BEIJING (Reuters) – Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE> said on Wednesday it will start testing autonomous vehicles in China’s eastern city of Hefei, its first in the world’s biggest car market.
China has become a hot spot for trying out autonomous driving vehicles. Toyota-backed <7203.T> Pony.ai, Baidu Inc <BIDU.O>, Nissan-backed <7201.T> WeRide and Didi Chuxing are all testing autonomous cars in different cities as automakers and tech companies are investing billions in the technology.
Volkswagen, the biggest foreign automaker in China, will start the test in Hefei with Audi’s e-tron electric sport utility vehicles from September, it said in a statement. The test will be open to the public from next year.
In May, Volkswagen said it would invest 1 billion euros ($1.18 billion) to take a 50% stake in the state-owned parent of Chinese electronic vehicle group JAC. Volkswagen will also take full management control of its existing electric vehicle joint venture with JAC in Hefei by raising its stake to 75% from 50%.
Volkswagen also has ventures with state-owned China FAW Group Corp Ltd [SASACJ.UL] and SAIC Motor Corp Ltd <600104.SS>.
The German car company sold 1.59 million vehicles in China in the first six months of 2020, down 17% from 1.92 million vehicles in the same period last year. For all of 2019, Volkswagen sold around 4.23 million vehicles in the country.
In June Volkswagen closed its $2.6 billion investment in Pittsburgh-based self-driving startup Argo AI, in which Ford Motor Co <F.N> also has a stake.
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(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; editing by David Evans and Jane Merriman)