The automotive industry in China has been the largest in the world measured by automobile unit production since 2008.[1][2] Since 2009, annual production of automobiles in China accounted for more than 32% of worldwide vehicle production, exceeding both that of the European Union and that of the United States and Japan combined.[3] As of at least 2024, China is the world's largest automobile market both in terms of sales and ownership.

While most of the cars manufactured in China are sold within China, exports – accounting for 11.5% of total production – reached 3.11 million units in 2022, making the country the world's second biggest car exporter.[4] In the first half of 2023, China overtook Japan to become the world's largest exporter of automobiles, exporting 2.34 million vehicles compared to 2.02 million for Japan.[5] China's home market provides its automakers a solid base and Chinese economic planners hope to build globally competitive auto companies[6][7] that will become more and more attractive and reliable over the years.[8]

The main industry group for the Chinese automotive industry is the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (中国汽车工业协会).

Manufacturers and brands

Further information: List of automobile manufacturers of China

Chinese major automobile manufacturers headquarter locations

Before 2010, the traditional "Big Four" refers to the four major state-owned car manufacturers, SAIC, FAW, Dongfeng and Changan. Other Chinese car manufacturers, both from public and private sectors, like Geely, BAIC, BYD, Chery, GAC, Great Wall, JAC and Seres are fast emerging as the major players with the expansion of Chinese automotive industry.

Central government controlled state-owned manufacturers

FAW (China First Automobile Works Group Corporation, Chinese: 中国第一汽车集团有限公司) is a Chinese state-owned automotive manufacturing company headquartered in Changchun which is directly under the control of Central Government of China. Founded the 15th July 1953, It is the oldest car manufacturer of the People's Republic of China. Currently FAW sells products under there different brands including Hongqi, Jiefang, and Bestune. FAW also operates joint ventures with Toyota, Volkswagen and Audi.

Dongfeng (Dongfeng Motor Corporation, Chinese: 东风汽车集团有限公司) is a Chinese state-owned automobile manufacturer headquartered in Wuhan, Hubei, which is directly under the control of Central Government of China. Originally known as Second Automobile Works when it was founded in 1969, FAW and SAW were the two major manufacturers before the Reform and Opening-up of China. It current owns Voyah, M-Hero, Aeolus, Forthing, Dongfeng Nammi and operates joint ventures include Cummins, Honda, Nissan, Infiniti, and Stellantis (PSA Peugeot Citroën).

Changan (Chang'an Automobile Group, Chinese: 重庆长安汽车股份有限公司) is an automobile manufacturer headquartered in Chongqing, and is a state-owned enterprise controlled by China South Industries Group Corporation, an enterprise under the control of Central Government. It is the oldest automobile manufacturer in China which can be traced back to 1862 of Qing Dynasty. Changan designs, develops, manufactures and sells passenger cars sold under the Changan Auto, Deepal, Oshan and Kaicene brand. Changan operates joint venture companies include Avatr, Ford and Mazda.

Local government controlled state-owned manufacturers

SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, Chinese:上海汽车集团股份有限公司) is a Chinese state-owned automotive manufacturing company headquartered in Shanghai. It is controlled by the Municipal Government of Shanghai City. SAIC sells vehicles under a variety of brands. Brand names include IM, Rising Auto, Maxus, MG, Roewe, Wuling, Baojun, Yuejin. Joint venture brands include Buick, Chevrolet, Iveco, Škoda, Volkswagen.

GAC (Guangzhou Automobile Corporation, Chinese: 广州汽车集团股份有限公司), is a Chinese state-owned automobile manufacturer headquartered in Guangzhou and controlled by the Provincial Government of Guangdong Province. GAC sells passenger cars under the Trumpchi and Aion brand operates foreign joint-venture with Honda and Toyota.

BAIC (Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation, Chinese: 北京汽车工业控股有限责任公司), is a state-owned enterprise located Beijing and controlled by the Municipal Government of Beijing City. Its owns the brands of Arcfox, Beijing, Beijing Off-road, Changhe, and Foton. It has foreign joint ventures with Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz.

JAC (Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group Corporation, Chinese: 安徽江淮汽车集团股份有限公司) is a state-owned enterprise based in Hefei, Anhui Province and controlled by the Provincial Government of Anhui. It owns the brands of JAC,JAC EV, Sehol.

Chery (Chery Automobile, Chinese: 奇瑞汽车股份有限公司), a Chinese state-owned automobile manufacturer based in Anhui and controlled by the Municipal Government of Wuhu City. They have a foreign joint venture with Jaguar Land Rover for the production of Jaguar and Land Rover cars in China. They also sell cars under the Chery, Exeed, Jetour and iCAR brand.

Private owned manufacturers

BYD (BYD Auto, Chinese: 比亚迪汽车), is an auto manufacturer based in Shenzhen, founded by BYD Company which are known for their batteries and electric buses. It is currently the biggest EV manufacture of the world. It operates brands include BYD, Denza, FangChengBao, Yangwang.

