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VW plans massive 10-year expansion in China

VOLKSWAGEN AG yesterday said it plans to double its vehicle sales in China to 2 million by 2018 through expanding its portfolio of products and its dealer network.

The new 10-year blueprint shows Volkswagen wants to maintain momentum in China during a time when car makers are striving to survive amid global financial doom.

The top European car maker said it will launch four models each year in China over the next decade, using its major Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda brands.

It also plans to double the number of its dealerships to 2,000.

"Although the global economy and auto market are full of uncertainty, we remain confident about China's auto industry as well as our long-term development here," Winfried Vahland, president and chief executive of Volkswagen's China operations, said.

Last year, Volkswagen boosted sales by 12.5 percent to 1.02 million units in China. But that growth was down from 28 percent a year earlier as the slowing economy curbed vehicle demand and competition intensified with General Motors Corp and Toyota Motors Corp.

China's total market expanded 6.7 percent last year, the slowest pace in a decade, to 9.4 million vehicle sales.

GM posted a sales growth of 6.1 percent to 1.09 million in 2008 and Toyota sold 585,000 units with an increase of 17 percent during the same period.

Volkswagen said China became its second-biggest market last year and it is just a matter of time before China replaces Germany as its biggest.

Vahland said earlier Volkswagen will invest 2.4 billion euros (US$3 billion) in China from 2008 to 2010 for developing new products, technology and networks.

"Volkswagen and Toyota have the biggest potential in China compared to others," said Lang Xuehong, analyst from consulting firm Sinotrust.

Volkswagen currently has a 19-percent market share in China, compared to 12 percent for GM and 7 percent for Toyota.


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