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Foreign Carmakers Reassess China EV Strategies as Market Dynamics Shift

By: Get News

Changes in the Chinese auto market’s competitive landscape are forcing foreign carmakers to reevaluate their electric vehicle strategies, with firms such as Volkswagen and Audi debuted 30 new global models at the Beijing Auto Show last week.

One of them is the ID.UNYX, an all-electric coupe sport utility vehicle and the very first model by Volkswagen Anhui, a majority-controlled joint venture of Volkswagen Group China. Overseas auto giants such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz also unveiled pure-electric models at the motor show.

The biennial event, which opened on April 25, is a key showcase for new energy vehicles, with 117 models made their worldwide debuts. This year's exhibition features a total of 41 concept cars and 278 NEV models. 

In China, the world’s biggest auto market, joint venture carmakers once held seven of the 10 top spots for annual sales in excess of one million units. But as NEVs rapidly take market share, hitting a 50 percent penetration rate in the first two weeks of last month, foreign automakers have seen theirs shrink fast.

Chinese producers had an 86 percent share of the domestic NEV market last year, according to a recent report by Foreign carmakers had just over 14 percent, with Tesla alone accounting for almost 8 percent of that.

The report also noted that top-tier Chinese auto manufacturers have surpassed second-tier overseas makers for brand strength in China and are even challenging the top-tier foreign producers.

More importantly, Chinese consumer perceptions have undergone significant changes, with blind admiration for foreign brands becoming a thing of the past. Foreign and JV manufacturers are stepping up their research and development spending in China to cope with the market’s dynamic shift.

Foreign carmakers are bolstering their competitiveness in smart EVs by strengthening cooperation with Chinese players and doubling down on localizing R&D. This collaboration also includes buying production platforms, jointly developing products, and procuring components. Volkswagen, for example, is working with Xpeng, Audi with SAIC Motor, and Toyota Motor with BYD on new EVs. 

As the technical barriers for fuel-powered vehicles fall and the technical capabilities, product strength, and brand recognition of JVs in the EV field have yet to emerge, they have three possible routes to take, according to a report by China International Capital Corporation: complete localization of their businesses, taking Chinese partners to make up for their shortcomings, or exiting the market entirely.

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Launched in August 2016, Yicai Global is the English-language news service of Yicai Media Group, the financial news arm of Shanghai Media Group, which is one of China's largest state-owned media conglomerates. Focused primarily on China's business world, Yicai Global is dedicated to provide reliable and insightful information and analysis of the economy, finance, tech, startups, and entrepreneurs.

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