China is like a different world. Culturally, politically, and economically speaking this country is quite different from what we are used to seeing in the West. It is also the case in the auto industry, where the giant market welcomes a large number of brands and models that are not available in the rest of the world.
Their strong local demand has been enough to concentrate on the domestic market, but sooner or later they will expand their business globally. These are the nine largest Chinese car makers by volume.
9. GAC Group, Guangzhou Automobile Group
In 2021, this company sold 450,000 units of its own brands that include GAC, Trumpchi and Aion. They are basically SUVs of all types, and some saloons along with interesting electric cars. They also produce cars under a Joint-Venture with Mitsubishi, Toyota, Honda, and until recently with the late FCA. So far, their global expansion has not arrived to Europe or USA yet, but they are investing hard with Toyota to bring more competitive electric cars.
8. BYD, Build Your Dreams
It was founded in 2003 when BYD Company bought Qinchuan Automobile. Last year, they were able to sell 740,000 cars from different family groups. They include the Dynasty series, among which you can find the appealing BYD Tang mid-size SUV and the modern BYD Han plug-in/electric saloon. There is also the Ocean family with the Dolphin, Seal and many more to come. BYD already sells the Tang in some European markets and has presence in the Middle East and South America.
Dongfeng is massive in terms of brands: Venucia, Fengdu, Aeolus, Forthing, Voyah, and of course Dongfeng. It also produces cars for Honda, Nissan, Kia and Peugeot-Citroen. In 2021 this group sold 762,000 units of its own-branded cars (excluding the JV), up by 13% compared to 2020, and by 23% vs 2019. They sell some of these cars in Europe (Seres 3, Dongfeng 580 and F5), but their biggest strength in the global markets is in the light commercial vehicle segments.
6. FAW Group, First Automobile Works
It was founded in 1953, it is one of the key makers in China due to its strong ties with the Chinese state officials. Last year they sold 810,000 vehicles of their own brands that include Jiefang trucks, Bestune mainstream cars, and Hongqi luxury cars. The latter produces the Hongqi L5, the official state car of China. FAW has joint ventures with Toyota, General Motors and Volkswagen Group. Hongqi is present in Europe with the luxury SUV E-HS9 in Norway.
5. Chery Automobile
Chery is relatively a new brand, established in 1997. Their principal products are passenger cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles. It started to export its cars in 2001 but has still a very limited presence in developed markets. However, it has production plants in Brazil and Egypt. Last year, Chery sold 962,000 units of its own brands that include the namesake, Exeed, Karry and Jetour. Most of the cars assembled by DR Automobiles in Italy are Chery origin.
4. SAIC Motor, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation
It is the current owner of MG, Morris Garages, and other brands like Roewe, Maxus and Feifan. In 2021, SAIC sold 1.11 million cars around the world, excluding the sales of the cars made under JV with GM-Wuling (that produces the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV, China’s top-selling EV), Volkswagen, General Motors and Iveco. Through its marque MG, this maker was the second largest Chinese in Europe by sales in 2021 as it registered 53,100 units, or more than 80% of all the Chinese brands sales there, excluding Geely.
3. Great Wall Motors
This privately-owned company is known for its SUVs mainly. It produces vehicles under its own brands such as Haval, China’s largest SUV brand, Wey, Tank, ORA and Great Wall. Although most of the 1.28 million cars sold in 2021 were sold in China, it started to explore the European market through the brand ORA and its retro-designed small cars. Haval is also present in developing markets like South America and the Middle East.
2. Geely Group
It is probably the most global Chinese OEM thanks to its controlling stake at Volvo Cars and the strong push of some of its Chinese brands outside China. With 2.03 million units, this conglomerate started making cars in 1997 through the Geely brand. Years later, they acquired foreign brands like the Swedish Volvo, the Malaysian Proton and the British Lotus. They also launched new brands like Lynk & Co, present in Europe with big success in the Netherlands with Polestar, Zeekr and Geometry.
Headquartered in Chongqing, southwest China, it was the country’s top vehicle seller in 2021 with 2.3 million units, excluding the JV. Volume increased by 15% vs 2020 and by 31% vs 2019. Changan produces vehicles under Changan brand (the second most popular Chinese brand in China in 2021), Oshan and Kaicene. Currently, they have also JV with Ford and Mazda. Last year, Changan sold more cars than other companies like Mazda and Tata Group.
The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is an Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO Dynamics.