Major automakers focus R&D efforts, investment in China

Updated 2017-07-24 10:12:53 China Daily
Engineers check facilities at BMW's R&D center in Shenyang, Liaoning province. (Photo provided to China Daily)

Engineers check facilities at BMW's R&D center in Shenyang, Liaoning province. (Photo provided to China Daily)

International carmakers are investing heavily to localize their research and development operations in China, the world's largest automobile market.

BMW's Chinese venture, BMW Brilliance Automotive Ltd, expanded its R&D center earlier this month in Shenyang, capital of northeastern Liaoning province. The facility is now BMW Group's largest outside Europe.

The new center, spanning more than 40,000 square meters, is five times that of the first phase of development, put into use in 2013.

"The new R&D center is a testimony to BMW Brilliance's commitment of 'In China, for China'. Innovation is the critical foundation of our corporate strategy, and the center is the connection between innovation and the application," said Johann Wieland, president and CEO of BMW Brilliance Automotive.

BMW Group's sales in China, including BMW and Mini branded vehicles' deliveries, were up 18.4 percent in the first half-year.

This strong increase is largely due to full availability of the BMW X1 and the popularity of the new BMW 1 Series sedan, a car designed exclusively for China, according to the group's news release.

John Shen, Accenture Strategy Greater China managing director, said: "International automakers have to expand their local R&D capabilities to accelerate their product development, while boosting the correlations with the local demands."

"Considering the world's largest market's scale, the international carmakers are focusing more on China, so they are empowering the companies in the country," he added.

Yale Zhang, managing director of Automotive Foresight (Shanghai), noted that BMW is among the progressive international automakers in expanding the R&D capabilities in the Chinese auto market, together with Volvo Car Group and Volkswagen AG.

Volvo Car Group is to set up a new joint venture with Geely Holding to share existing and future automobile technology, according to a memorandum of understanding the two parties signed on Thursday.

The 50-50 joint venture will be headquartered in China with a subsidiary in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The partnership will enable Volvo Car Group, Geely Auto and Lynk & Co-all of which are controlled by Geely Holding-to share technologies via license agreements.

Whichever company leads the development will own the technology and the other group companies will have full access to it through a license, reducing overall development costs.

Local media reports said Volkswagen AG, which entered into a joint venture with JAC Motors called JAC Volkswagen, also has a plan to build a new R&D center for new energy vehicles with a total investment of 6 billion yuan.

Shen added: "The digital evolution is reshaping consumer demands and competitions, and the situation in China is ahead of that in the United States and Europe. As a result, the R&D centers in China are necessary given the expectation it will grow to one of the leading powers in autonomous driving, mobility, digitalization, and so on."

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