China’s cheap EVs redraw the map of where cars get made

FRANKFURT: China is set to change the map of global automaking by stepping up electric-car exports that will intensify mass-market competition, according to the International Energy Agency.

Companies like BYD Co. and SAIC Motor Corp.-owned MG produced more than half of all electric cars sold last year, the IEA said in its annual electric vehicle outlook report.

And with more than 60% of EVs sold in China already cheaper to buy than equivalent combustion-engine models, manufacturers are well-placed to win market share, the agency said.

"Chinese companies, which are also setting up production facilities abroad, have already seen strong sales of more affordable models launched in 2022 and 2023 in overseas markets,” the IEA said.

"This highlights that the composition of the main EV-producing economies is diverging considerably from the traditional auto industry.”

China’s car exports jumped 60% last year, making the country the global top shipper ahead of Japan and Germany at more than 4 million cars.

The number of EV exports, at 1.2 million, rose 80% from a year ago going mainly to markets in Europe and Asia.

The surge in exports has triggered trade tensions and concerns for the likes of Volkswagen, Renault and Stellantis.

The European Union in September started a probe into the level of government aid for EV makers in the country.

Despite high import taxes in the US and the EU alongside regulatory scrutiny like the bloc’s anti-subsidy investigation, "Chinese carmakers often remain more competitive than incumbents,” the IEA said.

Competition on used vehicles is also set to intensify significantly after Chinese officials released a draft policy on second-hand car exports.

For this year, the IEA still expects robust EV market growth to 17 million cars from just under 14 million in 2023, including both battery-only passenger cars and plug-in hybrids.

China will drive this rise, where electric car sales are set to account for 45% of all deliveries.

In the US, roughly one in nine cars are projected to be electric - "while in Europe, despite a generally weak outlook for passenger car sales and the phase-out of subsidies in some countries, electric cars are still set to represent about one in four cars sold,” the IEA said.
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