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Volkswagen's head of electric mobility says China will drive autonomy roll-out

Darrell Etherington
Volkswagen's head of electric mobility says China will drive autonomy roll-out

What's the biggest motivating factor behind automakers embracing autonomous vehicles and self-driving? You might think 'safety' or maybe even consumer demand, but in truth the biggest driver might be China and its incentivization programs for automakers.

Much like China's rules for qualifying for subsidies and restrictions on selling vehicles in market have led to automakers around the world investing massively in building out and maturing their electric vehicle operations, Volkswagen's head of its eMobility model line Christian Senger says that China's forthcoming rules will spur autonomy's introduction to the market, too.

During a journalist roundtable at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland, Senger noted that indicators suggest an upcoming intelligent vehicle rules from Chinese regulators will provide big incentives in the way of subsidies to automakers who includes specific levels of automation in their production cars. For VW in particular, that's a huge motivator, since the automaker has 13 percent market share in China as a brand, and 20 percent if you could the Volkswagen Group at large, including sub-brands like Audi and others.

"Right now you need to have electric drive train, a minimum range, and local production and then you get subsidies," Senger explained. "There are a lot of indicators that this will now change that also the level of automated driving is a required premise to get subsidies. So the future of our market success is also dependent on our self-driving abilities."

Every automaker in the world right now is rushing to shape up their electric program, even if in past they've been a bit laggard in this regard (Toyota is a great example) and the specific cause is the relatively hard line China is taking in this area with regards to subsidies, incentives and in-market sales rules. Per Senger, we should watch very closely for the very same thing to happen with automated vehicles of all levels over the course of the next few years.

The bottom line here is interesting: Where goes China, so goes the automotive industry, at least for the foreseeable future.