger joint venture, FAW-Volkswagen Automotive Company Ltd. was established in Changchun in February 1991 to make both VW and Audi models. Other companies in the Group are component suppliers.
The first VW model to roll off the assembly lines of the No.1 factory in Changchun was the Santana, which many will remember as the handsome four-door saloon version of the first generation Passat.
Fast Forward to 2019 and SAIC-Volkswagen is putting the finishing touches to an electric car plant in Anting, near Shanghai that is expected to eventually turn out up to 300,000 electric cars a year starting next year.
Having been in country for so long VGC has the pulse of its Chinese customers, and its current line-up comprises many indigenous models from entry level to premium that are not seen in any other market.
VW Brand SUV Night
The SUV is the fastest growing automotive segment in China today. VW had six SUVs in their range in China in 2018 and eight this year, with plans to increase this to 12 by 2020.
The Chinese SUV market has grown by 20% so far in 2019 with one in five new VW sales being an SUV. At this rate by 2025 VW expects 50% of their sales to be SUVs, with new models to include a T-Roc e-hybrid and T-Cross L.
With sales statistics like this it was no wonder that VW hosted a separate event to illustrate the extent of their commitment to their SUV customers both new and existing.
Looking at VW’s SUV model range available in China we noted that this commitment has created some overlap of models from SAIC-Volkswagen and FAW-Volkswagen who offer a total of eight SUV model lines in China, compared to the four on sale in Europe and just two in the US.
The Auto Shanghai 2019 event welcomed the new T-Cross as VW’s entry-level premium SUV model, aimed at attracting younger buyers to the brand.
Above this entry-level comes an interesting twist to the L versions of premium saloons that extend to compact SUVs as well.
Thus FAW-Volkswagen makes a China specific T-Roc L whose 84mm longer wheelbase benefits rear seat passengers. In the next class above, the Tiguan L is made by SAIC-Volkswagen.
The one model we had never seen before, as there is no European equivalent was the Tharu. Built by SAIC-Volkswagen this is a mid-size SUV with some styling similarities to the Seat Ateca and Skoda Kodiaq that fills the gap between the Tiguan and Touareg.
Meanwhile FAW-Volkswagen produces the Tayron that competes head-on in the mid-size class, and ironically has a strong dose of styling cues from the Teramont produced by its VW family rival. The flagship model in VW’s extensive SUV range in China the Teramont is the doppleganger of the US market Atlas and positioned above the Touareg.
At the European launch of the Touareg last year we were told that its more prominent chrome grille and bespoke Dynaudio high-end sound system with a greater emphasis on rear cabin sound quality were both influenced by Chinese market requirements. The former is a question of visual presence, and the latter because company bosses and VIPs are chauffeur driven.
Niche models may sell in smaller numbers but they are image builders, and the order book is now open for the Teramont X, a slightly shorter, lower and sleeker version of the Teramont that is not quite a Coupe in the BMW X6 and Mercedes GLE Coupe mould. This will be offered with 2.0 TSI (183hp and 217hp) and 2.5 TSI VR6 (295hp) engine options.
No event like this would be complete without a concept car unveiling, and VW truly outdid themselves by delivering three on the night!
The first was the Tayron-based SUV Coupe Concept, which will go into production in the near future. Based on the ubiquitous MQB platform it will share the Tayron’s turbocharged 2.0 TSI engine range and DGS gearbox.
If you want a flagship VW SUV but the Teramont is too conventional then the sleek SMV Concept might well be the answer. Measuring 5.1 m from stem to stern, the SMV is the largest vehicle ever built on the MQB platform.
While the SMV only a concept at this stage, VW told us that FAW-Volkswagen has already begun engineering it for an on sale date in 2021. As with the Teramont, power will come from the turbocharged 2.0 TSI and 2.5 TSI VR6 engines.
Last but not least, and looking ahead to VW’s electric future in China and elsewhere VW unveiled the ID.Roomzz as the fifth and largest vehicle in the ID electric car concept series.
A seven-seater full electric premium product designed as VW’s answer to the Tesla Model X, the ID.Roomzz previews VW’s ID Pilot SAE Level 4 (with manual over-ride) autonomous driving system. Green lighted for production in China, the ID.Roomzz will be produced by both FAW and SAIC with different styling and go on sale in 2021.
VW see the 225kW 4WD ID.Roomzz as a world car, and plans are afoot to produce it in their US factory in Chattanooga, which is currently tooling up to produce vehicles based on VW’s MEB electric car platform.
Recognising that China has a massive air quality problem in its cities, the Government is on course to promote electric mobility on a scale unparalleled in any other nation.
To meet this initiative VW plan to roll out 10 electric and plug-in hybrid models over the next decade and hope to sell up to 22 million of these over the next decade. The first ID models will go on sale in China at the end of 2020 and VW’s objective as a company is to achieve carbon neutrality in their entire production process by 2050.
VW Group Night
All but the Porsche 992 Cabriolet were concept cars.
Jetta is the China-only new entry-level VW Group brand aimed at luring first time would-be customers away from Chinese branded cars by offering a VW Group car at a lower price point. Their debut compact four-door saloon is already on sale and this SUV concept will follow as the second model in the range.