Volkswagen: Why the Chinese are ignoring the Golf

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Volkswagen: Why the Chinese are ignoring the Golf-ignoring

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VW sells 2.26 million vehicles annually in China. The country is thus the most important market for the German group, even the Phaeton, which was scorned in Germany, became so noch a hit, …

Source: Volkswagen

Volkswagen: Why the Chinese are ignoring the Golf-golf

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… around half of all 7,500 luxury Volkswagens produced in Dresden each year roll onto the Chinese market.

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Volkswagen: Why the Chinese are ignoring the Golf-volkswagen

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Every fourth car from the Volkswagen Group is registered in the Middle Kingdom.

Source: picture-alliance / dpa / rh

Volkswagen: Why the Chinese are ignoring the Golf-30th anniversary 2013 version Santana

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The Santana model has become an indispensable part of the streetscape in Shanghai as a taxi.

Source: picture alliance / dpa / bt sv

Volkswagen: Why the Chinese are ignoring the Golf-automakers China undisputedly largest 1985

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"You can no longer sell our discarded cars to the Chinese," says VW head of development Ulrich Hackenberg. "The market is urgently demanding modern designs."

Source: Volkswagen

Volkswagen: Why the Chinese are ignoring the Golf-volkswagen

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That’s why Hackenberg came to China and got behind the wheel of the new Jetta, which will go into series production in 2013,

Source: Volkswagen

Volkswagen: Why the Chinese are ignoring the Golf-ignoring

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For the 30th anniversary in 2013, a new version of the Santana will be built, the notchback sedan that flopped in Europe. Word of the philistine image did not get around as far as the Far East.

Source: Volkswagen

Volkswagen: Why the Chinese are ignoring the Golf-automakers China undisputedly largest 1985

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VW is one of the first foreign automakers in China and is undisputedly the largest. 1985 the concern went into a partnership with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation a (SAIC).

Source: Volkswagen

Volkswagen: Why the Chinese are ignoring the Golf-30th anniversary 2013 version Santana

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The Santana emerged from the alliance, and the range now includes 20 models. Here a Beetle in the “Olympic Art” look from 2008 in front of the Olympic Stadium called “Bird’s Nest” in Beijing.

Source: Getty Images

Volkswagen: Why the Chinese are ignoring the Golf-30th anniversary 2013 version Santana

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In 2011, as part of the “People’s Car Project”, Chinese drivers had the opportunity to devise their own Volkswagen. This model will probably not be ready for series productiongene.

Source: picture alliance / dpa / fpt

Nowhere does VW sell as many cars as in China. The Santana, the Jetta, even the Phaeton, scorned in Germany, is a hit in the Middle Kingdom. The Golf, of all things, is left behind.

C.roissants, toast, muesli? Is not for him. Ulrich Hackenberg takes a cup of "Cupnoodles" for a late breakfast in Shanghai. The Volkswagen Group’s head of development is well versed in brewing the Asian alternative to the five-minute terrine, slobbering the broth without spilling, and later insisting on local food and local tools when the flight continues.

The top manager is a regular in China. Because in China VW sells 2.26 million vehicles annually. This makes the country the most important market for the German group; every fourth car from the Volkswagen group is registered there.

Even the Phaeton, scorned in Germany, became a hit. Around half of all 7,500 luxury Volkswagens produced in Dresden each year roll onto the Chinese market.

Like a head doctor on rounds

New models are a top priority: on average every two months, Hackenberg comes to the country for a few days, inspects the factories and tests the prototypes. "Acceptance drive" is the name of the spectacle in the factory jargon when Hackenberg rushes through the factory like the chief doctor during the visit, shows individual components and sets off in a convoy with the police on the test drive.

To mark the 30th anniversary of 2013, a new version of the Santana will be built, the notchback sedan that flopped in Europe. In 1987 the first and last generation based on the Passat B2 rolled off the assembly line at the VW plant in Emden, because customers liked the related Audi 100 better. Word of the philistine image did not get around as far as the Far East, which is why the Santana flourished in China.

It was sold out in 1992, and three years later, the Santana 2000, a successor with an extended wheelbase, was presented. VW is competing with itself with a newly developed Jetta. With 2.15 million pieces, it is the second successful model in China.

