Chinese Electric Car Manufacturers Showing Up at IAA Mobility in Munich
Several Chinese makers of electric vehicles are showing up in large numbers at this week’s IAA Mobility auto show in Munich, Germany. They have benefited from billions in subsidies, tax breaks and other incentives.
Among the vehicles in this “EV graveyard” were some with stickers from Ledao Chuxing, which folded earlier this year, and others with registration markings for car-sharing services that also have ceased operations.
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.
The Geely Group is one of China’s leading automotive manufacturers, ranking second in passenger vehicles sales in the country. The company has also acquired and invested in Western technology innovation enterprises, including the Smart brand (Geely is the largest shareholder), Volvo Cars, chinese electric car manufacturers Lotus cars, Malaysian carmaker Proton, and the American personal transport brand Terrafugia. In addition, Geely operates a number of EV-centric brands such as Geometry and ZEEKR.
The firm’s new high-end EV lineup, named Galaxy, is set to compete with Tesla and other domestic rivals. The flagship model, the L7 SUV, will be available in 2021.
The Geely Group also owns Farizon Auto, which develops new energy light commercial vehicles. It has also established a joint venture with Beijing-based tech giant Baidu to produce an AI-centric EV, the 01 ROBOCAR. Other Geely-backed brands include LEVC, the London EV Company Limited (abbreviated to LEVC), which produces zero-emissions London taxis, and Radar Auto, which plans to release electric pickup trucks. The group also owns a majority stake in Swedish luxury car manufacturer Polestar, which is focused on electric performance vehicles.
While few UK motorists have heard of BYD, the conglomerate is a big player in its home market. It was founded in 1995 as a battery maker and now has four core divisions: Electronics, Automobile, New Energy, and Rail Transit. It also makes electric buses — hundreds of which run on London streets with Alexander Dennis bodies — and trucks, from garbage trucks to the massive 60-tonnes dump trucks used at airports and ports.
Wang storms the car market the way he stormed the battery market — a strategy known as “reverse engineering.” His engineers take apart Sony or Sanyo batteries, analyze how they’re made, and build something similar under the BYD name.
BYD’s first vehicles are Toyota lookalikes, but the company quickly realizes it needs to step away from copied designs. It hires Wolfgang Egger, a designer who built his career at Alfa Romeo (he did the 8C Competizione and 156), to design its cars from the ground up. BYD is now one of the biggest manufacturers of electric vehicles worldwide and its newest model, the Dolphin, competes with smaller hatchbacks like the Vauxhall Corsa Electric and MG ZS.
EV sales in China are on the rise. The country is a leading producer and is expanding overseas. The EVs are inexpensive and attractive to many buyers, especially in countries that offer subsidies or other incentives.
The success of Electric Sightseeing Car Chinese EV manufacturers is due to aggressive government interventions in the industry over the past 15 years. These policies enabled them to leapfrog multinational car companies with decades of internal combustion engine (ICE) technology.
Chinese EV makers are pursuing global expansion with different strategies. Some are focusing on developing markets, including the United States. Others are focusing on higher-end models. Several are working on advanced technologies, such as self-driving cars.
NIO, a Chinese company that sells electric SUVs in Europe, has a model called the ES6 that can be driven by voice commands. The company hopes to compete with Tesla in the premium EV market. The ES6 is powered by NIO’s proprietary lithium-ion batteries. The company has a vertically integrated production chain and owns a factory for manufacturing the raw materials needed to produce batteries.
Amid global trade tensions, Chinese EV manufacturers are seeking a new audience abroad. About 50 of them traveled to this year’s IAA Mobility auto show in Munich, twice as many as the last time it was held. They include heavyweights like BYD and upstarts such as Xpeng.
China’s EV makers are betting big on Europe, where demand for electric vehicles is growing rapidly. But they face greater challenges in the United States, which imposes steep tariffs on Chinese cars and has other unfavorable policies.
Hozon Auto, a Beijing-based carmaker, has sold its Neta S sedan in the United States, but it says it will not offer more models there because of the “challenging environment” and the need for a large investment in dealerships. NIO, which has persuaded buyers to pay Tesla-level sticker prices for its ES6 SUV, is also trying to break into the U.S., but its success there could depend on how Washington and Beijing manage their trade frictions. The two countries are engaged in a standoff over technology and human rights.
A decade ago, encouraged by government subsidies, hundreds of established and startup automakers in China jumped into EV production. They churned out huge numbers of early-stage electric cars that in many cases could only run for around 100 kilometers (62 miles) on a charge. But the proliferation of these vehicles quickly killed off many companies and produced a car graveyard in cities and on countryside roads. The piles of aging vehicles are not only an eyesore, but also reduce the climate benefits of the cars since they were built with more emissions-intensive materials such as nickel and lithium.
Despite this, some Chinese EV brands feel they have a chance to become global players. And some are even considering a foray into the U.S. despite Washington and Beijing’s sensitive relationship over security, technology and human rights issues.
In April 2023, Hozon Auto, which specializes in low-budget EVs, launched the Neta GT, a flashy model that will sell for 178,800 yuan ($25,934). It uses a lithium iron phosphate battery that is less prone to combustion than traditional lithium-ion batteries and can last more than 2,000 charging cycles without significant loss of capacity.