A gigantic glass funnel stands in front of Aegean Plaza in Shanghai's Minhang district.

When the neon lights in the monument come on in the evening, it looks as if the future is being sucked down into the largest shopping center in the city with 25 million inhabitants.

Hendrik Ankenbrand

Business correspondent for China based in Shanghai.

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Carsten Germis

Business correspondent in Hamburg.

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Inside, a showroom provides a view of two of Volkswagen's new electric cars. But there is little sign of futurism here. The sellers offer a test drive to the customer's doorstep, but there is nothing they can do against the laws of physics: The cheaper of the two ID.4s with a small battery motor can travel a good 400 kilometers on one charge, but needs to accelerate 0 to 100 kilometers per hour 10.9 seconds.

China's car customers are used to something completely different from their domestic suppliers.

The Chinese e-car manufacturers also have sales rooms here in the Aegean shopping center and highlight the performance values ​​of their sleek vehicles in oversized figures: The P7 from manufacturer XPeng accelerates to 100 km / h with the most powerful motor in just 4.4 seconds, a little slower than a car Tesla Model 3. The ES6 from Nio, also a Chinese brand, is a large SUV, but also only takes 4.7 seconds for the sprint and, according to its own advertising, can travel 610 kilometers.

Bad reviews on social media

The fact that they can now compare cars on their own doorstep while shopping at the weekend, like smartphones, has given younger Chinese people an unequivocal judgment about VW and the model on which the hope of Germany's largest car company hangs since the start of sales at the end of March: “For people middle-aged without passion, the ID.4 is just right, "writes" Catdog "representing many opinions on social media. "The acceleration feels like a gasoline engine," says Duge Shuo, who has 1.7 million Follwer on the Weibo short message service. “The ID.4 looks like a Golf,” comments another user. “Not only that VW can't keep up with Tesla. It can't even stand up to Chinese brands. A car like from the previous century. "

Exactly 3341 ID.4 of the model variants X and CROZZ were registered in China by the end of May according to long-time industry observer Jochen Siebert - a "disaster", as a manager confesses anonymously to the FAZ: "We produce the amount in next to no time." In May alone Tesla, market leader in China, sold 33,463 mainly locally made cars. XPeng sold around 5,700 vehicles in the month, while Nio sold around 1,000 more.

Volkswagen announced on Friday that the ID.4 had increased to 2900 deliveries in June. The start of the model advertised as a “world car” in China, by far the largest single market, went “well”, it said from Wolfsburg to the FAZ. But VW does not name sales figures, but the deliveries to the dealers. The largest Chinese car portal Autohome.com only counts sales in June 2014. That's not even a third as much as Xpeng and Nio, and only a fraction of the sum of Tesla, which sold 33,155 cars in China.

China is by far the most important market for Volkswagen. The billionaire nation pays for around 40 percent of all deliveries; for the VW brand, it is even more than every second car. That's why the CEO Herbert Diess called Volkswagen a Chinese company. Against this background, the bad sales figures for the ID.4 "triggered a shock in-house," says a manager from the Beijing branch. If its electric strategy fails in China, where the farewell to the combustion engine is likely to become a reality more quickly than in any other large car market, VW would have a real problem.