Carl Hahn was the CEO of Volkswagen for eleven years – from 1982 to 1993. Under his aegis, the Group laid the foundation for its success in China, which continues until this day. Volkswagen AG’s commitment at a time when China was just opening up and introducing economic reforms was also the initial spark for Chinese automobile production as we know it today. On Saturday, December 15, 2018, Carl Hahn received the honor of being named “Person of the Year” by the Chinese news magazine China Newsweek for his accomplishments in advancing German-Chinese economic relations. The now 92-year-old former manager accepted the tribute in person at the state guest house Diaoyutai in Beijing. Carl Hahn said that the accolade meant a great deal to him.
The occasion for the tribute was the 40th anniversary of the reform process begun by the then Chinese head of state Deng Xiaoping. Volkswagen was one of the first car companies worldwide to recognize the opportunities provided by entering the Chinese market. As Chairman of the Board, Hahn made the commitment in China a personal high priority and visited the country time and again. For example, in 1984 he and the then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl traveled to China to attend the symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for the first Volkswagen plant in Anting, around 30 kilometers west of Shanghai. In 1984 Volkswagen established the joint venture Shanghai Volkswagen, which today operates under the name SAIC VOLKSWAGEN. By the time Carl Hahn stepped down as head of Volkswagen in 1993, a second joint venture company, FAW-Volkswagen, had been added, thereby forming a strong basis for automobile production in China.