August 12, 2022
BEIJING – Resilient supply chain, prowess in new energy technology credited
Vehicle exports from China are picking up speed, which analysts and automobile manufacturing executives said is the result of the country’s resilient supply chain and its head start in making new energy vehicles.
Auto manufacturers in the world’s largest car-producing country shipped 1.22 million vehicles overseas from January to June, up 47.1 percent year-on-year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Made-in-China vehicles saw their popularity begin to soar in 2021.Exports totaled 2.01 million vehicles in 2021, more than double the figure of the year prior, CAAM officials said.
This put China in third place among exporters that year, following Japan, which shipped 3.82 million vehicles overseas, and Germany, with 2.30 million units.
Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association, said the increase in exports is partly because of the resilience of China’s supply chain and the country’s measures taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those factors have made vehicle production and sales less affected in China than in other major car-producing countries, Cui said.
In the first half, new car registrations in the European Union contracted by nearly 14 percent, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association. The EU had the worst June since 1996, with less than 900,000 vehicles sold during the month.
Sales in June dropped in all four major European markets: Germany, Italy, France and Spain. In Germany alone, sales fell by 18.1 percent.
The European association said supply problems had been chiefly responsible for the sales decline.
China’s vehicle makers, however, saw their June sales soar 23.8 percent year-on-year, two months after COVID-19 caused what the industry dubbed “the worst April in a decade”.
They produced 12.11 million vehicles in the first half, down just 3.7 percent year-on-year, despite suspension of production in March and April in Changchun, Jilin province, and in Shanghai, two major car-producing cities, due to pandemic containment and control measures.
After a hiatus of four weeks, Tesla’s Shanghai plant started to resume production in late April, with help from local authorities.
In May, the plant produced 33,544 vehicles, up 212 percent from April. Sales reached 32,165 units, of which 22,340 were exported. In April, Tesla sold only 1,512 units, and none were exported.
In early June, its plant reached 100 percent capacity. The rapid recovery shows the “resilience of Chinese manufacturing”, Tesla officials said. Over 90 percent of the components in its Shanghai-made vehicles are made in China, the company said.
In the first half, Tesla exported 97,182 Shanghai-made vehicles, more than double the figure of the same period last year. The carmaker said export destinations included Europe, Australia, Japan and Singapore.
SAIC Motor, also based in Shanghai, exported 381,000 vehicles in the first half, up 47.7 percent year-on-year. The carmaker, a partner of Germany’s Volkswagen and United States-based General Motors, said its overseas sales this year will reach 800,000 units.
“This year, Europe will become our first overseas market where our annual sales reach 100,000 units,” SAIC said.
Deliveries of its MG brand alone exceeded 45,000 units in Europe from January to June. MG vehicles’ accumulated overseas sales have totaled 1 million units since they were first exported from China in 2007.
NEVs are a highlight of China’s vehicle exports. In the first half, their overseas sales totaled 202,000 units, up 130 percent year-on-year, according to the CAAM.
In July, ships loaded with around 1,000 units of the MG4 EV hatchbacks, also called the Mulan－the EV that has been developed “with global markets in mind”－left China for European countries including Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy, SAIC said.
The model is the product of its British and Chinese teams working to produce a vehicle for customers in China and abroad, said MG CEO Zhang Liang.
Zhang said the model was developed in accordance with the European New Car Assessment Program, one of the strictest of its kind in the world.
The MG4 EV will hit the European market in the fourth quarter. In 2023, SAIC will export the model to Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and other countries. The carmaker expects the model’s sales to reach 150,000 units in the same year.
“Globally, we hope it will become as popular as Volkswagen’s Golf, a model that sells well around the world,” Zhang said.
Another highlight of SAIC exports is its Maxus brand, whose electric vans are popular in Europe, the Americas and the Middle East, as well as in Australia and New Zealand.
Many of its big customers are delivery firms, including the UK’s Royal Mail, Irish National Post, Germany-based DHL and US-based FedEx.
Its vans accounted for 13.28 percent of sales of Australian light commercial vehicles in the first five months this year. In New Zealand, Maxus took a 28.4-percent share of sales in the light commercial vehicle market as the most popular brand.
Dave Hall, a courier in New Zealand, travels around 500 kilometers on each of his workdays in the Maxus eDeliver 3. “I really enjoy the quietness and refinement of my eDeliver 3 and have had no issues with its range or load capacity,” Hall said.
Europe has been the first choice for the sector’s startups when they go overseas. In addition to the rising acceptance of EVs there, their success in Europe can make it easier for companies to persuade customers elsewhere, analysts said.
Shanghai-based Nio opened its first overseas showroom in the center of Oslo, the Norwegian capital, last year. The company aims to sell its ES8 sport utility vehicles and ET7 sedans as part of its plans to grow globally.
This year, the carmaker plans to expand its presence to Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. By 2025, it will have established a presence in more than 25 countries and regions worldwide, the company said.
Voyah, the NEV arm of State-owned Dongfeng Motor Corp, opened its first overseas showroom in Oslo in June, and plans to deliver its first model in the fourth quarter.
BYD, China’s largest NEV maker, has been selling its electric buses and passenger vehicles in Europe for around a decade.
In July, it announced a plan to explore expansion into Japan, another major player on the global automobile stage, with three electric models to be launched in 2023. The Atto 3 crossover is scheduled to go on sale in Japan in January 2023, which will be followed by the Dolphin crossover and the Seal sedan later in the year.
BYD Chairman and President Wang Chuanfu said he greatly appreciates the opportunity to explore the Japanese market.
“We are devoted to providing Japanese consumers with leading technologies, excellent products and high-quality services, aiming to deliver an exceptional travel experience,” said Wang.
“Over the years, BYD has been deeply engaged in the Japanese market and has accumulated a good market and brand foundation through its pure electric buses, energy storage systems, all-electric forklifts and other businesses.”
BYD delivered the first zero-emissions buses to Kyoto in 2015. Since then, BYD’s electric buses have been running on roads in such cities as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Fukushima and Nagasaki and in Okinawa prefecture.
Great Wall Motors (GWM), China’s largest pickup and SUV maker, celebrated its 1 millionth vehicle sold overseas in July. The carmaker said its gasoline models, including the Havel H6 SUV and Poer pickups, are increasingly recognized in foreign markets.
Wei Jianjun, chairman of GWM, said Chinese carmakers must embrace global markets if they really want to be competitive on the world stage.
Also in July, the carmaker launched its SUV model, Tank 300, in Saudi Arabia, the first overseas market for the Tank marque, which is meant to rival brands such as Toyota.
Xu Huanzhi, a senior executive in charge of GWM’s operations in the Middle East, said the brand’s vehicles are capable of off-road as well as urban uses to meet customer needs in the region.
GWM said it has also introduced models popular in China to other countries, including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Chile.
Another pillar in the company’s global strategy is increasing the use of electric-powered vehicles.
In Thailand, the carmaker is producing one electric model and two hybrid SUVs at a plant it acquired from General Motors. Now that it has a plant in the region with an annual production capacity of 120,000 vehicles, the carmaker said it is exploring neighboring markets including Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore.
GWM is planning to produce NEVs in Brazil as well. It took over a Brazilian plant from Germany’s Mercedes-Benz AG earlier this year, and is now upgrading the manufacturing facility, which will begin production in 2023.
At the plant’s handover ceremony this year, the carmaker said it will launch 10 models in three years in Brazil, and export vehicles from Brazil to surrounding countries.
“From a new start on this new journey, we will use high-end electrification and intelligent technologies for a strategic breakthrough and tap deeply into the Brazilian market,” the carmaker said.