Volkswagen's Electric ID.4 Models Launch in China, Giving Tesla New Competition in the World's Biggest Auto Market

Volkswagen's Electric ID.4 Models Launch in China, Giving Tesla New Competition in the World's Biggest Auto Market

Author: Eric Walz   

The rise of electric automaker Tesla over the past decade to become the world's most valuable automaker caught many legacy automakers producing only internal combustion engine models off guard. Tesla was initially dismissed as a niche electric car company that would not hurt the sales of global automakers such as General Motors, Ford Motor Co. or Volkswagen. 

But as Tesla continues to dominate the EV segment, global automakers are now following the company's lead and beginning to introduce their own electric models to compete in the growing EV market.

One of the biggest of these global competitors is German automaker Volkswagen, a company with its own plans to transition into an electric car company over the next decade. Volkswagen just launched two new battery-powered ID models in China, which is the world's biggest automaket.

On Tuesday, Volkswagen launched the ID.4 CROZZ and ID.X models for the China market. The fully-electric ID.4 CROZZ is being manufactured by Volkswagen's joint venture with China's FAW Group, while the ID.4 X is being built by SAIC Volkswagen, a separate joint venture with Chinese automaker SAIC Motor that was founded in 1984.

The launch of the two new electric models marks the beginning of VW's planned push into China. The automaker is planning to launch eight ID. family electric models by 2023 and up to 15 EVs by 2025. In September, Volkswagen announced plans to invest roughly 15 billion euros ($17.44 billion) in electric vehicles with its local joint ventures in China.

Volkswagen will not only be competing with Tesla in China, but with a new crop of EV startups that are also competing with Tesla, including NIO Inc. and Xpeng Motors. Both NIO and Xpeng are publicly traded companies in the U.S. NIO launches its U.S. IPO in Sept 2018, while Xpeng Motors went public in August.

Volkswagen did not disclose the price of the two new models. But a presentation at the product launch said the starting price of the EVs would be less than 250,000 yuan ($37,450) after electric vehicle subsidies from the Chinese government, Reuters reports.

This price point makes it a close competitor to the Tesla Model 3 sedan in China. The starting price for Model 3 sedans in China is currently 249,900 yuan (US$37,423), after subsidies.

With its lower price, the electric ID.4 crossover is being marketed as more of a mainstream EV with roughly the same performance of a similar gas-powered compact SUV.

The ID.4 is powered by a 83 kWh lithium-ion battery pack mated to a single electric motor that sits between the rear axle. The electric powertrain produces a maximum output of 203 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of peak torque. Accelerating from 0 to 60 MPH takes 8.5 seconds. A more powerful dual-motor version is expected to be offered sometime next year.

The ID.4 models will have driving ranges of over 400 kilometers (248 miles) and offer over-the-air software updates, Volkswagen executives said at the event.

The ID.4 is being built on the automaker's Modular Electric Drive (MEB) electric vehicle architecture, which also underpins the smaller ID.3 hatchback and Enyaq crossover from VW's Skoda brand. Volkswagen's goal is to build approximately 20 million EVs on the MEB platform by 2029.

Sales of electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen-powered vehicles in China are forecast to rise to 20% of new car sales by 2025 from just 5% now, the State Council said on Monday. The models are referred to as New Energy Vehicles (NEVs).

Around 1.1 million NEVs are expected to be sold in China this year.

Volkswagen is also bringing its ID.4 crossover to the U.S. Although the automaker declined to bring the ID.3 hatchback to North America after its European debut, the company will offer the ID.4 stateside. The U.S. version will be produced in Chattanooga, Tennessee at Volkswagen's assembly plant.

Volkswagen has already begun to expand the plant to become its North American center for electric vehicles. The Chattanooga assembly plant will include new production lines for both battery cell and battery packs for the company's future electric vehicles, including the new ID.4.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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