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Factory's energy efforts thrill German leader


Visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel toured an FAW-Volkswagen joint production plant in Chengdu on Sunday, marking the prelude to a program of building electric charging stations for cars and infrastructure in China.

The plans are expected to be unveiled on Tuesday while Merkel visits Tsinghua University in Beijing, according to Jochem Heizmann, a Volkswagen Group board member and president and CEO of Volkswagen Group China.

"Our priority is plug-in hybrids (electric vehicles)," Heizmann said. "We're working very intensively on the issue."

Merkel has previously emphasized the significance of energy efficiency and conservation to German enterprises' overall development strategy in China.

While visiting the plant, Merkel said she was impressed with the company's efforts to cut energy consumption by 26 percent and water use by 90 percent by using new technology in the factory's oil and gas workshop.

At the plant, Merkel sat in a new Jetta sedan, which is the factory's star product, and asked questions about the car. She also visited the plant's training workshop.

"Her main interests in our plant are the training programs and qualification programs," Heizmann said. "We are in China creating a lot of highly qualified jobs."

The plant has more than 9,000 employees, and the factory's presence can indirectly create more than 100,000 jobs, such as car dealers and their employees, the company said.

In 2009, the German auto giant's joint venture launched its third Chinese entire-vehicle manufacturing plant in Chengdu's Longquan district, 12 km from downtown Chengdu.

Making cars and auto parts is the district's pillar industry, attracting eight German auto suppliers such as FAW-Volkswagen and technology provider Bosch.

FAW-Volkswagen has invested more than 17 billion yuan ($2.7 billion) in Chengdu, and follow-up funding could provide an additional 3 billion yuan this year, according to the Economic & Technological Development Zone in Chengdu's Longquan district.

Last year, the Chengdu factory produced 480,000 vehicles, about a third of the joint venture's annual production capacity in China.

That accounts for about 60 percent of Chengdu's annual vehicle production. The factory expects to manufacture 600,000 cars this year.


The plant currently supplies two economy cars the new Sagitar and new Jetta - with competitive prices that make the sedans among the most popular in the local market.

Some see FAW-Volkswagen as essential to Chengdu's auto industry and economic development.

"We attach greater importance to German business entities and welcome all German enterprises," said Li Hua, deputy director of the Economic & Technological Development Zone in Longquan district.

Li and his colleagues visited Germany five times - more visits than to any other country.

Li said Merkel's visit to Chengdu is a wonderful opportunity to share and promote cooperation with German enterprises.

The German government ceased direct financial aid to China in 2009, but it started to invest in sustainable industries such as environmental protection and energy efficiency, said Feng Zhongping, vice-president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations

"To generalize auto power efficiency technology in China will be in accordance with their strategy," he said.

"Several years ago, Japanese cars used to take a leading position, netting a quarter of Chinese vehicle market sales, but now German cars have overtaken them," said Zhao Junjie, an expert of European studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"The sound Sino-German relationship plays a part," Zhao said.

Auto consulting agency J.D. Power conducted a survey last year that found that a record-high 35 percent of Chinese consumers are inclined to buy German cars rather than brands from other countries.



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