Tomorrow, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn will be at a groundbreaking in the Chinese port city of Tianjin, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese dignitaries in attendance. A plant for high tech DSG transmissions is being built there, using technology that is in high demand in China. So high is the demand that joint venture partner FAW has, according to recent media reports, “systematically and repeatedly” stolen designs of important components such as engines and transmissions.
“Rest assured that we will protect our intellectual property with all rigor, also in China,” Winterkorn said in an interview with Germany’s Handelsblatt today. The same paper had broken the delicate story a month ago.
Winterkorn signaled that the secrets are safe in Tianjin. This factory is fully owned by Volkswagen. Companies that assemble cars need a joint venture, companies that make part don’t. “The concerned factories of FAW are all in Changchun,” Winterkorn said. Changchun and Tianjin are 530 miles apart as the plane flies, and Winterkorn intimates that FAW won’t be invited soon.
“We’re looking at this very closely and will examine things on site,” said Winterkorn. “If there are open questions, then we will talk with our partners and most assuredly, we will not tolerate this.”
Of course, there also is an Airbus factory in Tianjin, and Frau Merkel needs China to fix the financial mess in Europe. Political expediency will prevail.