Having overtaken Germany and moved into second place last year, China has now beaten pack leader Japan to take worldwide pole position for car exports, according to Chinese customs figures published last week.
Data released by China’s General Administration of Customs, shows China exported 1.07 million cars in just the first quarter of 2023 – an increase of 58% on 2022’s first quarter numbers. Japan’s car exports also rose, but only by 6%, taking them to 954,185 for the first three months of this year.
China’s domestic new vehicle market first outclassed the USA to become the biggest in the world back in 2009. Today, 26 Chinese OEMs place in Brand Finance’s ranking of the world’s 100 most valuable automotive manufacturers. While Tesla is the world’s most valuable car brand, up 44% on last year, Chinese electric vehicle producer, Sokon, is the world’s fastest growing OEM, its value having more than doubled this year to $739 million according to the latest figures.
Why are Chinese car exports accelerating now?
One factor turbo-charging China’s automotive industry is the demise of hydrocarbon fuel and increasing demand for electric vehicles as the world faces unprecedented climate change.
“China has been the world’s number one innovator of electric vehicle technology for a number of years,” said Tom Wellings, principal designer and automotive expert at Huemen design group within Harman International. “Manufacturers many people have never heard of are quietly churning out over a million vehicles a year.”
Chinese exports of so-called “new energy vehicles”, or NEVs, have rocketed this year by over 90%. Alongside Sokon and BYD, Tesla’s operations at their Shanghai Gigafactory are among those out in front, thanks to help from the Chinese authorities in setting up in 2019 and in overcoming the pandemic.
Elon Musk’s brand is perceived as the world’s most sustainable according to Brand Finance. With Chinese exports of Tesla’s Model Y SUV to Canada having started in April, and news of a new Megapack manufacturing plant recently announced, Musk is helping to drive the Chinese economy – something raising blood pressures back home in the USA.
Another reason for China’s recent success is the war in Ukraine and subsequent trading sanctions around the world. The withdrawal of German and Japanese competitors such as Volkswagen and Toyota from the Russian market has meant that Chinese manufacturers have been able to increase their market share simply by remaining in the race.