EV powerhouse China leads world in auto exports, topping Japan

China became the world leader in automobile exports in the first six months of 2023, surpassing Japan at the half-year mark for the first time as more Chinese electric cars sold worldwide.


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Major Chinese automakers exported 2.14 million vehicles from January to June, up 76% on the year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). Japan lagged at 2.02 million, for a gain of 17% on the year, data from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association shows.

China was already ahead of Japan in the January-March quarter. Its export growth owes to a booming trade in EVs and gains in the European and Russian markets.

China’s exports of new energy vehicles, which include EVs, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles, more than doubled in the January-June half to reach 25% of the country’s total auto exports. Tesla, which uses its Shanghai plant as an export hub for Asia, exported more than 180,000 vehicles, while its leading Chinese rival BYD logged exports of more than 80,000 autos.

Russia was the top destination for Chinese auto exports at 287,000 for January to May, including gasoline-powered cars, according to customs data compiled by CAAM. South Korean, Japanese and European automakers slashed their Russia presence after Moscow’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Chinese brands have moved in to fill this void.

Mexico, where demand for gasoline-powered vehicles is strong, and Belgium, a key European transit hub that is electrifying its auto fleet, were also high on the list of destinations for Chinese exports.

New auto sales in China totaled 26.86 million in 2022, the most in the world. EVs alone reached 5.36 million, surpassing Japan’s total new vehicle sales, including gasoline-powered vehicles, which stood at 4.2 million.

U.S.-based AlixPartners forecasts that EVs will account for 39% of new vehicle sales in China in 2027. That would be higher than EVs’ projected worldwide penetration of 23%.

Government subsidies for EV purchases have provided a significant boost in China. By 2030, Chinese brands like BYD are expected to account for 65% of EVs sold in the country.

With a domestic supply network for lithium-ion batteries – the determining factor in the performance and price of EVs — Chinese automakers are increasing their export competitiveness.

“After 2025, Chinese automakers are likely to take a significant share of Japan’s major export markets, including the U.S.,” said Tomoyuki Suzuki, managing director at AlixPartners in Tokyo.

Post time: Sep-26-2023