The growing smog problem, which has increased as more people own cars, could be a military defense, according to a Chinese newspaper. (Photo : Reuters)
As China cracks down on air pollution, German automakers are answering the call for the production of more eco-friendly vehicles, The Wall Street Journal reported.
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Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler are all working to launch electric vehicles in China, which is still far short of completing its goal of 500,000 hybrid and electric cars on roads by 2015 and five million by 2020.
Local production for Volkswagen should start in 2016, and the brand plans to launch at least 15 hybrid and electric car models in China by 2018.
BMW and Brilliance China Automotive Holdings, its local partner, have launched an electric vehicle that is the first under the Zinoro brand, while Daimler and China's BYD company will begin offering the Denza electric car next year.
Plug-in hybrids will be the next wave of cars to be built in China, according to Jochem Heizmann, president and chief executive of Volkswagen Group China.
"We're convinced that for the next five to 10 years this is the right solution for customers in China," Heizmann said.
Hybrids, which can use gasoline or electricity, provide greater flexibility and are more dependable for drivers, he said.
"We're working hard to bring the cost and prices of new energy vehicles down," Heizmann said, noting that the decision to concentrate on plug-in hybrids in China was not "a political issue, it's a volume issue."
Of the 15 Volkswagen models planned for China, "a lot" will be produced in the country in collaboration with the brand's local partnership companies, Heizmann said. The new vehicles will also include a wide sampling of brands under the Volkswagen umbrella, including Audi, its luxury division.
Volkswagen has big plans for its upcoming electric vehicle lineup, announcing each new model will be up to 20 percent more efficient than its predecessor.
This year, BMW globally launched the i3, its first electric car; representatives believe the i3 series should do well in China.
"China will become one of, if not the largest, markets for electric cars in the future," Karsten Engel, president and chief executive of BMW Group Region China said in an interview.
Plagued by smog especially in major cities like Beijing, the country has cracked down on auto emissions, which are considered a major factor in the pollution problem.