Audi, SAIC Motor sign deal to weigh jointly making Audi cars in China: source

An Audi logo is seen at the Mondial de l'Automobile, Paris auto show, during media day in Paris, France, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen - RTSQ8GI

BEIJING (Reuters) - Audi AG NSUG.DE and China’s SAIC Motor Corp 600104.SS have signed an agreement that will likely pave the way for the German luxury car maker to produce cars in China with SAIC, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Executives of Audi and SAIC formally signed the “cooperation framework agreement” on Friday, and the German car maker is expected to announce the move on Monday.

The two sides agreed to continue to talk and try to nail down details of a deal for Audi to produce cars in China with SAIC, the person said.

Neither SAIC nor Audi could be reached immediately for comment.

The move, if finalized, would allow Audi, a unit of Volkswagen AG VOWG_p.DE, to significantly expand its ability to produce cars in China, the world’s biggest auto market.

Audi currently produces all its cars in China jointly with FAW Group Corp [SASACJ.UL] in the southern city of Foshan, near Guangzhou, and in the northeastern city of Changchun. Both SAIC and FAW are Volkswagen’s joint venture partners.

Research firm Bernstein said in a note published on Wednesday that “the implications of such a move (Audi producing cars in China with SAIC) – if realized – would be profound.” It would provide Audi and its parent Volkswagen a way to reap more profit from China, it said.

In Foshan, Audi produces the A3 compact car and its variants, while in Changchun the German luxury brand assembles the long-wheel-base versions of the A4 and A6 sedans, as well as Q3 and Q5 crossover SUV models, among others.

Audi is expected to launch in China a plug-in electric hybrid version of the A6 L, a long-wheel-base version of the A6.

Reporting By Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman