Western Carmakers Turn To China For Electric Vehicle Sales

EVs galore
Audi Q2L e-tron at Shanghai (Photo: Audi)

China remains the world's largest market for electric vehicles (EVs) and it's small wonder Western EV makers continue to see China as their pot of gold.

Some of the West's largest automobile companies such as Audi, Aston Martin, and Volkswagen unveiled flagship EVs at the Shanghai Auto Show this week. Analysts see many of these EVs remaining exclusive to China, where government subsidies and policies favor the sales of EVs.

On Tuesday at the Shanghai Motor Show, Audi unveiled its Q2L e-tron, an electric SUV to be produced in Foshan and only available in China. The e-tron will be produced in China beginning 2020, said Audi during the unveiling.

"The biggest chunk of electric cars of the Audi portfolio we will have here in China. China will lead this initiative from a technology standpoint and a portfolio standpoint," said Alexander Seitz, member of Audi's board of management for finance, China and legal affairs, to CNBC.

Seitz said Audi plans to more than double the staff at its local research and development center from 300 to 700 people. Hee said the Chinese market is very innovative, is very speedy. "So here, we can get a lot of inputs for our global activities, as well."

Volkswagen, Audi's parent firm, took the wraps off a new line of EVs that will be available in China beginning 2021. The first will be a sports utility vehicle called ID. ROOMZZ.

VW also revealed plans to expand into China's EV market. It said it expects China to contribute to more than half of its planned 22 million battery electric vehicles (BEVs) by 2028.

"We have a clear ambition to be the number one NEV (electric vehicle) brand in China, and we have no doubt the ID. ROOMZZ will play an important part of that," said VW Group China CEO Stephan Wöllenstein.

Also revealed in Shanghai was Nissan's Infiniti concept for the Qs Inspiration, an electric sports sedan. Infiniti also said the first of its new generation of EVs will be built in China for the domestic market.

"China is going to be the place (for electric vehicles)," according to Trevor Hale, general manager for Infiniti Global Communications. "This is the future of electrification by far ... This is where we wanted to make a statement for Infiniti, which is going all electric."

Also unveiled at Shanghai was Aston Martin's first all-electric car, the Rapide E, while Lotus announced its return as an all-electric hypercar maker. Oddly, most of the EVs unveiled at Shanghai are sedans, which bucks the trend towards SUVs readily apparent in gasoline powered cars.

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