Geely (Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, Chinese: 浙江吉利控股集团有限公司), is the one of the biggest privately owned automobile manufacturer headquartered in Taizhou, Zhejiang. Currently one of the fastest growing automotive groups in the world, Geely is known for its ownership of the Swedish luxury car brand Volvo Cars, its performance counterpart Polestar, and the British sports car company Lotus. In China, their passenger car brands include Geely, Livan, Lynk & Co, Zeekr, Volvo Cars, Polestar, Lotus, LEVC, Farizon, Radar, Ji Yue and operate joint venture with Proton and Smart.

GWM (Great Wall Motor, Chinese: 长城汽车股份有限公司), private company famous for manufacturing SUVs headquartered in Baoding, Hebei. Great Wall sells vehicles under the brands of Haval, Wey, Tank and Ora. It operate a joint-venture called Spotlight Automotive with BWM Group to produced electric Mini vehicle.

Seres (Seres Group, Chinese: 赛力斯集团), is a private manufacturer headquartered in Chongqing. It used to be famous for producing light commercial vehicles and budget passenger vehicles. Backed by Chinese tech giant Huawei, Seres is transforming to producing premium electric vehicle since 2021. It owns the brands of Seres, AITO, Fengon and DFSK.

Chinese major automobile groups global sales (joint-venture brands excluded)[9]
Year State-owned Private owned
FAW Dongfeng Changan SAIC GAC BAIC JAC Chery Geely BYD GWM Seres
2010 1,038,290 607,068 1,316,557 1,424,513 45,065 682,895 442,547 750,456 425,194 521,761 415,779 226,198
2011 907,337 654,991 987,991 1,433,387 44,056 664,812 466,459 729,497 857,006 454,676 518,965 243,053
2012 718,327 611,446 950,568 1,659,973 71,505 683,991 448,813 653,476 905,083 462,512 672,234 202,991
2013 723,969 709,470 990,556 1,884,112 124,001 866,994 495,737 561,062 979,691 514,188 803,449 205,019
2014 627,006 715,344 1,126,011 2,051,240 146,694 864,783 446,802 570,718 878,818 446,329 767,825 277,000
2015 505,849 690,531 1,270,154 2,272,961 207,890 827,170 588,052 575,108 1,025,287 451,868 871,315 275,316
2016 505,711 779,298 1,382,917 2,533,586 375,723 988,109 643,342 682,474 1,333,077 510,157 1,086,639 381,636
2017 572,862 810,407 1,327,168 2,811,224 508,797 837,129 510,892 604,708 1,938,057 421,158 1,085,654 400,038
2018 543,986 664,313 1,139,540 2,957,136 535,323 701,754 462,477 752,759 2,276,846 528,298 1,072,529 347,837
2019 589,832 661,585 1,060,676 2,621,117 384,792 743,614 421,241 747,806 2,194,145 467,960 1,097,451 325,381
2020 779,403 725,475 1,306,169 2,575,775 353,597 790,241 456,125 731,117 2,150,134 431,447 1,111,598 273,590
2021 846,803 819,172 1,557,282 2,845,309 447,207 760,476 524,224 961,926 2,189,409 749,325 1,280,993 266,614
2022 555,406 743,032 1,874,569 2,779,123 633,704 570,681 500,401 1,232,727 2,312,613 1,881,669 1,067,523 267,246
2023 732,328 671,702 2,097,794 2,804,845 886,508 592,499 1,881,316 2,790,000 3,024,417 1,230,704 253,181
Chinese major EV startup ventures sales
Year Li Auto Nio Xpeng Hozon Leapmotor HIMA[10]
2018 - 11,348 482 1,206 - -
2019 1,000 20,565 16,608 11,212 1,000 -
2020 33,457 43,728 27,041 15,509 10,266 -
2021 90,491 91,429 98,155 69,674 43,121 -
2022 133,246 122,486 120,757 152,073 111,168 76,180
2023 376,030 160,038 141,601 127,496 144,155 95,279

See also: Electric vehicle industry in China

Foreign manufacturer and joint ventures manufacturers

See also: List_of_automobile_manufacturers_of_China § Joint_ventures

Since the initiation of reform and opening-up in China, almost all major international automobile manufacturers have entered the Chinese market through joint ventures. China has improved its industrial capabilities by absorbing advanced foreign technologies and management practices. Since 2010s, some foreign manufacturers and brands gradually exited the Chinese market due to their lack of competitiveness, such as Suzuki, Mitsubishi, FCA (Jeep, Fiat, Chrysler), Renault, PSA (DS) etc.

Foreign manufacturers

Until 2017, Chinese automotive policy required that a foreign carmaker must form a joint-venture with a Chinese carmaker if the former plans to sell its electric vehicles, with the Chinese carmaker owning 51% of the joint venture. However, since 2017, the Chinese government had indicated that it would liberalize foreign control in the automotive sector, allowing full ownership by foreign companies.[11]

Tesla Model 3 made by Tesla's Gigafactory Shanghai

In 2017, Tesla has been allowed to set up a plant in Shanghai city, make it the first foreign automaker to open a wholly owned factory in China. In 2022, BMW and Volkswagen had acquired 75% stake in their joint ventures, which enables them to have the majority control of its Chinese joint ventures.

