China wants to conquer Europe with electric cars | D.W. | 10.17.2022

With the arrival of the new models of electric cars from the Chinese manufacturer Nio in October in Germany, a new concept of battery replacement points also appears. If the user does not want to recharge his car with the cable, he can change the empty battery for a full one. But there is a problem: so far, there is only one such station in Germany, in Bavaria, on the A8 motorway. By the end of 2022 there will be 19 more and in 2023 another 100.

Crash test, a disaster

17 years ago, Chinese manufacturers already tried to introduce cars to the German market, but the results of the crash test carried out by the General German Automobile Club (ADAC) of the Landwind off-roader left much to be desired.

But now the situation seems different. The Munich-based car rental company Sixt, the industry giant, announced that it had closed a contract with the Chinese manufacturer BYD: 100,000 electric cars by 2028. The first will be delivered this year.

For BYD, the agreement with Sixt represents a giant step. In addition, the company is already one of the largest battery manufacturers in the world and, in the medium term, it could become the largest manufacturer of electric cars and even unseat Tesla from the podium.

Experts estimate that almost 20 Chinese car brands could soon be in Europe. The advantage is that they manufacture vehicles from different segments, while the big European manufacturers only offer electric vehicles in the most expensive segment, and with a shortage of spare parts and chips due to problems in the supply chain and with the consequent manufacturing delays. .

Asian Competition

But can Chinese manufacturers compete with Mercedes, BMW or VW? DW contacted experts, such as Jochen Siebert, founder of the JSC Automotive company in Shanghai and Stuttgart, which specializes in the Chinese car market: “I don’t think any of the Chinese manufacturers can really compete on the same level as the European, Japanese and Koreans in Europe.”

For Siebert, the strength of Chinese cars lies in the offer of various electronic functions, such as karaoke for passengers or augmented reality devices, surely attractive to the Chinese consumer. But German buyers in the more expensive segment are more conservative and avoid electronic devices as much as possible.

An electric taxi from the Chinese manufacturer BYD.

China, protectionist market

Furthermore, most if not all Chinese manufacturers would not exist today without state support. Siebert says that “knowing that the Chinese state is running out of money to offer more subsidies, all Chinese manufacturers are rushing to go abroad and try their luck there.”

Gregor Sebastian, an auto analyst at the Market Institute for China Studies (MERICS), believes that Chinese companies have also benefited from restrictions on market access for foreign competitors imposed in the Asian country.

However, this support could become a serious problem for Chinese manufacturers in Europe. The EU has set out to tackle Chinese protectionism. “New rules on third-country subsidies that distort competition,” suggests Sebastian, “could become a serious problem for Chinese electric car manufacturers.” Growing geopolitical differences can also pose an additional problem.

“The isolation of China would harm German manufacturers”

Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, director of the Duisburg-based CAR, Center for Automotive Research, believes that China’s advantage is the almost infinite speed with which they develop and implement innovations. “Tesla is unique, but in China there is a broad movement that is creating many Teslas,” said Dudenhöffer.

The expert warns that an “anti-China policy” would hurt German automakers much more than Chinese ones. “We would lose much more, and an isolation of China would hit the German auto industry at its most sensitive point, since that is where the innovative force is. Today’s innovations come from China and those who avoid them lose their customers internationally.” .


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