China’s world-leading Electric Vehicle (EV) industry is pushing into Europe. According to a new report from global technology intelligence firm ABI Research, in 2030, 1.2 million Chinese-made Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) will be imported by the European Union (EU), making up 12% of the bloc’s BEV sales.
Chinese brands like BYD, XPENG, and NIO are launching models across Europe in 2023, giving Western automakers plenty to be concerned about. Dylan Khoo, Industry Analyst at ABI Research, says, “Local OEMs are still finding their feet with electrification, these Chinese disruptors are more experienced and entirely focused on EVs. They offer European customers BEVs that are competitive in price and quality across various segments. Chinese-owned brands such as MG and Polestar have already been in the market for a while, and their models imported from China are selling well.”
In the last five years, exports of cars from the EU to China have fallen slightly, but EU imports of Chinese cars have quadrupled, reversing the trade flow. In 2022, China became the biggest source of imported cars for the EU, but this still only accounted for under 6% of all vehicles registered that year. However, 28% of the EU’s BEVs were imported from China.
Chinese brands did not make the majority of these imported EVs. Western automakers are increasingly using China as an export base, taking advantage of the local supply chain and the benefits of locating their capacity with the largest source of demand. Tesla has employed this strategy effectively: 40% of the cars made at its Giga Shanghai factory are exported, supplying 80% of Europe’s Teslas. BMW exclusively produces the iX3 in China for sale locally and worldwide export. The Dacia Spring, made in China by Renault and Dongfeng, is one of the best-selling cars in Europe.
“Overcapacity, economic slowdown, and the highly competitive automotive market at home are making Chinese OEMs look overseas for sales. In Europe, they see a lucrative market with a great demand for EVs and few protectionist measures. The European automotive supply chain will be disrupted from two directions: these Chinese brands pushing into Europe, and Western OEMs building production capacity in China for export to Europe,” Khoo concludes.