FAW-Volkswagen Automotive Company opened a new vehicle assembly plant in Qingdao, in China's eastern Shandong province, this week as the joint venture looks to strengthen its position in China.

The assembly plant, the joint venture's fifth in China, has a annual production capacity of 300,000 vehicles and employs 3,000 people. It will help fulfill demand mainly for vehicles in northern and eastern provinces. 

At full swing, Qingdao will produce five models using flexible production lines, starting with the new generation Bora passenger car based on the MQB platform, plus two Audi models. The factory is also designed to produce new energy vehicles. 

Total spend on Qingdao is expected to reach CNY10bn (US$1.56bn) by the end of the decade.

It is among FAW-Volkswagen's most energy-efficient production facilities and has a solar power system that helps cut its annual electricity bill by around CNY1m.

The press shop uses equipment supplied by Germany's Schuler and China's Jier Machine-Tool Group Company. The welding shop has 860 robots making it the most automated FAW-Volkswagen plant to date while the assembly line is supplied by 240 driverless carts.

Qingdao is one of four new assembly plants FAW-Volkswagen plans to open in 2018 in what is thought to be the fastest rate of expansion undertaken by any vehicle manufacturer. 

The other three factories due to come on stream this year are in Changchun, Tianjin and Foshan cities.

By the end of the year, FAW-Volkswagen will have 18 models on sale in China, twice the number it had in 2012, and this is expected to rise to 45 by 2025.