,In early 2020, that team decided that strengthening metal components should be added to the front of all new Passats and a variety of other models made at the Shanghai-based venture, at a cost of about 400 yuan ($62) per vehicle
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BEIJING: In late December 2019, managers at Volkswagen headquarters in Wolfsburg realised they might have a serious problem in China, the company's biggest market and ticket to its electric future.
Its flagship Passat sedan had fared badly in an unofficial safety test carried out by an insurance industry body which simulated a front-on driver's side collision, a test that's been widely used in the United States for around a decade.
The car was mangled. The crash-test video went viral, attracting millions of views and triggering a social media furore across China, where the German auto king's success is built on its reputation for superior quality and engineering.
Volkswagen was not obliged to do anything - the Passat had passed the Chinese regulator's frontal collision test, the same test that's used in much of Europe, and one that the carmaker and many industry experts believe better reflects driving conditions in China.
Nonetheless, Wolfsburg acted swiftly, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter. Days after the test results were announced, it assembled a team of dozens of engineers and managers to work with SAIC-Volkswagen, the 50/50 joint venture that makes Passats in China, they said.StarCarSifu
In early 2020, that team decided that strengthening metal components should be added to the front of all new Passats and a variety of other models made at the Shanghai-based venture, at a cost of about 400 yuan ($62) per vehicle, according to the sources.
That structural modification, details of which have not been previously reported, would amount to tens of millions of dollars for the hundreds of thousands of vehicles that would be affected at the venture a year, the sources said. It was a significant cost for a company that had said it was trying to trim manufacturing costs in China and globally.
The intervention in the face of online consumer activism underlines the importance of China, the world's biggest car market, and one which Volkswagen is relying on to fund its 35-billion-euro ($42 billion) transition to electric vehicles and make good on its pledge to overtake Tesla Inc to become global EV leader by 2025.
Global automakers' expensive renunciation of oil comes at a time when they can no longer count on the dominance they have enjoyed in decades gone by in China, where they're feeling the heat from local gasoline and electric players challenging them on technology and design.
A Volkswagen spokesperson said it developed products specifically for the Chinese market and that the test failed by the Passat had simulated a head-on collision between two cars, a scenario it said was less likely in China than the United States.