Joint-venture manufacturers

Since the Reform and Opening-up in 1980s, Chinese government only allowed a foreign car manufacturer to partner with at most two Chinese car companies to produce cars locally. This restriction is to be loosened by 2022, and is already loosened for 'new energy' vehicle corporations. Volkswagen, for example, has already established three joint ventures (VW-JAC has been majority acquired by VW).

Guangqi Honda Accord
Company Marques Foreign-branded JVs
FAW Hongqi, Jiefang, Bestune FAW-Toyota, FAW-Volkswagen (Volkswagen, Audi, Jetta)
Dongfeng Voyah, M-Hero, Aeolus, Forthing, Nammi Dongfeng-Honda, Dongfeng-Nissan (Venucia), Dongfeng-Peugeot Citroën
Changan Changan, Deepal, Avatr, Oshan, Kaicene Changan Ford (Ford, Lincoln), Changan Mazda, Changan Ford NEV
SAIC IM,Rising, MG, Roewe, Maxus, Baojun/Wuling (under SGMW) SAIC-Volkswagen (Volkswagen, Skoda, Audi), SAIC-General Motors (Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac)
GAC Trumpchi, Aion GAC-Toyota, GAC-Honda
BAIC Arcfox, Beijing, Beijing Off-road Foton Beijing-Benz, Beijing-Hyundai
Chery Chery, Exeed, Jetour, iCAR, Luxeed Chery-Jaguar Land Rover
JAC JAC, JAC Yiwei, JAC Refine, Sehol
Geely Geely, Livan, Lynk & Co, Zeekr, Volvo Cars, Polestar, Lotus, LEVC, Farizon, Radar, Ji Yue, Proton, Smart
BYD BYD Auto, Yangwang, Denza, FangChengBao
Great Wall GWM, Haval, WEY, TANK, ORA Spotlight (Mini)
Seres Seres, AITO, Fengon, DFSK, Landian

History

China's automobile industry can be traced back to the early origin of Changan Automobile in 1862 when Li Hongzhang set up a military supply factory, the Shanghai Foreign Gun Bureau.[13][14] The first automobile in China was purchased from Hong Kong in 1902 by Yuan Shikai and gifted to Empress Dowager Cixi. It was later put on display in the Summer Palace Museum. During the early twentieth century, major western automobile manufacturers such as the Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and Mercedes-Benz had plants operating in Shanghai.

However, the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression of 1937 hampered the progress of the Chinese auto industry, as seen by the relocation of the Changan Automobile factory from Shanghai to Chongqing in the wake of the city's bombing and attack.[15] After the foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, plants and licensed auto design were established in China with assistance from the Soviet Union in the 1950s, marking the beginning of the country's rapidly expanding automobile sector. However, the Chinese automotive industry had small volumes for the first 30 years of the republic, not exceeding 100–200 thousand per year. Since the early 1990s, it has developed rapidly. China's annual automobile production capacity first exceeded one million in 1992. By 2000, China was producing over two million vehicles. After China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, the development of the automobile market accelerated further. Between 2002 and 2007, China's national automobile market grew by an average 21 percent, or one million vehicles year-on-year.[16] In 2009, China produced 13.79 million automobiles, of which 8 million were passenger cars and 3.41 million were commercial vehicles and surpassed the United States as the world's largest automobile producer by volume. In 2010, both sales and production topped 18 million units, with 13.76 million passenger cars delivered, in each case the largest by any nation in history.[17] In 2017, total vehicle production in China reached 28.879 million, accounting for 30.19% of global automotive production.[18] In 2023, China overtook Japan and became the world largest car exporter.[19]

Historic production data and milestones of Chinese automobile industry[20][21][22]
Year Production Global share Milestones
1955 61 Foundation of the First Automobile Works (FAW)
1960 22,574
1970 87,166
1978 149,062 Beginning of the Reform and Opening-up
1985 443,377
1990 509,242
1995 1,452,697
2002 3,250,000 5.6% Accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO)
2005 5,710,000 8.6%
2009 13,790,000 25.0% Surpassing the United States as the world's largest automobile producer
2010 18,260,000 24.2% The largest number of production by any nation in history
2015 24,500,000 27.43% Became the world largest EV producer
2017 29,020,000 30.19%
2022 27,021,000 31.8% Surpassing Germany as the world's second largest car exporter
2023 30,161,000 The highest production record in history, surpassing Japan as the world's second largest car exporter
Chinese brand passenger vehicle sales volume
Year Chinese brand passenger vehicle sales[23] Domestic share of Chinese brand passenger vehicle [23] Global passenger vehicle sales[24] Global share of Chinese brand passenger vehicle
2010 6,273,000 45.6% 58,239,494 10.77%
2011 6,112,200 42.2% 59,897,273 10.20%
2012 6,485,000 41.9% 63,081,024 10.28%
2013 7,222,000 40.3% 65,745,403 10.98%
2014 7,518,000 38.1% 67,782,035 11.09%
2015 8,737,600 41.3% 68,539,516 12.75%
2016 10,529,000 43.2% 72,105,435 14.60%
2017 10,847,000 43.9% 73,456,531 14.77%
2018 9,890,000 42.1% 70,498,388 14.03%
2019 8,470,000 39.2% 64,033,463 13.23%
2020 7,749,000 38.4% 53,915,928 14.37%
2021 9,543,000 44.4% 56,437,803 16.91%
2022 11,766,000 49.9% 57,485,378 20.47%
2023 14,596,000 56%

