Chinese automakers have seen their exports hit over the past decade by a downturn in emerging markets. Now, armed with better products and improved technology, they aim to expand overseas by targeting Europe and other global markets.
Over the past decade, Chinese automakers’ exports to emerging markets have thinned to a trickle after key regions such as Russian, Brazil, North Africa and the Middle East encountered economic or social instability.
Now equipped with better technology and a new generation of products, Chinese car brands are regrouping to expand overseas by targeting Europe and a select group of major emerging markets.
Leading the effort are Geely Automobile Holdings, the largest domestic Chinese passenger vehicle maker, and Great Wall Motors, China’s largest light truck manufacturer.
The trade dispute between China and the United States has prompted Geeling to suspend plans to build vehicles under its premium Lynk & Co brand at Volvos Car’s plant in South Carolina. But the company remains committed to launch the brand to Europe. Lynk & Co whose products share the platform as the Volvo XC40, will launch sales in Western Europe in the first half of 2020, Geely President An Conghui told journalists in the south China city of Zhuhai, where he kicked off sales of the first multi-purpose vehicle for the Geely brand.
In addition to Lynk & Co’s products, the company plans to introduce Geely-badged vehicles, including the minivan, in Europe, President An noted, though he stopped short of providing more details on the plan. After acquiring a 49.9% stake in Malaysian car brand Proton in 2017, Geely has made South-east Asia one of its main export markets.
It started shipping the right-hand-drive version of the Boyue, Geely’s top-selling compact crossover in China to Malaysia. The vehicle is now distributed there under the Proton brand.
Following the Boyue, Geely plans to market and sell more products, including the minivan, through Proton’s dealerships, President An added. The vehicles will eventually be assembled at Proton’s plant and sold in Malaysia and other South-east Asian countries, according to Geely’s plan.
In 2017, Geely opened an assembly plant in Borisove, Belarus. The factory, which builds the Boyue, will supply Russia and other countries in the former Soviet Union after capacity is boosted to add other products.
Like Geely, Great Wall also treats Russia and its neighbouring countries such as Belarus and Kazakhstan as a key market.
Great Wall’s new assembly plant in the Tula Oblast region of central Russia will have output shortly. They will have an annual capacity of 150 000 vehicles. They will produce SUVs and crossovers for Great Walls Haval brand.
But Great Wall’s global ambitions are not stopping there. It is preparing to sell SUVs under it’s premium Wey brand and subcompact sedans under its electric vehicle marque Ora in Europe.
Great Wall is not the only domestic Chinese automaker seeking to sell EVs in Europe. Chery Automobile unveiled an electric crossover in 2017 at the Frankfurt Auto show while BIAC Motor displayed a concept electric crossover.
Several EV start-ups have disclosed plans to enter Europe. U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs have slowed China’s automakers’ moves to establish sales in the U.S. but there are no signs their renewed enthusiasm to venture into other markets has been affected.