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China still beckons for VW

Polo sedan: Australia's first Chinese-built car.

Volkswagen Group Australia is still open to imports of the Chinese-built Polo

30 Nov 2006

VOLKSWAGEN Group Australia (VGA) remains enthusiastic about importing cars from China in spite of its acknowledged botch-up of the Polo Classic import program.

VGA managing director Jutta Dierks told GoAuto last week that "the channels are still open" with the plant in China, and that resuming imports would especially make sense if Australia was to succeed in signing a free-trade agreement with the economic powerhouse.

"To be honest, I would love to get cars from China. If we were to get a free-trade agreement with China that would be a huge advantage," she said.

"If we were to do it professionally, there is definitely a huge opportunity. But what we did with the Polo was more like a pilot and it was not handled very well on both sides. But we learned a lot from it and we know what to do next time.

"We still have the channel open because I have worked in China for two years so we say that if there is a chance that we get the agreement done then we are back and we will see what we can do."Ms Dierks said that cars from China would benefit from a free-trade agreement because the advantage of the source cost from China on the Polo Classic "was not big enough to compensate for the disadvantages (of a less sophisticated package)".

She said Australia was the first country to take exports from VW in China.

"Unfortunately, it was not really handled very nicely on our side here. At that time we were not really in good shape with VW overall in Australia. Market share was low, prices were high and volume was low as well.

"Then, on top of that, we brought cars in from China – the Polo Classic. It was manual-only in a 75 per cent automatic market and the price was very high.

"The plant had never ever exported to any country so we were the guinea pig and on our side it was not a very much-loved child.

"I can only talk about what I found when I came here. We were in a mess so we had to decide at the end of the day it was not worth doing," she said.

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