China’s electric vehicle (EV) makers, which have dominated the sales rankings at home, are arriving in Europe with ambitious plans to expand their market share. They are offering low-cost EVs that can compete with the established brands in terms of quality, performance, and design. However, they also face a number of challenges, such as import costs, consumer preferences, and regulatory hurdles.
According to a report by Allianz, at least 11 new, mass-market, China-made EVs will launch in Europe by 2025. Of new EVs sold in Europe so far this year, 8% were made by Chinese brands, up from 6% last year and 4% in 2021, according to autos consultancy Inovev. Some of the Chinese brands that are making inroads in Europe include BYD, Nio, SAIC’s MG, and Geely’s Zeekr.
The main advantage of the Chinese EV makers is their competitive pricing. The average price of an EV in China was less than 32,000 euros ($35,000) in the first half of 2022 compared with around 56,000 euros in Europe, according to researchers at Jato Dynamics. The Chinese brands are able to leverage their economies of scale, supply chain efficiencies, and government subsidies to offer affordable EVs to European consumers.
European consumers demand more than just cheap EVs
However, price is not the only factor that influences the buying decisions of European consumers. They also have different preferences and expectations than their Chinese counterparts. For instance, European consumers tend to drive longer distances and require bigger batteries and faster charging options. They also value safety, reliability, and brand reputation more than Chinese consumers.
Several Chinese carmakers have secured five-star safety ratings under Europe’s safety standards, going well beyond legal requirements to try to overcome customer doubts. They have also invested in marketing campaigns, customer service, and after-sales support to build trust and loyalty among European customers. Some of them have also partnered with local dealers and distributors to expand their sales network and reach.
However, some analysts warn that the Chinese brands may face a backlash from European consumers who are wary of the environmental and social impacts of China’s EV industry. For example, some of the materials used in EV batteries, such as cobalt and lithium, are sourced from countries with poor human rights records and high carbon emissions. Moreover, some European consumers may prefer to support local or regional brands that create jobs and contribute to the economy.
European regulators pose hurdles for Chinese EV makers
Another challenge that the Chinese EV makers face is the regulatory environment in Europe. The European Union (EU) has strict rules and standards for vehicle emissions, safety, data protection, and consumer rights. The Chinese brands have to comply with these rules and obtain certifications before they can sell their vehicles in Europe. This adds costs and delays to their market entry.
Furthermore, the EU is planning to impose a carbon border tax on imports from countries that have lower environmental standards than the EU. This could affect the competitiveness of the Chinese EV makers who rely on coal-fired power plants and carbon-intensive materials for their production. The EU is also considering banning the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035, which could accelerate the transition to EVs and increase the competition among EV makers.
The Chinese brands may also face political pressure from some European governments that are concerned about China’s growing influence and economic clout. Some countries may impose tariffs or quotas on Chinese imports or favor domestic or regional producers over foreign ones. For example, France has announced a plan to invest 35 billion euros ($41 billion) in its EV industry over the next decade.
Chinese EV makers remain optimistic about their prospects in Europe
Despite these challenges, the Chinese EV makers are confident that they can succeed in Europe by offering innovative and attractive products that meet the needs and tastes of European consumers. They are also aware of the opportunities and potential of the European market, which is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years.
According to a forecast by BloombergNEF, Europe will overtake China as the world’s largest EV market by 2025, with annual sales reaching 7 million units by 2030. The European Commission has set a target of having at least 30 million zero-emission vehicles on its roads by 2030 as part of its Green Deal initiative.
The Chinese EV makers believe that they can capture a significant share of this market by leveraging their strengths in technology, design, and cost-efficiency. They are also willing to adapt to the local conditions and regulations and cooperate with local partners and stakeholders. They hope that their efforts will pay off and that they will be able to establish themselves as credible and competitive players in the European EV market.