As the automotive industry becomes increasingly globalised and interdependent, it's worth remembering how things are changing and what the new roles of the players are. After more than a century of a relatively stable landscape between first European and American manufacturers, then Japanese and Korean, the global car market has been undergoing a Chinese revolution for some time.

And this is no 'other' player. Because of its size and geopolitical factors, China is transforming the world rankings for new car sales. This week sees the Beijing Motor Show, and it seems appropriate to take a look at the manufacturers playing at home, explaining which ones are worth keeping an eye on.

Who are the major Chinese carmakers?

BYD, Changan, Chery and Geely are the biggest manufacturers in terms of sales of own-brand cars (SAIC, for example, sells much more, but almost half of its volume corresponds to units manufactured by joint ventures with Volkswagen and General Motors).

BYD is already internationally renowned for its electric and rechargeable cars. Last year, it was the second brand in the world with the highest number of electric cars sold (after Tesla) and the leader in plug-in hybrids. Its potential is very high, as it is positioned in a market segment between the mainstream and the premium, with cars that are very competitive not only in terms of price, but also in terms of quality. BYD is also set to become the world's largest manufacturer of electric cars this year.

Changan is not as powerful internationally as BYD, but it is very powerful in China and is developing rapidly thanks to a very rich range (there is the eponymous brand, Shenlan (or Deep Blue) as an intermediate brand, Oushan as a mainstream brand, Qiyuan as a premium brand, AVATR as a high-tech brand). For the moment, Changan is concentrating on emerging markets, but it is not out of the question for it to broaden its horizons.

Chinese automakers and their brands by total sales - graphic

With nearly 1.9 million vehicles sold, Chery is preparing for the second phase of its expansion: the conquest of Europe. The formula is simple: create brands dedicated to markets where the word "Chery" can sound very Chinese. The result is Jaecoo and Omoda, already available in Russia and certain Asian markets, and soon in Europe. Chery is also the second Chinese manufacturer to announce the launch of local production in Europe.

Geely is the most international group thanks to its purchase of Western brands. In fact, it is the only Chinese manufacturer to own foreign brands, namely Volvo, Polestar, Lotus, LEVC, and part of Proton and Smart. This presence already gives Geely an advantage over all its local rivals, as it does not have to worry about the positioning of its Chinese brands. Despite this, the group is working on introducing the premium brand ZEEKR in Europe, as well as expanding Lynk & Co.

Chinese manufacturers rise rapidly in the rankings

Global sales 2023 by group  
Toyota 11.097.836
Volkswagen 9.063.309
Hyundai 7.304.064
Stellantis 6.201.668
GM 4.548.000
Ford 4.413.000
Honda 4.016.100
Nissan 3.439.771
Suzuki 3.072.824
BYD 3.020.706
Geely 2.681.997
Mercedes 2.563.200
BMW 2.555.483
Renault 2.233.377
Changan 2.097.794
Chery 1.881.949
Tesla 1.808.581
SGMW 1.403.066
SAIC 1.263.910
Mazda 1.244.613

Chinese "intermediate" carmakers

After these four, there are six other Chinese carmakers that sell a lot. The joint venture between SAIC, General Motors and Wuling, called SGMW, is very active in the popular segments, not only in China, but also in some South-East Asian countries.

Then there is Great Wall Motors, GWM, which owns five different brands: Great Wall, Wey, ORA, Tank and Haval (some of which are already available in Europe). Finally, there's SAIC, owner of MG (the strongest Chinese brand in Europe), GAC, FAW, JAC and Dongfeng, which own a whole series of different brands that still have a long way to go outside China.

There are also start-ups

Further down the list, in terms of volume, we find a few start-ups to consider for their technology and objectives. These include NIO and Xpeng, the luxury anti-Tesla; Li Auto, with its EREV SUVs; and Leapmotor (part of Stellantis), with its popular electric cars.

The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is an automotive industry specialist at JATO Dynamics.