SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Audi AG (NSUG.DE) and its China joint-venture partner FAW Group will produce and sell five "e-tron" plug-in cars in China over the next five years, part of a global push to boost sales of all-electric battery and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
As part of this agreement, the two companies recently began producing in China the first of the five planned cars - a plug-in hybrid version of the Audi A6L. The model is expected to hit the market later this year.
"In this plan we have a clear focus on e-tron cars," Dietmar Voggenreiter, a member of Audi's management board, told Reuters in an interview ahead of the Shanghai auto show which opens to the public on Friday.
"Sustainability is one of the mega trends worldwide and China is a leading market in electric mobility."
Globally, Audi aims to generate 30 percent of its overall sales from electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2025. It currently sells one e-tron car in China, a plug-in hybrid version of the A3 which is imported from Germany.
At an event on Tuesday, Audi gave a "sneak preview" of the Audi e-tron Sportback concept car, a fully-electric battery car that the premium automaker is expected to unveil at the Shanghai show.
Voggenreiter said the concept car was "really close" to the version expected to be mass produced in Germany from 2019. He added the car would first be produced in Europe, "but we will see whether to import into China or produce it in China."
He added Audi believed the green car industry might hit a "tipping point" in the next couple of years and see demand for plug-in cars accelerate.
"There is, first of all, a worldwide customer trend for sustainability," he said. "In a transition phase we will have plug-in hybrid cars. In the long-run we will see more and more fully electric battery cars."
Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Ian Geoghegan