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FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) plans to nearly double its production in China in the next few years, according to a management board member who was recently appointed to head the group's operations in the country.
"By 2018 we will raise our production capacity in the country to 4 million vehicles," Jochem Heizmann told German weekly magazine Focus.
VW's two Chinese joint ventures are investing a total of 14 billion euros ($17 billion) by 2016, and the Wolfsburg, Germany-based group has said in the past its annual production capacity in China would rise to 3 million cars as early as next year.
According to VW's annual report, the two JVs with partners FAW and Shanghai Automotive (SAIC) (600104.SS) boosted their output by 15 percent to 2.20 million vehicles in 2011, accounting for just over a quarter of the group's global production of 8.5 million.
Volkswagen is expanding its existing plants in Changchun, Nanjing and Chengdu, as well as building new ones in Yizheng, Foshan and Ningbo.
In April, Volkswagen said it would also invest 170 million euros to build a new assembly plant in Urumqi, a city in impoverished western China where tensions are high between the local Muslim ethnic minority Uighurs and Han Chinese.
Heizmann, a production expert, was picked to oversee VW's China operations as part of a comprehensive management reshuffle that affected virtually every brand at the company.
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Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner; Editing by Mark Potter