The dawn of industrialization (1928 to 1949)

The first Chinese built motor vehicle was a truck called the Ming Sheng. It was designed by Daniel F Myers and a prototype was made at the Liao Ning Trench Mortar Arsenal, Shenyang. The prototype was completed on May 31, 1931, for Zhang Xueliang. Prior to production commencing, the factory was bombed by the invading Japanese and production never commenced.[25] A fellow general, Yang Hucheng, patronized the inventor Tang Zhongming to make a new type of automobile engine powered by charcoal. In 1932 Tang founded the Chung Ming Machinery Co. Ltd. in Shanghai to produce the engines. Charcoal powered vehicles were mainly used during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression in China because of fuel shortages.[26] Tung oil was also used during the war as a petroleum substitute.[27] One source states that Du Yuming designed a car in 1937, but did not make it until 1943 after having been forced to move because of the war. No further information has been found about it.[28]

The socialist revolution era (1949 to 1980)

Jiefang CA10, first production vehicle of China, made by the First Automobile Works in 1956

The development of the Chinese automobile industry during this period was relatively slow due to the lack of free market competition and turbulence of socialist political movement like Culture Revolution. Except for a certain degree of development in the 1950s with assistance from the Soviet Union, the Chinese automobile industry remained closed and lagging behind until the period of Reform and Opening-up. Most domestically produced vehicles were primarily the Jiefang trucks for military or industrial department and the Hongqi sedans used by a limited number of government officials. The concept of private cars had not yet emerged in China during this period.

Hongqi CA72 (1959)

Since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, several vehicle assembly factories were set up in the 1950s and 1960s. They were Beijing (today's Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corporation), Shanghai (today's Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation), Nanjing (later Nanjing Automobile (Group) Corporation, merged with SAIC), and Jinan (evolving into China National Heavy Duty Truck Group). The Second Automobile Works (later Dongfeng Motor Corporation) was founded in 1968.

Shanghai SH760

The first Chinese production vehicles were trucks made by the First Automobile Works in 1956, called the Jiefang CA-10.[29] This was followed on March 10, 1958, by the 2½ ton light duty truck (NJ130), which was based on the Russian GAZ-51, was produced in Nanjing. The truck was named Yuejin (meaning "leap forward") by China's First Ministry of Industrial Machinery.

In June 1958 the Nanjing Automobile Works, previously a vehicle servicing unit of the Army, was established. Production continued until the last truck (NJ134) rolled off the assembly line on July 9, 1987. Cumulative production was 161,988 units (including models NJ130, NJ230, NJ135 and NJ134). The first production automobiles were the Dongfeng CA71, Hongqi CA72, Feng Huang (later known as the Shanghai SH760) all from 1958.

The reform and opening-up and foreign investment (1980 to 2000)

Chinese economic reform in 1978 have brought tremendous opportunities for the development of the Chinese automotive industry.

The passenger car industry was a minor part of vehicle production during the first three decades of China's socialist economy. As late as 1985, the country produced a total of only 5,200 passenger cars. Car sales increased dramatically, although they were almost entirely purchased by danweis (work units – private car ownership was virtually unknown at the time).[30]

As domestic production was very limited, import totals rose dramatically, despite a 260 per cent import duty on foreign vehicles. Before 1984, the dominant exporter of cars to China had been the Soviet Union. In 1984, Japan's vehicle exports to China increased sevenfold (from 10,800 to 85,000) and by mid-1985 China had become Japan's second biggest export market after the US.[31] The country spent some $3 billion to import more than 350,000 vehicles (including 106,000 cars and 111,000 trucks) in 1985 alone. Three taxi companies in particular thirsted for Japanese cars, such as Toyota Crowns and Nissan Bluebirds.[32]

As this spending binge began to lead to a severe trade deficit, the Chinese leadership put on the brakes, through the adjustment of import and foreign exchange policies.[33] Customs duties on imported goods were raised in March 1985 and a new "regulatory tax" was added a little later. In September 1985, a two-year moratorium on nearly all vehicle imports was imposed.[33]

In July 1979, China adopted its first Law on Joint Venture Using Chinese and Foreign Investment. This law was effective in helping to attract and absorb foreign technology and capital from developed countries like the United States, facilitated China's exports to such countries, and thereby contributed to China's subsequent rapid economic growth.[34]

Jeep Cherokee, made by first joint venture of China, the Beijing Jeep

While limiting imports, China also tried to increase local production by boosting the various existing joint-venture passenger car production agreements, as well as adding new ones. In 1983, American Motors Corporation (AMC, later acquired by Chrysler Corporation) signed a 20-year contract to produce their Jeep-model vehicles in Beijing. The following year, Germany's Volkswagen signed a 25-year contract to make passenger cars in Shanghai, and France's Peugeot agreed to another passenger car project to make vehicles in the prosperous southern city of Guangzhou.[32] These early joint ventures did not allow the Chinese to borrow much foreign technology, as knock-down kit assembly made up the majority of manufacturing activities;[35] tooling may not have been allowed to slip past borders.

