April 19, 2014 / 10:22 AM / 4 years ago

VW to keep adding Chinese capacity amid double-digit growth

* Chinese 2014 car market to grow as much as 10 percent-VW

* VW to boost dealerships 50 percent to 3,600 by 2018

* VW-FAW cooperation talks progressing - Heizmann

BEIJING, April 19 (Reuters) - Volkswagen will keep adding capacity in China as the German group is counting on double-digit growth in the biggest auto market, helped by strong economic growth in interior regions.

Europe’s largest carmaker said in March 2013 it was planning to almost double production capacity in China to be able to make more than 4 million vehicles in its largest market by 2018.

“We will further expand our capacities to be able to respond to the high market growth,” Jochem Heizmann, head of VW’s China operations told reporters on Saturday ahead of the Beijing auto show.

He predicted the Chinese car market would grow by as much as 10 percent this year. VW increased its own deliveries in the country 16 percent in 2013 to 3.27 million autos.

Wolfsburg-based VW, one of the first global automakers to establish production facilities in China during the 1980s, is evolving its operations in the country by leading a “Go West” strategy, as well as a “Go South” strategy.

“A large sales potential for passenger cars will develop there fairly quickly,” said Heizmann. “That’s one factor driving growth besides state-induced urbanization.”

Growing volume in China, where VW also sells the Audi, Skoda, Lamborghini, Bentley and Bugatti brands, is the main pillar in the manufacturer’s goal to eclipse Toyota as the world’s largest automaker no later than 2018.

To foster growth, VW will expand its Chinese distribution network to 2,750 dealers this year and 3,600 by 2018, from 2,400 last year, according to Heizmann.

Heizmann also said VW was “on a very good track” toward deepening cooperation with its Chinese partner First Automotive Works (FAW). VW has been in talks with FAW to raise its stake in their joint venture to 50 percent from 40 percent. (Reporting by Jan Schwartz in Beijing. Writing by Andreas Cremer in Berlin; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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