» There are still many growth opportunities in China «
Stephan Wöllenstein has headed the passenger car sector of the Volkswagen brand in China since August 2016. In an interview with inside, the 54-year-old family man talks about Volkswagen’s planned SUV campaign, the importance of electric mobility, and the rapid development of trends.
Stephan Wöllenstein with the I.D. Crozz, the third member of the I.D. family.
How is the Volkswagen brand doing in China?
Volkswagen is the number one choice for Chinese car buyers. We have been for a long time. The Volkswagen brand is in good health in China. Last year, nearly three million Chinese consumers chose to buy a Volkswagen, meaning that we were more than twice as big as the number two in the market. This is a massive achievement and, together with our joint ventures, it enables us to reinvest in the development of many new products for our customers. We will continue to carry out even more research and development in China – and for China – to make sure that our products exactly meet Chinese customer expectations.
How important is China for Volkswagen?
Half of global sales – and an even bigger proportion of profits – for the Volkswagen brand come from China. Nevertheless, there are still many opportunities for growth. We have acquired a very solid reputation in this market and a large group of loyal customers. We achieved this by making China a strategic priority for the brand some 30 years ago.
Brand initiative 5 Securing market leadership in China
Europe and China are the mainstays of our revenue. As “Top of Volume”, we aim to secure our market leadership and expand it in a profitable manner. In China, we will win new customers in the economy segment. We are also launching an e-mobility and connectivity campaign that features highly competitive products, technologies, and services in Europe and China. One hundred percent of our new vehicles will be connected online and form part of our customers’ digital world.
» Our biggest mistake would be to take our success in China for granted. «
What are your major challenges?
Our biggest mistake would be to take our success in China for granted. We urgently need to shift into a higher gear, so as to remain competitive in China. Volkswagen and our joint ventures need to become much faster in the Chinese market, which develops at a gruesome pace, especially in the areas of digitalization and connectivity. The Chinese live by their smartphones – they are integrated into every part of their lives. By 2019, at the latest, all cars leaving Volkswagen showrooms in China will be – will need to be – fully connected. In 2017, we will also launch our own Chinese digital service ecosystem.
What products are in demand in China?
Chinese customers love SUVs. Almost half of the cars sold here are SUVs. We have a massive offensive in the pipeline: our SUV portfolio will grow to ten models by 2020. Both our joint ventures – FAW-Volkswagen and SAIC Volkswagen – will offer a full range of SUVs. China is rapidly developing into the center of the world with regard to e-mobility. Over the next three years, we will introduce a range of “New Energy Vehicles”, as we call them: plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. These will be based on current platforms, mainly the MQB. From 2020 onwards, models on our all-electric architecture, the MEB, will hit the roads here, as the lead market. By 2025, some 60 percent of all MEB cars will be sold and built in China – which is the equivalent of aapproximately 600,000 units.
On a personal note, what fascinates you about China?
China is unparalleled in terms of the speed of setting or adopting new trends. If you had been out of China for a year, you would hardly recognize it in many respects. Take the recent trend of bike-hailing with MoBike, bluegogo and Ofo, for example. In addition, I very much like the people: they are open, curious, friendly, and have a good sense of humour.