Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen AG, Europe's largest carmaker, met with Premier Li Keqiang on June 5 at the first meeting of the Global CEO Advisory Council. As one of the key players in China's auto industry, Volkswagen has always maintained a cooperative approach to working with its local teams. At the meeting, Winterkorn sat down with China Daily to share his views on the Group's history and future strategy in the world's largest auto market.
What brings you to Beijing, and how do you view the China market?
First, I would like to say it was a pleasure to be a member of the newly founded Global CEO Advisory Council and meet with Premier Li Keqiang here in Beijing.
One topic we discussed was China's strategy to develop its central and western areas.
Volkswagen Group supports this strategy with our new plant in Changsha, Hunan province, and our "Go West" strategy. And with our new plant in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, we are taking on another pioneering role in China.
We understand that urbanization is a key driver for China's future growth, which will benefit Chinese society and provide opportunities for new business.
What role do businesses such as Volkswagen play in the relationship between China and Germany?
Volkswagen Group's role in putting China on wheels and cultivating China's auto industry is an exceptional honor for our company.
This achievement was made possible only through close partnership with international and Chinese companies, as well as local governments.
Today, we can still see the benefits of this partnership, especially in the country's western region.
When I spoke with Premier Li, I told him that I appreciate the efforts the government has made to push forward the reform and opening-up and the sustainable development of society.
This policy has always been a driving force of China's overall growth, benefitting both the domestic market and the global economy.
Volkswagen will continue to work with the government, the Chinese people and our joint venture partners in all regions.
Now that China has become the largest auto market in the world, I am proud to say that Volkswagen has been able to play a part in this extraordinary transformation.
It is often said that Volkswagen put China on wheels. Does Volkswagen's 30-year relationship with China give it a unique advantage in the market today?
Volkswagen Group is honored to have played a pioneering role in the development of China's auto industry.
The 30-year success story that unites China and Volkswagen, however, is about far more than just advantages in the market.
Above all, I would say it is about trust and responsibility.
This is the emotional bond that ties Volkswagen and the Chinese people and our joint-venture partners.
Volkswagen Group was not the only auto company to enter China in the early 1980s, but we were the auto company that consistently stood by China every year, innovating products for the Chinese market, cultivating a skilled Chinese automotive workforce, working closely with two strong joint-venture partners, and driving forward the nation's auto industry.
In the process, Volkswagen has well-designed and high-quality models for our Chinese consumers.
How does responsibility help Volkswagen Group stand out among other competitors in China?
One key to our success in the Chinese market is our high level of localization.
Last year, Volkswagen delivered 2.8 million vehicles to Chinese customers, of which more than 2.6 million were produced locally.
In China, we have achieved an average localization rate of more than 90 percent for all Volkswagen and Skoda brand models.
We are able to apply state-of-the-art technologies and produce vehicles that meet the diverse needs of our Chinese customers.
The 30-year relationship of trust and responsibility is something we are very proud of.
What else can auto companies do to support government and society in addition to economic growth?
When I met with Premier Li, we discussed the challenges both China and the global community now face, which include economic, social and environmental challenges.
As a responsible enterprise and leader in automotive innovation, Volkswagen is committed to doing its part to overcome these challenges. This can only be achieved through close partnerships.
We are now working with the National Development and Reform Commission in China on a research project called "Auto and Society".
Our mission is to ensure mobility for as many people as possible while also protecting the environment and safeguarding natural resources.
We are continually innovating clean, green products and technologies, including the most advanced combustion engines and lightweight designs, as well as new energy powertrains, such as electro-mobility, plug-in hybrids and renewable energy. At the same time, our plants are making significant advances in eco-friendly production.
How do you see Volkswagen Group's relationship with China evolving in the next three decades?
Volkswagen will further strengthen its partnership with China. In many ways, Volkswagen is today not only a European company, but also a Chinese company.
We are reaching out to the Chinese people to shape the future with the largest investment program in China's automotive history. This will support the best engineering teams and advanced technologies developed and built in the local market. We will also create 25,000 highly skilled new jobs by 2018, and seven additional state-of-the-art component and vehicle plants.
Volkswagen Group will continue to play a vital role in the development of China's auto industry, economy, and society in the next 30 years as an even closer partner of China.
We are prepared to make every contribution we can and remain fully committed to China for the long-term.