Chinese electric vehicle makers accelerate global expansion, achieving notable success in Southeast Asia, Australia, Latin America, and Europe. From January to November, Chinese EV exports soared to 1.091 million units, marking an 83.5% increase year-on-year, as per the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Leading the charge, BYD’s exports surged by 360% year-on-year to 216,000 units, Chery’s exports grew by 110% to 837,000 units, and Great Wall Motors’ exports increased by 84.8% to 283,000 units. Other Chinese brands like SAIC and Changan also showcased significant growth.
Southeast Asia, often the initial target for Chinese EV makers’ international ventures, has emerged as the largest market for Chinese EV makers outside of China. Its proximity to China and the presence of EV-friendly policies, including tax subsidies and ambitious targets for charging infrastructure and vehicle electrification, contribute to the region’s attractiveness for Chinese EV makers.
For Chinese EV manufacturers, the region’s cost advantages are significant when it comes to opening stores or establishing local factories. This economic landscape aligns well with the affordability and cost-effectiveness of Chinese EVs, making them a natural fit for the market.
A few Chinese EV makers are deepening their operations there, with BYD building a new factory in the Wei Hua Industrial Park in Rayong, Bangkok, Thailand. The factory covers an area of nearly 6 million Rai (about 1 Rai is approximately 1,600 square meters), and is expected to start production in 2024 with an annual capacity of about 150,000 units.
Moreover, BYD has opened 201 stores in the Asia-Pacific region (including Hong Kong and Macau), according to an employee.
Apart from BYD, Changan Automobile has also publicly stated that it will invest 20 billion Thai Baht to build a factory in Rayong, Thailand, with a total capacity of 200,000 units per year. The first phase will have a capacity of 100,000 units per year, which is expected to officially start production in the first quarter of 2025.
Establishing local factories offers clear advantages over directly exporting vehicles manufactured in China, which typically incur tariffs and face substantial transportation time and costs. Setting up production facilities locally addresses these challenges effectively. Moreover, it stimulates local employment, enhances the reputation of Chinese manufacturing, and fosters a positive reception among local communities.
Chinese EV makers are also expanding aggressively in Australia. BYD, for example, has 26 stores in Australia, according to an employee. Because of Australia’s targets for dual carbon goals and green energy, BYD has selected a few of its most popular models for the Australian market. BYD, of course, is also expanding in the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, and many other regions.
Another potential frontier for Chinese EV expansion is Africa, poised as a promising ‘blue ocean’ for these brands. Many Chinese EV manufacturers are actively exploring this expansion, with some already engaged in research and strategic planning. Presently, BYD predominantly sells its EVs in Africa through dealer stores, but a shift towards a more direct presence in the market is a reasonable expectation in the near future.
The one market where Chinese EV makers are not making much progress is the United States, which is dominated by gas vehicles and Tesla dominate the EV segment of that market. The high tariffs imposed by the U.S. government on Chinese cars make it a challenging region for Chinese car makers to enter.