FRANKFURT -- Volkswagen said on Monday it would hand one of its board members responsibility for its China business, underlining the importance it places on the world's fastest-growing car market.
A Volkswagen spokesman said the supervisory board had agreed at its meeting on Monday that Folker Weissgerber, currently head of production, would assume responsibility for the group's China business on the executive board.
China, now VW's second-biggest market, is a key part of the German firm's growth strategy. It saw sales there leap 62 percent to 270,495 cars in the first five months of 2003.
Chief Executive Bernd Pischetsrieder told an industry conference in Paris last week that the group's two automaking joint ventures -- in Shanghai and in the northeastern city of Changchun -- now had enough retained profits to more than double capacity without borrowing money from the parent group.
Volkswagen aims to sell 600,000 cars in China this year, up from 513,000 in 2001, helped by the launch of new and revamped models including the Golf hatchback and a new version of the smaller Shanghai-built Polo.
The spokesman said the supervisory board had also approved a decision not to appoint a new head of group-wide sales but instead hand the responsibility to the heads of its brands.
The move, which was widely expected and will leave responsibility for sales with the heads of the VW, Audi, Skoda, Lamborghini, SEAT and Bentley brands, is part of a reshuffle of executive roles under Pischetsrieder, the ex-BMW boss who took over the helm at VW last year.
The group's last sales and marketing director Robert Buechelhofer left over a dispute about marketing in April. He was said to have been one of Pischetsrieder's harshest critics within the company.