Volkswagen Santana, made by SAIC-VW, once was the most popular family sedan from 1990s to 2010s.

Until the late 1990s, there were eight joint venture enterprises in China producing passenger cars, including Shanghai Volkswagen, FAW-Volkswagen, Beijing Jeep, Guangzhou Peugeot, Dongfeng Citroën, Changan Suzuki, Changhe Suzuki, and Southeast Motor.

In April 1986, the "Seventh Five-Year Plan (1986-1990)" officially proposed: "To consider the automobile manufacturing industry as a crucial pillar industry." It had a profound and positive impact on the Chinese automotive industry by recognizing it as a key national pillar industry, driving rapid industry growth, fostering domestic market prosperity, enhancing international competitiveness, and promoting technological innovation and sustainable development.[36]

Hongqi Mingshi, rebadged Audi 100

The Chinese automotive industry gradually moved away from the manual workshop model and embraced Western advanced technologies and quality control management. Over the course of a decade, through digestion and absorption, the localization rate of Chinese automotive components significantly increased. In 1997, the localization rate of the SAIC-VW Santana, one of the most popular sedan in China then, jumped from 60.09% six years prior to over 90%, with key components like the car body, engine, transmission, and front and rear axle assemblies all achieving localization. The localization rate of the FAW-VW Audi 100 reached 93%, while the Jetta achieved an 84.02%. The localization rate of the Citroën Fukang by FAW exceeded 80%. The improvement in the localization rate of complete vehicles was made possible by the emerging prowess of complementary enterprises in the industry chain. Renowned automotive components today, such as diesel engines from Yuchai Machinery Factory and automotive glass from Fuyao, had their beginnings during this period.[37]

Several enterprises entered the automobile industry since 1994. Some of them are originated from defense industry, such as Chang'an Motors, Changhe, and Hafei Motor; some were developed from old state-owned companies, such as BYD Auto, Brilliance China Auto, Chery Automobile, and Changfeng Automobile. Others are private-owned companies, such as Geely Automobile and Great Wall Motors.

The explosive growth and expansion (2000 to 2020)

Geely Haoqin, first vehicle produced by Chinese private manufacturer Geely in 1998

With China's accession to the WTO in 2001, automotive tariffs began to be substantially reduced, leading to a decrease in the prices of imported cars. Foreign automotive giants brought a multitude of their latest models into China. According to WTO regulations, starting from 2006, the import tariffs on complete vehicles in China were lowered from the previous 30% to 28%. In 2010, they were further reduced to 25%. Tariffs on automotive components like transmissions, shock absorbers, radiators, clutches, and steering units decreased from 13.5% to 12.9% and eventually to 10%.

Geely Borui was named 2016 China "Car of the Year"[38]

China's entry into WTO brought about increased competition from domestic and foreign automotive brands. Amidst this intense competition, the prices in the domestic automotive market continued to decline. The annual average reduction in car prices has exceeded 8%, with a particularly significant decrease of 13.5% in 2004.[39][40]

Wuling has been the most popular minivan brand during 2000-2020. Wuling Hongguang achieved a record-breaking annual sales of 750,000 in the Chinese market in 2014.[41]

The Chinese automotive market experienced explosive growth after 2000. This growth is closely tied to China's economic development and the rise of the middle class. An increasing number of Chinese households can afford cars, leading to a surge in sales. China's automobile production surged from 2 million vehicles in 2000 to 29 million vehicles in 2017, marking a growth of over fourteenfold. Its global market share rose from 3% to 30%, achieving remarkable growth. China has become the largest auto producer in human history, surpassing the combined production of traditional developed countries like the United States, Japan, and Europe. [21]

In 2017, there were 300.3 million registered vehicles in China.[42]

Haval H6, best-selling SUV for 100 consecutive months, still holding the highest monthly sales record of 80,000 units in Chinese market. [43]

In the 2010s, with the rapid growth of China's automobile production, China became the country with the most diverse range of automotive brands globally. It has the most brands and models, which made it the most competitive market in the world. [44]Apart from mainstream joint-venture brands dominating the mid-to-high-end market, there was a substantial presence of local state-owned and private small and medium-sized automotive companies. However, after 2018, an increasing number of these smaller brands became 'zombie company' state, with many suspending production and operations, as market-driven consolidation accelerated. The number of Chinese automotive brands increased from just over 20 in the early 1990s to 84 in 2019.[45]

On February 29, 2016, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology shut down 13 automobile manufacturers that did not meet mandatory production evaluations for two consecutive years.[46]

According to research by investment bank Goldman Sachs, newly opened Chinese car plants are the most robotized of such facilities worldwide.[47][48]

