German Auto Giants Expand in Chinese Market

2019-09-10 21:33:32 CHINA TODAY 2019年9期

By staff reporter ZHOU LIN

BMW China R&D Center official- ly opened its facility in Beijings Shunyi District on May 15, 2018. The center is by far the biggest presence of BMW R&D outside Germany, among those in the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and China, and its size far exceeds the companys R&D center in Silicon Valley, northern California, U.S.A.

Cooperation Essential

Early in March, during the China Development Forum 2019 in Beijing, heads of three of Germanys biggest carmakers, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW expressed their wishes to increase investment in China and deepen cooperation to better meet the demands of a more open Chinese market.

Then the Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Dr. Dieter Zetsche indicated, the booming automobile industry is an excellent example of Chinas soaring economic development. Over a short period of time, Chinas automobile market started from scratch and became the worlds largest. For international automakers such as Daimler AG, China has become the most important global market, he further pointed out.

Zetsche believed that China will be an innovative driving force for the new global auto industry.

Facing the challenges posed by the global automobile industry reform, international automakers represented by German companies have accelerated their investments in China, in a bid to stay ahead of the future competition.

As Harald Krüger, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, said, Chinas economy has stepped into the new normal, with both challenges and opportunities ahead. He believed that cooperation is vital for multinationals who would like to grow with the Chinese market.

Global Innovation Hub

In Zetsches view, from past to present and future, China has become and will be increasingly important for Daimler AG, and crucial for its future development.

For the three German auto giants, the Chinese markets decisive role has long been acknowledged. In 2018, Volkswagen sold 10.83 million automobiles globally, among which 4.2 million were bought by Chinese customers. Meanwhile, the Chinese market is also the biggest market for BMW and MercedesBenz, with sales of Mercedes-Benz cars in China exceeding the sum of its sales in the U.S. and Germany.

As part of their localization strategies, the three companies have increased research investment in China, especially in the area of new energy vehicles.

According to Hubertus Troska, Chair-man and CEO of the Daimler Group Greater China Region, Daimler AG will deepen cooperation with local partners, such as the Beijing Automotive Group, to invest in Beijing Benzs domestic pure electric vehicles and power cells.

BMW recently announced that in 2020 its first pure electric car BMW Ix3 will be produced and unveiled in China. Also from China, electric cars will be exported to countries around the world. This indicates that China has gradually become an innovative base of BMW rather than just a consumer market.

In 2018, BMWs R&D spending reached 6.89 billion (US $7.73 billion), an increase of 12.8 percent compared to that of the last fiscal year. BMW has also set up a comprehensive R&D network in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenyang, with each R&D center having different functions to complement each other. The new center in Shanghai focuses on innovative technology and digital application, the Beijing center aims to formulate the companys localization strategy, obtain Chinese industrial certificates, and gather Chinese consumer insights, while the Shenyang center is responsible for research on pure new energy vehicles, monitoring quality, and support for localized production.

Herbert Diess, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen AG, revealed that the company plans to announce more than 30 models of new energy vehicles in China in the upcoming two years, while in 2020, a car test management platform – the modular electrification toolkit (MEB) at Volkswagen AG – will be launched in China, bracing for a large-scale production of electric vehicles.

Preferential Policies for Foreign Investment

At the G20 Osaka Summit 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech in which he promised to speed up the process of opening-up and to realize high-quality development. On June 30, Chinas National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Commerce released three policy papers to bring Xis commitment into concrete measures, further expanding foreign capitals access to China. To keep the continuity and stability of foreign investment policies, the new policies encourage the expansion of foreign investment into areas of modern agriculture, advanced manufacturing, new and high technology, energy conservation, and environmental protection, and the modern service industry to optimize the regional distribution of foreign capital.

According to the National Development and Reform Commission, the Catalogue of Industries for Guiding Foreign Investment (2019) has the following features: first, the foreign investment fields have expanded dramatically; second, foreign capital is encouraged to flow to high-quality manufacturing. Over 80 percent of the newly added or modified items in the new catalogue belong to high-end, intelligent, or green manufacturing; third, foreign investments are encouraged to be placed in producer services related to artificial intelligence, clean production, carbon capture, and circular economy; fourth, the government will support the transfer of foreign invested industries to central and western China. For their promising prospects, high-end manufacturing, AI, and the new energy industry have become the hotly-sought sectors by foreign enterprises.

Future Opportunities

To seize future opportunities in China, the three German auto giants have started cooperation with Chinas three Internet giants known as BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent) since 2018. For exam- ple, BMW joined Baidus Project Apollo– an autonomous driving platform, collaborates with Tencent to build a smart travel service system, and installed the TmallGenie – Alibabas smart home speaker into new cars.

Krüger pointed out, China is speeding up the transformation of the global auto industry exemplified by its leading role in new technologies, such as speech recognition, autopilot, and safety driving, as well as in artificial intelligence. In the process, China has evolved from a strategic market to a global value creation center, with the worlds largest talent bank.

Diess shared Krügers sentiments. He said that Chinese companies are quite quick and efficient in innovation, which is commendable. He also lauded Chinas startups and mobile service providers for their creativity and quick response to the market.

On July 2, the “Boao Consensus” was released in Chinas Hainan Province at the World New Energy Vehicle Congress(WNEVC 2019), which aims to gain 50 percent of the market share of global new energy vehicles by 2035, with an electricity transformation of the global auto industry.

Klaus Fr?hlich, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for its technology and R&D, attended the meeting and remarked in his speech, that China has taken an initiative to build the worlds first smart city, while the BMW Groups strategic target corresponds with Chinas development vision, new energy and intelligent networking cars in particular. For the BMW Group, China is a driving force for innovation. According to Fr?hlich, at present, 20 percent of the global BMW vehicles are made in China and the ratio will continue to grow; meanwhile, China is also the BMW Groups fastest developing research center in the world.