MUNICH/FRANKFURT — In about a year, Volkswagen Group may catch up to Tesla’s capacity to make electric cars. The world’s biggest automaker said Tuesday it is building two plants in China to produce a total of 600,000 vehicles on its dedicated battery-car platform, MEB. The new factories in Anting and Foshan will open a few months after Germany’s Zwickau, which will assemble as many as 330,000 cars annually and is slated to get started by year-end.
Following through with plans to reach this level of scale will likely leave Tesla trailing behind. Its lone vehicle assembly plant operating in Fremont, California, can make about 500,000 cars. The electric-car leader expects to start output on the outskirts of Shanghai at the end of this year and produce 250,000 vehicles a year initially.
VW has little time to lose after Tesla resolved manufacturing problems in Fremont and its battery factory near Reno, Nevada, which may start also building Model Y crossovers. While Model 3 sedan deliveries tailed off in the first quarter following a strong second half of 2018, CEO Elon Musk has dismissed concerns about demand and stuck to a forecast for as many as 400,000 vehicle deliveries this year.
VW plans to produce some 70 battery-powered models across its 12 auto brands by 2028 and make 22 million electric cars over the next decade. CEO Herbert Diess, who says alternative technologies like fuel-cell cars will struggle to compete, is helming the auto industry’s biggest effort in the transition from combustion engines costing some 30 billion euros ($34 billion).
“Volkswagen leads the competition on e-mobility,” Diess said in speech notes at the company’s annual meeting in Berlin. “As a company we’ll make a success of the electric car — with the right products, superior underpinnings and global economies of scale.”
The German automaker, which is also considering sites for more electric-car plants, this month opened reservations for its electric ID3 hatchback. It’s garnered more than 15,000 orders from buyers putting down 1,000-euro deposits.
Tesla, meanwhile, is mulling a factory in Germany, Musk said in a tweet last month. Last year, he stated that Europe’s No. 1 market was the leading choice for a car and battery site in Europe.