China's EV industry, with its competitive prices, advanced technology, and safety features, is gaining ground in Europe, yet there's still a long way ahead to establish brand recognition and solidify its market position.
by Fu Yiming
BRUSSELS, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- With its cutting-edge technology, novel marketing models and competitive prices, China's electric vehicle (EV) industry is heading for the fast lane at both European and global level.
Brands such as BYD, NIO, Xpeng, Hongqi and Lynk & Co are making a name in Europe at motor shows, in showrooms, and out on the road. According to auto consultancy Inovev, 8 percent of new EVs sold in Europe so far this year were Chinese, up from 6 percent in 2022, and 4 percent in 2021.
At this year's International Motor Show (IAA) in Munich, Germany, more than 70 Chinese carmakers and suppliers showcased their products and services.
MORE THAN COMPETITIVE PRICES
EVs made in China are gaining traction in Europe not only due to their highly competitive prices.
"Chinese car companies have become global car companies," said Eric Louwman, president of the Louwman Group of automobile distributors, underlining the quality and advanced technology of Chinese brands.
Louwman Group began cooperating with BYD in October 2022, opening a BYD sales store in the Netherlands. As the world's second-largest EV manufacturer, BYD now has over 140 sales stores in Europe.
Along with BYD, Chinese EV brands such as NIO, Chery, Great Wall Motors and Lynk & Co have received five-star safety ratings from the European New Car Assessment Program, an independent institute which developed a five-star rating system to provide consumers with insight into the safety level of new cars, in recent years.
To win over consumers in Europe, Chinese EV brands also put special emphasis on innovation in battery technology.
In about three minutes, NIO's Power Swap Stations allow vehicles to switch to a fresh, fully-charged battery pack. A station can complete 312 swaps per day. NIO has deployed 20 such stations across Europe, and is expanding this network.
NIO's head for European business development Chen Chen told Xinhua that since automatic battery and electric system checks are performed during each swap, this service is "very popular" in Europe, as 98 percent of NIO users in Europe prefer to rent batteries in order to benefit from the service.
Chinese carmakers are also making the pace in automotive software research and development. This will help Chinese EVs usher in rapid development in the European market, said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, director of Germany's Duisburg-based Center for Automotive Research (CAR).
For Lynk & co, fresh marketing models helped it to promote sales. The company has launched a monthly subscription service which allows registered customers to share their vehicles with other members to save costs.
As of July 2023, the service had enrolled nearly 230,000 subscribers in Europe, and over 20 percent of them have used the car-sharing platform.
The professionalism of Chinese brands impressed visitors at world-class mobility trade fairs such as IAA, said Peter Fintl, vice president of technology and innovation at Capgemini Engineering.
"Everybody here at the IAA is excited to have so many Chinese brands here," Fintl said.
MORE POTENTIAL TO BE EXPLORED
Supported by a robust industrial chain and continuous technological innovation, Chinese EV brands have won recognition from European consumers, dealers and industry insiders. However, there's still a long way to go for them.
Compared with emerging markets, Europe boasts the most established auto brands, with loyal customers. Nevertheless, Japanese and Korean auto-makers have already set up a strong presence here.
Some dealers told Xinhua that Chinese EV companies need to work more on building brand recognition, expanding sales channels and winning consumer confidence in Europe. Exploring a new market also means incurring higher costs, navigating different regulations and addressing cultural disparities.
However, other auto dealers told Xinhua that Chinese EVs have made a good start in Europe by establishing a high-quality brand image, and have the potential to grow and expand.
In 2021, Chinese brand Hongqi introduced its E-HS9 electric sports utility vehicle (SUV) to Norway. A year later, the model became the country's best-selling Chinese EV.
The SUV was praised by consumers and the automotive media for its comfort, luxury accessories and affordable prices, said Knut Aas, CEO of Hongqi's local dealer HBI Norge AS.
Despite challenges, opportunities also lie ahead.
As Chinese carmakers seek to establish themselves in the European market, they are creating new opportunities of cooperation, said Holger Klein, CEO of German auto parts and components supplier ZF Group. "ZF would like to cooperate across the full spectrum of products we have," he said.
(Xinhua reporters Ren Ke and Kang Yi in Brussels, Lin Hao in Sofia, Li Chao and Zhu Sheng in Berlin, Zhang Yuliang in Oslo, He Miao in Stockholm and Meng Dingbo in Madrid contributed to the story.)