The employee magazine
of the Volkswagen brand


"We Cannot Rest"

The biggest automotive trade fair in China is taking place in Beijing right now. Stephan Wöllenstein, 
Brand CEO of Volkswagen in China, explains what customers expect from their car in the booming market in the Middle Kingdom and what the "Move Forward" brand initiative is all about.

Mr. Wöllenstein, Volkswagen has been a market leader in China for years. What is 
the reason for its success?
Our brand is just as familiar to Chinese people as it is to people in Germany. Volkswagen was one of the first foreign automotive brands to manufacture locally in China. Shanghai Volkswagen was our first joint venture and started manufacturing with the Santana in 1985. Basically, the Santana, and later the Jetta, took on the same role in China that the Beetle once held in Germany. That is to say, Volkswagen has always been there – from the grandparents’ generation to their grandchildren’s today.

That sounds solid. But you have set up a new program for the Volkswagen brand under the name "Move Forward." 
Why is that?
The Volkswagen brand stands on a very firm foundation in China. But we cannot rest on our laurels. In particular, we have to strengthen our innovative approach. Competitors are catching up with us – including local manufacturers. We are now addressing that with our brand initiative, "Move Forward."

What are the focal points of the initiative?
Our plan is based on four pillars. 
The first is the expansion of our portfolio with an SUV campaign. 
By 2020, we want to offer more than 12 SUV models, which will be manufactured locally in the two joint ventures as well as imported. Currently, we only offer four SUVs: The imported Tiguan and the locally manufactured Tiguan L with a longer wheel base; the Touareg1 is sold in China as an import vehicle and last year, we
 introduced the Teramont – the Chinese
 equivalent of the American Atlas. The market share of SUVs in China is currently more than 45 percent, but we want to increase it to over 50 percent. 
In absolute figures, that’s 12 to 14 million vehicles. Basically, we need to adapt our product range to better fit the importance of this strong segment.

"In no other market 
do people spend as 
much time 
online as they do in China."

A joint venture is a subsidiary that is founded and managed by two companies. In China, Volkswagen
manufactures together with its partners, SAIC and FAW.

What are your plans for the rest of the product range?
In addition to the planned 12 SUVs, we also want to renew all established vehicles by 2020. We have traditionally excelled in the sedan segment. That’s why we are introducing three new sedans at the "Auto China" motor show in Beijing with the Lavida, the CC and the I.D. VIZZION. We are reinterpreting this vehicle category with further developments in styling. That brings me to the second pillar of "Move Forward:" We want to take one step further toward greater expressiveness in design. This is something that customers in China value highly. We will also create a sharper distinction between the models,
 and develop a more clearly defined design hierarchy.

The third pillar of your program is 
innovation and connectivity. 
What are your plans?

In no other market do people spend as much time online as they do in China. It has even become standard to pay with a mobile phone, and communicating by messenger is a given. In large cities, bike sharing and taxi services via smartphone are heavily used. Customer expectations of modern cars are correspondingly high. They must be fully connected. Always. When our vehicles are constantly online, it will not only be easy to integrate music streaming services, but voice control will also be easier. We want to use “learning” algorithms or artificial intelligence to better understand individual user behavior and position ourselves to offer tailored services. Even controlling individual functions, like the heated seats and locking and unlocking the doors with a smartphone, will become normality.

What innovations are coming from China 
in the field of connected services?
When it comes to connectivity and
 our own digital ecosystem, is it more
 important than ever to home in on
 customer experience. This is defined 
by two major providers: Tencent in 
the field of messaging and gaming, 
and Alibaba in the field of e-commerce. 
I believe we are at a threshold 
we are discovering that China is significantly driving forward development, especially in connectivity and new services. This will influence the 
European market, too. At Volkswagen, 
we also need to adopt these trends.

What role will e-mobility play at Volkswagen in China?
As the fourth pillar of "Move Forward," we want to start by introducing our first battery-powered and plug-in hybrid vehicles in the next few years. For electrically powered models as well, we will start with two SUVs, followed by modern sedans. In the new energy vehicle segment, we are planning to make ten vehicles available on the market by 2020. With "Move Forward," we will not only offer the right products and services; we will also strengthen the Volkswagen brand and demonstrate its innovative excellence. This will become clearer than ever when the new MEB-based models arrive from 2020 onwards.


Stephan Wöllenstein (54) came to Volkswagen in 1995. Since then, he has been responsible for numerous functions in international sales and product management. He first 
worked in China as Head of Sales and Marketing 
at SAIC Volkswagen from 2004 to 2006. Prior to his appointment as CEO for the Volkswagen brand and Executive Vice President of Volkswagen (China) Investment Co., Ltd. in 2016, he held the post of Managing 
Director for the Volkswagen brand and Executive Vice President for Sales in FAW-
Volkswagen Sales Co.,  Ltd. Stephan Wöllenstein is married and has two daughters.

The car market in China - four facts


cars were sold by all automotive manufacturers in China last year. In 2005, that figure was only 3.3 million.


SUVs were sold by the brand in China last year.


percent of cars sold on the overall market were SUVs.


charging stations already exist in the capital city of Beijing alone.