Volkswagen invests in electric and autonomous vehicles in China

Herbert Diess Volkswagen's new CEO speaks at a Volkswagen Group's media event in Beijing

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Now the cheering has stopped. But auto executives in Beijing said they were comfortable with the current system.

Xi's plan to further open up China's auto market was seen as a potential olive branch.

China's government signaled last week that it will eventually allow foreign auto makers to take full ownership of their local ventures, marking the end of a decades-long set-up.

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At the auto show, the domestic upstarts have a separate exhibition hall mostly to themselves - 124 of the 174 electric vehicle models on display are homegrown.

The show comes as China's market hits a transition period - the explosive growth in auto sales seen over the last decade slowed last year and data from early this year point to a continued slump for many vehicle types.

The expectation of electric and autonomous vehicles market is escalating in China, and this investment is seen as proof of assurance in the developing technologies.

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But established carmakers like Daimler, Volkswagen and Ford said at the auto show on Wednesday that they planned to keep their joint ventures the way they were. Production will start in 2019 in China, the Japanese company's first overseas production of PHEVs, it said. And foreign auto companies have found making cars in China for local drivers quite profitable. Referring to Audi's two joint ventures in China, he added, "For us it is very clear: We will, in the long run, have two feet on the ground in China". Those include a GM SUV, the Envision, and Volvo Cars sedans made in China for export to the United States. Local subsidies for electric vehicles, which total as much as $9,000 per auto, are available only for cars with batteries that were manufactured in China.

By 2021, the world's largest carmaker aims to produce battery-powered cars in "at least six factories in China", Diess said. CEO of Volkswagen Group China, Jochem Heizmann, elaborated that he believes in a fair competition.

General Motors sold over four million cars here a year ago, more than in the United States. That would repeal rules that required global automakers to work through local partners, an arrangement that required them to share technology with potential Chinese competitors and prompted complaints by Washington, Europe and Japan.

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In order to keep growing, it looked like Tesla needs to have domestic mass production of the cheaper Model 3 electric vehicle, but the company seemed reticent to establish local manufacturing capacity due to the requirement of having to partner with a Chinese firm.

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