Volkswagen sold 10,000 fewer electric cars in China than expected last year, as deliveries to customers in its biggest market were hit by semiconductor shortages amid fierce competition from domestic brands.
The German marque sold 70,000 of its five flagship ID models, most of which were launched during the past year, having targeted sales of between 80,000 to 100,000 cars for 2021.
As a whole the VW group, which includes Audi and Porsche, delivered 3.3m cars in China last year, 14 per cent fewer than in 2020.
“2021 has been one of the most challenging years in our history in China,” said Stephan Wöllenstein, the group’s longstanding boss in the country, who is due to step aside later this year.
“Whilst our order books are well filled, we were unable to match production to demand over a lack of semiconductors, with the situation further intensified by factory shutdowns — both on our side and supplier side — due to Covid-19 cases.”
Volkswagen’s two joint ventures in China, with FAW and SAIC, have been the engine of the group’s growth for decades, and the country remains VW’s single largest and most profitable market.
However, earnings in China have been declining drastically over the past few years, as the carmaker’s mass market offerings face competition from younger domestic brands such as BYD and Great Wall Motors.
VW’s five new ID models have not sold as well as hoped, and company executives told the Financial Times that Chinese buyers were gravitating towards fresher electric brands, not associated with traditional carmakers.
As a result, VW is setting up showrooms that emphasise the ID brand, and expanding its online sales offering in the hope of selling at least 140,000 ID models this year.
However, Wöllenstein told journalists in a briefing on Tuesday that the number targeted “is not currently secured by the semiconductor supplies that we currently see”, although he remains confident of hitting it.
He added: “Looking ahead for this year, the chip supply situation will remain volatile for the first half, however, we expect a progressive recovery, with production stabilising over the course of the year.”
While VW’s electric sales have slumped, luxury brands Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini set new annual records in 2021, with annual growth of 7.5 per cent, 40 per cent and 55 per cent respectively.
Porsche’s electric Taycan model outsold its popular 911 model, with more than 7,000 units delivered, compared with 4,000 of the 911.