In 2009, the State Council of China issued the "Automobile Industry Adjustment and Revitalization Plan," which emphasized "Using new energy vehicles as a breakthrough, strengthening independent innovation to establish new competitive advantages." It explicitly outlined and anchored China's plan to use new energy vehicles as a catalyst to surpass the Western traditional automotive powerhouses, breaking their dominance in internal combustion engine technology. This strategy is commonly referred to as the "corner overtaking strategy" in the Chinese automotive industry.[50]

The strategy is a success. In 2010, China's sales of new energy vehicles(NEV) were only 5,000 units. By 2015, the sales had surged to 331,000 units. Since 2016, China has consistently maintained its position as the world's leader in terms of the total stock of NEVs and annual additions. The annual compound growth rate of production and sales of NEV has consistently remained at around 50%. In 2020, China achieved a milestone with NEV sales reaching 1.367 million units, accounting for more than 50% of globe market share.[51][52]

The steps towards world leader (2020-present)

Nio ES8, debuted in 2018, a luxury EV pioneered with the battery swap capability, produced by Chinese EV startup Nio.

Amidst the fierce domestic competition in China's domestic market, the world's largest automotive market, the competitiveness of the Chinese automotive industry chain continues to rise, gradually gaining a leading position in technology. The reputation of Chinese carmakers has rapidly shifted, from being seen as making low-quality knock-offs to becoming a true rival for Western brands. Chinese automakers have established the building blocks for future competitiveness in EV technology, software, digitalization, factor cost and supply chain areas.[53]

With the accelerated electrification of the Chinese automotive market, some joint ventures that were already facing challenges during the era of traditional fuel-powered cars are further marginalized. They are opting not to intensify their efforts in the Chinese market and instead choosing to exit the fierce competition. Their existing production capacity is being acquired by their Chinese joint venture partners, who are using it to expand production capacity for their own independent new energy vehicles. This phenomenon reflects the ongoing dynamic of gains and losses between different brand camps in the current Chinese automotive market.

Phasing-out of foregin joint ventures/brands during 2010-2020s
Brand Joint venture Foreign manufacturer Chinese manufacturer Period of existence
Fiat GAC FCA Stellantis GAC 2010-2022
Jeep
DS Changan PSA Changan 2011-2020
Mistsubishi GAC Mitsubishi Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi GAC 2012-2023
Soueast Fujian Motor 2013-2020
Renault Dongfeng Renault Dongfeng 2013-2020
Acura GAC Acura Honda GAC 2016-2022
Mazda FAW Car-Mazda Mazda FAW 2005-2021
Suzuki Changan Suzuki Suzuki Changan 1993-2018
Dacia Spring, built and rebadged and by Dongfeng, one of the most popular EV in Europe.
Smart 1, built by Geely's joint-venture with Mercedes-Benz. Developed based on Geely's EV technology.

China's domestic brands are leading the market in the development and implementation of advanced assisted driving systems, capitalizing on their early-entry advantages in the electric and intelligent vehicle sector.[54]

As in the 1990s, Chinese automotive manufacturers sought western technology for joint ventures, a reversal occurred in the 2020s. Western manufacturers, began seeking technological support from Chinese manufacturers and rush to invest in China through establishing joint ventures. Dozens of Chinese EV startup ventures have raised with technological advantages which attracted the investment from traditional Western auto giants. Renault-Nissan, VW, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Stellantis.

Toyota bZ3, Toyota's first EV sedan, empowered by BYD's battery, motor and ECU.

In 2017, Renault-Nissan and Dongfeng decided to set up a joint venture call "eGT New Energy Automotive" to produce A-segment EV. [55]

In 2019, Mercedes-Benz announced the establishment of a joint venture partnership with Chinese automaker Geely.[56] Geely acquired 50% of Smart brand to produce EV based on Geely's SEA platform.[57]

In July 2019, Renault Group announced a capital injection of 1 billion Yuan to acquire a 50% stake in JMEV, an EV subsidiary of Jiangling Motors Corporation.[58]

In 2020, BMW and Great Wall Motor invested RMB 5.1 billion on a joint venture, Spotlight Automotive, to produce the Mini brand EV using the technology of Great Wall Motor.[59]

In 2020, Toyota announced its joint venture with Chinese battery giant BYD. The joint venture was set to assist technical know-how for Toyota's EV development and supply the battery, electric motor and electronic control unit for Toyota's EV. [60] Toyota bZ3, the first electric sedan of Toyota, was built under the assistance of BYD with its technology.

In July 2023, Audi and SAIC announced their partnership that the EV platform from IM Motors, the brand of SAIC, will be introduced into Audi's electric models.[61]

In July 2023, Volkswagen Group announced its investment of $700 million in XPeng, the EV startup venture from China, for purchasing 4.99% stake of the company. The VW will collaborate with XPeng to develop two VW brand electric models for the mid-size segment in the Chinese market in 2026.[62][63]

In August 2023, Geely and Renault decided to set a joint venture Horse with each entity holding 50% stake, to manufacture internal combustion engined (ICE) and hybrid powertrains for Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi vehicle with Geely's technology. [64]

In September 2023, Ford and Changan announced to establish a new joint venture Changan Ford NEV, to produce and distribute Ford vehicles based on Changan's technology of electric vehicle. Changan holds 70% stake in the JV while Ford holds 30%.[65][66]

