Yesterday, while most of Britain was still tucked up in bed, I was on the second floor of a self-styled ‘Seven Star’ hotel, on the edge of the Beijing Olympic site.
With one eye, I was looking out at the smog, which was doing a good job disguising the near-by ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium and Olympic pool. And watching the Chinese families streaming around, flying kites and generally having a day off.
With the other eye I was watching a serious presentation from each of Volkswagen’s road car brands. The VW brand has been established in China for a long time. Ancient Passats and Jettas are - in much modified form - still on sale in the country. By contrast, Seat has just arrived in China, with the first example - a Leon - sold a couple of weeks ago in the mega city of Shenzen.
Some 36 per cent of all VW’s global sales are in China. Indeed, the VW Group is the biggest player in the still-booming Chinese market, with a market share of 18 per cent, well ahead of second-placed GM on 10.5 per cent.
Audi has seen its sales rocket from 102,000 in 2007 to 313,000 in 2011. Between 2010 and 2011, demand for Audis jumped a massive 37 per cent. It has just invested a massive 3bn euros in a new factory in Fosham, because the company expects to see sales hit an extraordinary 700,000 by the end of 2015.
VW Group has 76 new models lined up for China over the next three years and expects to be selling 3m vehicles in the country by 2018. VW Group has even built its own permanent exhibition hall at the Beijing show site.
On the day I was watching the presentation, China’s Premier was on his sixth visit to Germany, a sign, perhaps, of the depth of co-operation quietly taking place between the two countries. VW’s massive expansion in China is clearly being welcomed.