Top VW China Manager Said to Eye Joining Renault as Local CEO

Soh Weiming, one of Volkswagen AG’s most senior executives in China, is leaving the carmaker after more than 15 years and considering an offer to become Renault SA’s China country head, according to people familiar with the matter.

Soh may join Renault as soon as next month, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. A spokesperson for VW China confirmed Soh had left the company, declining to comment further, while Renault in China said it didn’t have any information at the current time. Soh declined to provide details on his future plans when contacted via WeChat.

Something of an iconic figure in China’s auto industry, Soh helped to establish VW’s Mobility Asia unit in 2018. A wholly owned subsidiary of VW, Mobility Asia is at the heart of the carmaker’s high-tech efforts in the region, driving research and development around autonomous driving, artificial intelligence and smart-car ecosystems.

Most recently, Soh was head of China sales at VW and previously worked at Daimler AG in China.

In an internal VW memo announcing Soh’s departure seen by Bloomberg, the executive was lauded as a “trailblazer” who boosted sales and built a strong local team that made VW a “backbone force of the Chinese automotive industry.” Mobility Asia was his “brainchild,” it said.

Luring a manager like Soh could indicate Renault is rethinking its position on China as the market booms. Last year, the company scaled back its already limited presence in Asia’s biggest economy, transferring its 50% stake in a local venture to partner Dongfeng Motor Corp. as the pandemic weighed on demand. It still has other pacts with Chinese partners, however, for electric cars and light commercial vehicles.

Electric-vehicle demand in what is the world’s biggest car market is set to soar over the coming years as consumers embrace cleaner automobiles and the cost of EVs tumbles. Research firm Canalys said in a report earlier this week that EV sales in China may grow more than 50% in 2021.

“Prospects are very good,” said Chris Jones, Canalys’s chief automotive analyst. “There is already an excellent network of standardized public EV chargers, good government support and now a return to strong consumer demand.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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