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VW eyes China JV stake increases

By Graeme Roberts | 19 March 2019

One of its Chinese partners has pushed back after Volkswagen last week said it planned to increase its efforts to acquire majority control of its Chinese joint ventures, according to local reports in China.

SAIC Motor, partner in the Shanghai VW JV, was quoted as saying it was "regrettable" the German automaker unilaterally commented on shareholdings without consulting local partners.

The VW comments last week followed BMW's agreement last October to raise its stake in its Brilliance China Automotive Holdings joint venture to 75% from 50% once the Chinese government relaxes its rules on foreign ownership by 2022 as indicated. 

Volkswagen is looking to change its shareholding structures in China, its largest single market globally, ahead of significant investments in electric and hybrid vehicle development and production. 

The automaker's CEO Herbert Diess last week told reporters the role of its operations in China was set to change significantly "as the global automotive industry shifts to electrification and connectivity". 

Diess said he expected that, by late 2019 or early 2020, Volkswagen would be in a position to discuss with its local joint venture partners how it planned to move forward in China, adding "we will bring new assets to these discussions and a new strategy".

Volkswagen has three car-producing joint ventures in China with the FAW Group, SAIC Motor and JAC Motors, producing a combined 4.2m Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda-branded vehicles last year – or around 40% of its global vehicle output.

The first joint venture, SAIC-Volkswagen, was established in 1984 with the German automaker holding a 50% stake. Volkswagen controls just 49% of the equity of FAW-Volkswagen, which was established in 1991, while JAC Volkswagen is a 50:50 joint venture established in 2018.