In October 2023, Stellantis announced its investment to Leapmotor at the price of 1.5 billion Euro, acquiring 20% of Leapmotor for the support of technology to built EV.[67]

"Reversed" joint ventures/investment of western manufacturers
Year Foreign manufacturer Chinese manufacturer Reversed joint venture/collobration
2017 Renault/Nissan Dongfeng
  • Producing Renault and Dacia brand EV based on Dongfeng's technology
eGT New Energy Automotive (25:25:50)
2019 Renault JMCG
  • 50% of JMEV acquired by Renault
  • Developing and producing JMEV and Mobilize brand EV
JMEV (50:37)
2019 Mercedes-Benz Geely
  • 50% of Smart brand acquired by Geely
  • Producing Smart brand EV by Geely
Smart (50:50)
2020 BMW Great Wall Motor
  • Developing and producing Mini brand EV by GWM
Spotlight Automotive (50:50)
2020 Toyota BYD
  • Provide technical support for Toyota and supply the BYD-made battery, electric motor and electronic control unit for Toyota's EV.
BYD Toyota EV Technology (50:50)
2023 Volkswagen XPeng
  • 4.99% of Xpeng acquired by VW
  • Rebadging/technology transfer for VW vehicles
2023 Audi IM Motors
  • Rebadging/technology transfer for Audi vehicles
2023 Stellantis Leapmotor
  • 20% of Leapmotor acquired by Stellantis
  • Rebadging/technology transfer for Stellantis vehicles
  • Setup of joint venture to sell Leapmotor vehicles globally
Leapmotor International (51:49)
2023 Renault Geely
Horse (50:50)
2023 Ford Changan
  • Developing and producing Ford brand electric vehicles by Changan
Changan Ford NEV (30:70)

Starting in 2020, the export of China's automobile came to the fore in global market. While the Chinese government has allowed Western manufacturers to rapidly expand and develop within its market since the inception of its Reform and Opening-up policy for more than four decades, Chinese automobiles' presence in world market is often perceived by the West as "invasion" and "threat", which caused alert and suppression by some western countries.

United States - During Donald Trump's presidency, the U.S. imposes a stiff 27.5 percent tariff for Chinese-made cars and has buttressed that with the protectionist tax credits of President Joe Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, which put a premium on car and battery production in North America. In addition, hostility toward China from leaders in both political parties of US make it difficult for Chinese carmakers to penetrate the U.S. market.[68]

In November 2023, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers want the Biden administration to further hike tariffs on Chinese-made vehicles and investigate ways to prevent Chinese companies from exporting to the United States from Mexico to protect US automobile industry.[69]

In December 2023, the US Government rolled out rules for electric vehicle tax credits to suppress Chinese car imports. Any car using parts that comes from company which has more than 25 percent of board seats controlled by China will be disqualified for a $7,500 subsidy.[70][71]

EU - In September 2023, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced EU would launch an anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese electric vehicles, claiming "Global markets are now flooded with cheaper Chinese electric cars. And their price is kept artificially low by huge state subsidies. This is distorting our market",[72] though the average price of Chinese EV in EU market is significantly higher than they are in domestic market China. Chinese government believes that the investigation proposed by the EU is a practice of pure "protectionism," to protect the EU's own industry in the name of "fair competition."[73]

UK - Professor Jim Saker, the president of the Institute of the Motor Industry in the UK, describe the Chinese car in UK as "invasion by trojan horse" and alleges there are "major security issues" with Chinese cars, that "paralyzing a country."[74]

Western automobile industry - Carlos Tavares, the CEO of Stellantis, a well-known criticizer of Chinese automobile industry, called the influx of Chinese car-makers an "invasion" and warned the "possibility of geopolitical tensions" with China in 2022.[74][75] However, after Stellantis invested 1.5 billion Euro to acquired stakes of Chinese startup venture Leapmotor in 2023, he defended Chinese automobiles presence in globe market, states "we have to adopt a global mentality. We do not support a fragmented world. We like competition. To start a probe is not the best way to tackle those questions"[76] and "Stallantis could benefit from "Leapmotor's competitiveness both in China and abroad".[77]

AITO M9, designed and supplied by Huawei's hardware and software solution.

Collaborating with Chinese tech giants companies, like Huawei, Baidu, and DJI etc., Chinese manufacturers are increasingly offering new advanced safety features, autonomous driving functionality, internet access, futuristic infotainment options, they are essentially evolving into an entirely new category – that of software-defined vehicles (SDVs).[78][79]

Huawei's partnership with automobile manufacturers has taken the form of three models, the standardized parts supply model, the "Huawei Inside" (HI) model, and the Harmony Intelligent Mobility Alliance (HIMA).[80][81] Baidu and DJI provide autonomous driving system and hardware to auto manufacturers.[82][83] Qihoo 360 invested the Chinese EV startup company Hozon Auto.[84] Geely collaborates with Baidu to set up joint-venture brands and acquired Chinese smartphone company Meizu to empower its Polestar and Lynk & Co brands with its auto OS and AR system. Xiaomi is the only Chinese tech company that directly involved in car manufacturing and operates its factory in Beijing.[85]