The fascination of the fugue

While the developers stand nervously around the cars like schoolchildren at the blackboard, the board of directors inspects the prototypes with the almost proverbial fascination for every joint for VW. Again and again he opens and closes the doors to assess the quality of the bodywork production.

During the test, he listens deeply into the car. He wants to know exactly how the steering, gearbox and brakes are set up around Chengdu at the foot of the Himalayas.

VW is one of the first foreign automakers in China and is undisputedly the largest. In 1985 the group entered into a partnership with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). The Santana emerged from the alliance, and the range now includes 20 models.

Even Volkswagen man Hackenberg has to think about something until he has sorted them neatly. The Sagitar, a variant of the Jetta, the Polo and the Touran are built in a joint venture with First Automotive Works. But the days when China was still something like the remainder of Western automakers are long gone.

100 cities with more than 5 million inhabitants

"You can no longer sell our discarded cars to the Chinese," says Ulrich Hackenberg. “The market is urgently calling for modern designs.” And for compact vehicles like the Jetta or Santana, because there is a risk of traffic blackouts in the People’s Republic.

100 Chinese cities have more than five million inhabitants. On the one hand. On the other hand, a gigantic market is also opening up. According to internal estimates, the new Santana and the new Jetta will themselves outperform the Golf, making it the world’s best-selling VW models. So it’s no wonder that the head of development takes a very close look at the inconspicuous prototypes.

The only thing the China model has in common with the European Jetta is its name. It looks a bit more robust than the Santana. The brothers are each equipped with a 1.4-liter or 1.6-liter engine with 90 and 110 hp and can be had for just over 8,000 euros. The front axles come from the Polo, the rear axle from the Golf IV.

At the rear, similar to the Skoda Rapid, there is a surprising amount of space and an enormous trunk. “You might not want to drive at full throttle on a German autobahn,” admits Hackenberg. The chassis is probably too soft and the steering too easy for that.

Theft of ideas made easy

But on the other hand, the cars cannot be unbalanced even on the worst country roads, they spring softly, roll cleanly and drive surprisingly quietly on the highways.

The more modern the cars and the more advanced the plants, the more VW has to open up to its cooperation partners. Hackenberg speaks of a "partnership and fair" cooperation. But of course the German carmaker is taking a high risk because it makes it easier to steal ideas.

For fear of plagiarism, all employees and factory visitors must agree to access regulations and confidentiality agreements. And it is not without reason that VW manufactures key technologies such as dual clutch transmissions in China, but without cooperation partners in its own plants.

VW seems to approve of the fact that a secret does leak out anyway. At Hackenberg you can hear that that is the price for the good business that the group does in China.

It’s a profitable business for VW. Because on the one hand the brand stands out in terms of value from the pressing Korean competition, on the other hand it creates space for new entry-level models in the lower market segment.

Construction "made in China"

But the Chinese can’t just copy. They are also getting better and better at design. Of the 2,200 developers who work for Hackenberg in China, only 60 come from Germany. "Everyone else comes from the respective region and is doing a really good job here," praised the top manager.

The basic development is still going on in Wolfsburg, where a new technology kit is currently being worked on for the Chinese, South American and Indian markets. "But what we build on and from it, we develop where the cars are later to be sold."

Hackenberg has also made promoting young talent in China a top priority. For this he even accepted a teaching position at the famous Tongi University in Shanghai. There, the guest lecturer from Germany trains specialists for the development centers in China.

Internship in Wolfsburg for Chinese students

Occasionally he even invites particularly talented candidates to Wolfsburg. There is plenty of potential. 450,000 engineers graduate from universities in China every year. “With this we can at least partially compensate for the lack of young talent,” says Hackenberg.

When it comes to the ambience and the equipment around the rear seats, however, Hackenberg likes to be inspired by the Chinese. Ultimately, however, it is typically German characteristics such as precision, quality and a strong brand that are well received by the Chinese.

That is why nothing will change in the essence of the most important model in Europe, says Hackenberg. "The Golf remains a German."

The trip to the acceptance test was supported by Volkswagen. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at www.axelspringer.de/unabhaengigkeit

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