China bypassed Germany in 2022 to become the world’s second-largest automobile exporter by volume, according to Xu Haidon of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). Electric vehicle exports to Europe are a major driver in the upsurge of Chinese car exports.
In 2022, China exported 3.1 million vehicles, according to CAAM, growing by over 50 percent over the previous year. These gains come on the back of even more robust growth in 2021, when Chinese car exports doubled in volume.
Germany, Japan, the United States, and a host of other countries are still ahead of China in vehicle exports by value. But EVs are driving a rise both in the volume of total Chinese automobile exports and their average cost, which has grown by roughly 50 percent to $18,900 since 2018, according to Xu of the CAAM.
Chinese Exports of EVs to Europe Rise
Chinese manufactured vehicles were once seen as largely destined for the domestic market and lower-income countries. But Chinese companies have made significant inroads into Europe, partly by acquiring European brands. Popular Chinese-owned EV brands include the mid-market Polestar and MG.
Belgium is the top export market for what China calls "new energy vehicles," which includes fuel cell and hybrid vehicles as well as fully-electric cars.
For a brief period, Volvo S90s manufactured in China were shipped by rail to Belgium via the Belt and Road Initiative's Eurasian rail corridor. But Volvo discontinued use of this route before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, due to poor service and high costs. Chinese manufacturers like BYD have begun to acquire vessels to develop their own maritime logistical infrastructure for exporting vehicles to Europe.
China is the world's biggest auto manufacturer. It is also the world's largest vehicle market. And it is keen on consolidating its advantages across the electric vehicle supply chain, from raw materials to battery production and automobile manufacturing.
China's rapid ascent as the world's top manufacturer of batteries and EVs is due in part to strategic subsidies, including the use of sales tax breaks, to boost production. Last year, China's BYD surpassed Tesla to become the world's largest EV manufacturer.
By 2031, Chinese companies could emerge as the largest battery manufacturers in Europe, according to Benchmark Minerals. According to Fitch Solutions, Chinese manufacturers could grab upwards of 15 percent of the European battery-electric vehicle (BEV) market, filling a void by meeting demand for lower-cost EVs.