German auto giant Volkswagen has become the victim of industrial espionage in China, where its local partner has allegedly stolen engine designs, the business daily Handelsblatt reported on Friday.
For several months now, Chinese group FAW – with which VW has a joint venture – is believed to have copied one of the German group’s engines in what sources described as “systematic and planned” espionage, the newspaper said.
FAW plans to sell a model equipped with the engines in Russia, in competition with VW and Skoda models, the report continued.
“It’s quite simply a catastrophe,” it quoted a VW manager as saying.
China is VW’s most important export market and it sold a total 2.26 million cars there last year.
China does not allow foreign automakers to build their own cars there but requires them to work together with domestic companies in joint ventures where the Chinese partner holds the majority stake.
Contacted by AFP about the Handelsblatt article, a VW spokesman said: “We’re examining the issue very closely. On the other hand, we’ve always worked together with FAW very successfully and very trustfully in the past.”