“China’s meteoric rise has convinced Europe that the very survival of this industry on the Old Continent was at stake”


Lhe employees of Aiways are worried, just six years after the birth of their start-up in Shanghai, in 2017. A host of good fairies then looked at the cradle of the new electric vehicle manufacturer, one more on one already bloated market: former Volvo executives for management; technology giant Tencent, Chinese VTC leader Didi and battery champion CATL for capital; and the Chinese government for political anointing. Alas, the company, which has never made money, had to stop production in August and is struggling to pay employees who appealed to the state. The Aiways affair? An example, among others, of the landing of the Chinese automotive sector against a backdrop of overcapacity, a drop in local sales and a price war launched by the American Tesla at the end of 2022.

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The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, has always displayed the ambition to make his country, as in other industrial fields, an automobile superpower, the equal of the United States, Japan and Germany. For more than ten years, start-ups and state companies have rushed into the market, supported by Beijing which subsidized them and secured their access to lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and rare earths essential to manufacturing. batteries. Today at a crossroads, the country has around fifty brands of electric or plug-in hybrid cars on an almost mature market.

In 2022, China will roll off its embly lines more than 27 million vehicles of all types, 70% of which are produced by Chinese manufacturers. With such volumes, economies of scale, technological innovation and still cheap labor, their production costs are 15% to 40% lower than those of European and American manufacturers, depending on the models and marks. Recently born in the world of tech, certain Chinese companies had the advantage of starting from a blank slate; today they are being courted for partnerships with Western manufacturers marked, even handicapped, by a century-old “thermal” culture.

“The global automotive industry will experience profound changes over the next ten years”, predicts Paul Gong, senior analyst at UBS. The consolidation of the sector should leave only around ten powerful groups, such as BYD, GAC, SAIC, Geely or Li Auto. With abroad as a new horizon. “Globalization is the only way out”declared Wang Fengying, boss of Great Wall Motor, cited in a study by the Roland Berger firm (August 2022). “Within ten years, we will witness the birth of world-cl Chinese brands”added in this note the boss of Chang’an Automobile. A spirit of conquest that also drives William Li, founder of Nio: “China is the most difficult market, and if we are able to survive there, I see no reason why we cannot survive in Europe and the United States. »

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