The arrival of Chinese cars in Europe is a reality. With or without tariffs, these cars will find their way onto European roads for several reasons. They are competitive, attractive and have the clear aim of seducing drivers outside China. In addition, the Chinese groups can offer new products more frequently thanks to strong support from the central government. But not everything is perfect for these brands.

The image of China and its products is still a problem in Europe and especially in the USA. After many years of producing inferior copies of Western products, Chinese manufacturers are now trying to carve out a slice of the Western market with high-quality products. However, many consumers are still cautious because they associate China with poor quality.

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There are so many brands from China that it is impossible to make an overall assessment. However, there are clear players with clear intentions abroad. The question is how they will go about their global expansion plans. While some are relying on their own expertise to export their cars (BYD is one of them), others are hiding their true identity by creating new brands exclusively for Western markets.

One of these is DR Automobiles and its sub-brands EVO, Tiger, ICH-X and Sportequipe. Their products are no different from the Chery, BAIC and JAC models. For most of the public, however, these are Italian or other non-Chinese cars. The rebranding allows these Chinese brands to avoid negative perception issues and gain an easier foothold in markets such as Italy and Spain. In 2023, DR Automobiles' brands registered more than 34,000 units, mainly in Italy and Spain.

Chinese automakers in Europe utilising existing brands or creating new ones - graphic

In 2023, DR Automobiles was the second largest Chinese manufacturer in Europe, behind MG. The latter is another example of China hiding behind a Western brand. Although MG was founded 100 years ago as a British brand, it was taken over by the Chinese SAIC in 2007 and has since been designed, manufactured and planned entirely in China.

Nevertheless, MG uses its British past to attract customers all over the world. Last year, the brand sold 840,000 new vehicles worldwide, of which 248,000 units were registered in Europe. It is by far the best-selling Chinese brand in the region and accounts for around 70 per cent of all Chinese cars sold in Europe. Would it have been so successful if it had a Chinese name? In fact, MG is extremely unpopular in China, mainly because it is seen as a foreign brand.

There are other examples

Recently, the Cirelli Motor Company in Italy started selling cars under the names Dongfeng, BAIC, Seres and FAW. In the first quarter of this year, 25 vehicles were registered in Italy.

EMC, which stands for Eurasia Motor Company, offers two SUVs from Geely and Chery as well as a hatchback from Yudo. Then there is Elaris, which is launching new products from Hycan, AION and Skywell.

Finally, car manufacturers such as Chery have just created their own brands for foreign markets. Jaecoo and Omoda are two of them, and their sole aim is to sell Chery products abroad without being recognised as Chinese brands. Omoda, for example, has registered 330 units of its first SUV in Europe by March. & Lynk Co is another brand with an English name that wants to secure a piece of the market. Will this strategy work?

The 20 most important Chinese brands

  Europe Q1 2024
MG 58,524
BYD 7,602
DR Automobile 5,922
& Lynk Co 1,711
GWM 1,121
Xpeng 1,036
Zeekr 466
Nio 401
Maxus 338
Omoda 330
EMC 313
Sportequipe 301
DFSK 282
Ayways 192
Beijing 165
Jump engine 152
Hongqi

112

Geely

93

Jac

88

Forthing

66

The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is a specialist for the automotive industry at JATODynamics.