Volkswagen Group has expanded capacity in China with the official opening of a new vehicle assembly plant for the Shanghai-Volkswagen joint venture in Changsha, southern China. The plant is the group’s 119th global facility and its 20th in China.

The new plant in Changsha is about 900km (560 miles) to the west of Shanghai. Production of the Volkswagen New Lavida is starting there after only two years of construction. Other VW and Skoda models will follow. Total capacity is about 300,000 vehicles a year and the plant has 4,000 workers plus 4,000 more in the neighbouring supplier park.

Changsha is the first Shanghai-Volkswagen joint venture factory to receive China’s ‘Triple-Star Green Building Design Award’. Thanks to a dry painting system (‘E-scrub’), water and energy consumption will be reduced by more than 20%. Excess paint particles are filtered out by an electrostatic precipitator system. Fresh water consumption in production has been reduced by 20% compared with conventional processes by using rainwater and recycled production water. Solar panels generate over 10,000 MWh of environmentally compatible power. Further power is generated by local hydroelectric plants. Production will therefore be carbon neutral.

“China is not only the Volkswagen Group’s largest and most important market; it has also become the group’s second home market. We intend to develop the entire country as a company with local roots,” said VW Group China president and CEO Jochem Heizmann.

“The plant in Changsha is a key step in our ‘Go South’ strategy in China. This new facility will bring us nearer to our Chinese customers and also improve the quality of our supply chain.”

With its partners, the Volkswagen Group will spend over EUR22bn (US$23.95bn) in China by 2019.