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FAW-Volkswagen works to stay on top


FAW-Volkswagen is the envy of most automakers in China: it is one of the most recognizable auto brands, a long-standing top three player by sales volume and, more importantly, it does not rest on its laurels.

"We worked for more than 20 years to get there and I guess now the most challenging part for us is to stay in the top category as our competitors will not simply sit there applauding our achievement," said Stephan Woellenstein, executive vice-president of FAW-VW Sales Company.

One of the many moves that FAW-Volkswagen adopted to consolidate its position was to adapt to the habits of young people who account for more than 50 percent of the joint venture's customers.

Woellenstein said young Chinese always check what is going on online and exchange their opinions on social media and it is understandable that they don't want to be treated by an old brand in an old way.

"So we have to adapt to their needs," said Woellenstein, adding that this was why his company released a mini movie online last year to launch the new CC.

The promotional film attracted 40 million hits and the car was the first model to be mainly launched on the Internet in the country.

He said smart phone applications also allow customers to get information about the companies' models in their own way.

FAW-Volkswagen also organizes offline events on campus to approach young students.

Among others, its Music Park has so far been staged in seven universities across the country.

More models

As FAW-Volkswagen is having an increasingly larger variety of target customers, it has stepped up its efforts to enrich its lineup of models to meet "every niche need", said Woellenstein.

He said the joint venture would launch "at least three new models each year from 2015" in addition to updating the eight models it is offering now, including the popular Bora, Jetta and Sagitar. Among others, the Passat B8 will be introduced "in the not too far future", he said.

Woellenstein said the joint venture would also produce SUVs "as it is becoming a trend that people in China like SUVs and certainly FAW-Volkswagen will not miss the opportunity".

The automaker now has four plants: two plants in Changchun, Jilin province, one in Chengdu, Sichuan province and another one in Foshan, Guangdong province. It is planning to build another two in the coming years-one in Qingdao, Shandong province and the other in Tianjin.

In addition to enhancing its production capacity, Woellenstein said the company was rapidly expanding its dealership network to reach more customers and help raise the brand awareness.

"We will have 800 outlets by the end of the year and about 1,000 in the following two years," he said.

He said automakers concentrated too much on 4S dealerships in big cities but FAW-Volkswagen is planning to step up its pace to open dealerships in smaller cities to serve customers there.

Woellenstein said the company would also offer intensive training to sales staff so that they can better understand different demands of different customers.

"As you know a young professional who visits our shop to buy a CC might want to be treated in a way different from a businessman who wants to buy a Magotan," he said.

Woellenstein was conservative about online sales. "It is a fancy idea but cars are not commodities you usually put in a parcel and send over." "You might want to test-drive it, especially when you are a first-time buyer, and you want to buy it from a dealership you know and trust."

As one of the best-selling brands in the country, FAW-Volkswagen stressed its social responsibility because it believes a company's charm is based on not only its products but also whether it cares about people and society.

That is why the joint venture is, among others, advocating the use of child safety seats among not only its customers but also the general public through a nationwide program initiated in May.

"We take it as our responsibility to promote the importance of safety seats and help ensure children's safety in cars," said Woellenstein.

Statistics from the UN showed that the use of a child seat can cut the possibility of child fatality in traffic accidents by up to 70 percent.

However, less than 1 percent of Chinese parents use child safety seats in their cars and as a result 3,000 children under the age of 14 die in car accidents in the country every year, according to the joint venture.

Wollenstein also spoke of Shanghai Volkswagen, the German automaker's another joint venture in China, as he worked there for three years before he went to serve FAW-Volkswagen.

"We are kids of the same family who have different characters.

"Our models are more sporty and appeal to younger people while theirs are more business-oriented. But we have the same Volkswagen genes and both of us are striving to do the best in our respective range," said Woellenstein.



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