It is no secret that China is by far the most important automotive market in the world. It is not only the largest in terms of units produced and sold, but it has also become a major hub for research and development, and the place where affordable electric cars can be found.
While Europe, United States, Japan, and Korea are mature markets that aren't growing, China is still an important source of growth and profits for the vast majority of carmakers around the world.
Its strength is the huge internal demand which allows many brands to sell many models to all types of customers. There are opportunities for anyone if there is clear product planning, and if the cars satisfy users in terms of design and size. For example, consumers in China are not keen on small cars, sports cars, and vans. On the contrary, they love all kinds of SUVs, compact and large saloons, and even pickups.
Then they have strong government support. The auto industry and its global expansion are part of the economic growth plan established by the Communist Party. The development of the Chinese automobile is at the heart of the economy. As a result, the progress made by local producers is considerable. But are the latest made-in-China cars on par with European, American, Korean, and Japanese cars?
A Matter Of Taste
When it comes to design, the answer is a clear yes. The latest models introduced have very interesting shapes that make them modern, fresh, and alive with lots of personality. The Chinese car is no longer the old-fashioned "copy".
The design may be a subjective matter, but it is true that Western designers are behind the bodies of many new cars produced by the Chinese. In fact, many of the companies in that country have design centres in Europe and the United States. The way a car looks is one of the first things a new brand has to work on, especially if it's unknown overseas.
There are many examples: SUVs and saloons from NIO, BYD Han, and Tang. There's the recently revealed Chery Arrizo 8 and other SUVs like the Changan SL03, UNI-V, UNI-K, and UNI-T. The Avatr 11 is also one of the most beautiful. The GAC GS8 and the square and interesting Haval Big Dog, Cool Dog, and H-DOG are also contenders.
Gallery: 2021 Hongqi E-HS9
In the premium segment, the Hongqi brand does not disappoint with the H9 and E-HS9. Geely, one of the biggest, shines with the Xingyue L and Preface. Its sister brand ZEEKR offers the 001 as a modern large saloon.
The entire Lynk & Co range is also very attractive and original. Li Auto has ONE and L9, as two modern and beautiful SUVs. MG has just unveiled the MG7, which could easily be a rival to the Kia Stinger. The Hozon Neta S is a stunning large saloon with a very unique design. The Tank 500 is also a particularly large SUV. Xpeng, available in Europe, has the G9, a huge SUV.
Quality And Technology Improve
Behind the eye-catching design, the Chinese are working hard to improve the quality of their cars. The materials used and the way the cars are built show almost no difference from their rivals in the west. The same thing is found with the technology used, with very interesting navigation, communication, and software solutions that in many cases are above average abroad.
Lack Of Awareness, Reputation, And Heritage
Three elements are missing to see Chinese cars dominate on the roads of the world: awareness, reputation, and heritage. The first two can be solved by introducing more attractive, high-quality cars. Consumers across the planet will start learning more about Chinese cars once they hit their markets with competitive cars. This will immediately help improve the bad image Chinese products have in many parts of the world. Japan and Korea can share their experiences.
Inheritance is a little more complicated. China doesn't have a long history of car manufacturing and this proves quite challenging for brands competing in the premium segments.
In any case, there is still a long way to go. In 2021, there were over 125 Chinese brands that sold cars totalling 13.2 million units worldwide. That is 21 percent more than the total sold in 2020, in contrast to the 6 percent growth recorded by the global market.
From this total, units sold overseas amounted to around 885,000 units, which is a little less than 7 percent. However, overseas sales increased 113 percent compared to 2020.
The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is JATO Dynamics Automotive Industry Specialist.