Volkswagen unveils an electric luxury sedan at the Chinese auto show

SHANGHAI (AP) – Volkswagen unveiled an electric luxury sedan that promises a 700-kilometer (435-mile) battery range as global and Chinese automakers showed off their latest SUVs, sedans and muscle cars Tuesday at the world’s biggest auto show.

Auto Shanghai 2023 highlights the fierce competition in China’s fast-growing electric vehicle market after the ruling Communist Party poured billions of dollars into advancing the technology. China accounted for two-thirds of global electricity sales last year.

Brands including General Motors, BMW and Nissan and Chinese rivals BYD Auto and NIO unveiled dozens of new EVs at Shanghai’s cavernous exhibition center. Brands commented on faster charging, satellite-connected navigation and entertainment, and the possibility of future self-driving technology.

Volkswagen’s ID.7 sedan, the new flagship model for its electric vehicles, was one of 28 models shown by the German automaker, half of which were electrified.

“Our electric campaign is being turbo-charged,” said CEO of VW’s passenger car brand, Thomas Schäfer, who took to the stage aboard an electric minibus.

Automakers are looking to China to drive sales growth at a time when demand in America and Europe is weak, but that requires them to invest in developing competitive models in a crowded market. Established global brands are under pressure from ambitious Chinese newcomers and to meet government sales quotas for electricity. Many are forming partnerships to share increasing development costs.

China is “at the forefront of the electric and digital transformation of the industry,” Jim Farley, CEO of Ford Motor Co., said in a recorded message played on a video screen.

Electric accounted for just over 1 in 4 of the 23.6 million SUVs, sedans and minivans sold in China last year while sales of traditional gasoline-powered vehicles declined.

BMW AG showed an all-electric lineup including two new models, the i7 M70L and XM Label Red. The German sports luxury brand M760Le was shown in China for the first time.

GM debuted an electric SUV, the Buick Electra E5, ahead of the auto show. Toyota Motor Co. revealed. two new models of its bZ line of zero emission vehicles. Toyota showed off a self-driving taxi prototype developed with China’s Pony.ai, a leading competitor in the country’s rapidly developing autonomous vehicle industry.

For the first time since 2019, executives flew in from the United States, Europe and Japan for the show following anti-virus controls that ended most travel in and out of China in December. VW flew its entire board of directors and Porsche’s board of directors in a show of commitment to the Chinese market.

Organizers said automakers would debut 100 new models, 70 of them electric, according to Chinese media.

Drivers in the world’s largest car market bought 5.4 million pure electric vehicles last year – about two-thirds of the global total of 8 million – plus 1.5 million gasoline-electric hybrids. That was more than a quarter of total car sales of 23.6 million. This year’s EV sales are expected to rise another 30%.

Beijing is ending government support and shifting the burden to automakers by requiring them to earn credits for EV sales.

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