Volkswagen AG has named the former head of its Asia-Pacific region, Bernd Leissner, to head up its Chinese operations.

Volkswagen AG said in a statement that Leissner would assume his post in Beijing immediately, heading a new team of top executives in its biggest market outside Germany.

VW has a dominant position in the Chinese market but faces increasing competition from new entrants, which threaten its high margins on sales in the territory. VW signed a letter of intent at the beginning of May to build a new automotive plant near Shanghai in order to help meet its goal of doubling production capacity to 1.6 million cars by 2008.

Leissner’s five-man team will include sales boss Walter Hanek, technology head Barthel Schroeder, purchasing chief Ruediger Koch and Suixin Zhang, who will head up personnel.

Volkswagen has yet to appoint a finance chief for China, but the carmaker said this would be done shortly.

It aims to sell more than 800,000 vehicles in China in 2004 after delivering some 698,000 cars to customers last year.