Volkswagen was optimistic the Chinese vehicle market would return to close to last year's level by early summer, following signs of a strong sales rebound in recent weeks.

The German group is the largest automaker in China through its joint ventures with local state-owned enterprises (SOEs) FAW Group and SAIC Motor. 

Volkswagen Group China CEO Stephan Woellenstein told local reporters "there are more and more signs that business in China is recovering. By the middle of the year, we could be back to last year's levels. Hope is returning to the Chinese market".

The passenger vehicle market is seen rebounding to around 1m units in March from a low of around 240,000 in February when the market declined by over 80% as large parts of the country's economy shut down.

Woellenstein confirmed over 95% of the group's 3,000 dealers in China have reopened their showrooms and customer visits are currently at around 60% of normal levels.

Production at 22 of its 24 vehicle and component plants in the country has restarted although some are still operating below normal output levels.

"But they are ready to ramp up production when demand picks up," he added. 

Woellenstein also confirmed his company would stand by last year's announcement to invest more than EUR4bn in China with its partners in 2020, of which around 40% will go into electric vehicle development and production.

"We assume the market's recovery will continue and we will be operating in a normal market environment again in 2021."