Chinese tech companies' involvement in auto industry
Tech company Manufacturer Collabarating brand Note
Huawei Seres AITO Harmony Intelligent Mobility Alliance (HIMA). Huawei provides a complete set of vehicle solutions and participates in product definition, design, marketing, user experience, quality control and delivery. While the manufacturers are responsible for vehicle manufacturing.
Chery Luxeed
JAC
BAIC BluePark Stelato
BAIC BluePark Arcfox Huawei Inside (HI) model. Huawei provide full-stack smart car solution and Huawei's smart cockpit to car manufacturers. In this mode, Huawei empowers vehicle intelligence through the supply of both software and hardware, but does not participate in the design, development, and marketing of the vehicles.
Changan Avatr
Baidu Geely Jidu Auto/ Ji Yue Baidu and Geely setup two joint venture companies, Jidu Auto for automotive technology solution and Ji Yue for car manufacturing.
Dongfeng Voyah Baidu empowers Dongfeng's electric vehicle brand, Voyah, by equipping it with Baidu's Apollo autonomous driving system.
DJI SAIC-GM-Wuling Baojun DJI provides autonomous driving system for SGMW's Baojun brand.
Qihoo 360 Hozon Neta Investment
Xiaomi Xiaomi Auto Directly invest and involved in car manufacturing.
Meizu Geely Lynk&Co, Polestar Meizu provides auto OS called Flyme Auto OS, and AR system.

Alternative fuel vehicles

Zeekr 001
New Baojun E300
XPeng P5
Arcfox αT
HiPhi Y

China encourages the development of clean and fuel efficient vehicles in an effort to sustain continued growth of the country's automobile industry (see Fuel economy in automobiles). By the end of 2007, China plans to reduce the average fuel consumption per 100 km for all types of vehicles by 10%. The proportion of vehicles burning alternate fuel will be increased to help optimize the country's energy consumption. Priority will be given to facilitating the research and development of electric and hybrid vehicles as well as alternate fuel vehicles, especially CNG/LNG. Major cities like Beijing and Shanghai already require Euro-3 emission standards. On March 10, 2008, Beijing became the first city to require light-duty vehicles to meet China-4 emission standard, which was equivalent to Euro-4. Beijing shifted its emission standards to the fifth-stage standards for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles in January 2013 and August 2015, respectively. On 12 April 2016, the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) released the proposal for light-duty China-6 standard.

Electric vehicles (EV) and Fuel cell vehicles (FCV)

Main article: New energy vehicles in China

Due to serious air pollution problems and ever-increasing traffic, alternative-energy vehicle production is an area of strong focus for the Chinese government, and several NEV-friendly policies have appeared at the national and local level as a result. In many cities, free licenses — otherwise a significant expenditure for traditional vehicles — are provided for electric vehicle owners, along with exemptions for registry lotteries. These kinds of policies have created strong interest in new energy vehicles within China.

The Chinese Automotive Industry Plan, announced on the main Web site of China's central government, said China aims to create capacity to produce 500,000 new energy vehicles, such as battery electric cars and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The plan aims to increase sales of such new-energy cars to account for about 5% of China's passenger vehicle sales.[86] At the 2010 Beijing Motor Show, more than 20 electric vehicles were on display, most of which came from native automakers. As of May 2010, at least 10 all-electric models have been reported to be on track for volume-production.[87] The first mass-produced plug-in hybrid car (BYD F3DM), all-electric minivan (BYD e6) and all-electric long-range bus (BYD K9) are Chinese.

New energy vehicle sales between January 2011 and March 2016, totaled 502,572 units, of which, over 92% were sold between January 2014 and March 2016. These figures include heavy-duty commercial vehicles such as buses and sanitation trucks. These figures only include vehicles manufactured in the country as imports are not subject to government subsidies. As of March 2016, the Chinese stock of plug-in electric vehicles consist of 366,219 all-electric vehicles (72.9%) and 136,353 plug-in hybrids (27.1%).[88][89][90][91][92][93]

As of December 2015, China is the world's largest electric bus market, and by 2020, the country was expected to account for more than 50% of the global electric bus market.[94] China also is the world's leader in the plug-in heavy-duty segment, including electric buses, plug-in trucks, particularly sanitation/garbage trucks.[95][96]

A September 2018 update by CNBC included a prediction that the market share of China's electric vehicles will grow by 40% in the short term and that China expected total annual sales of electric and gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles to be 2 million by 2020.[97] The government was encouraging the purchase of such cars with a short wait time for a new license plate and with government-backed discounts of up to 40% on electric vehicles.[98] In 2018, new-energy vehicles accounted for about 3% of China's new car sales; that was expected to increase to over 30% by 2030 according to an estimate by the Japanese Mizuho Bank.[99]

The country has a significant benefit over others. Some two-thirds of the world's lithium-ion batteries are made in China and the country's EV manufacturing facilities are close to the source these components. In October 2018, Tesla purchased land for the construction of an EV manufacturing plant in Shanghai's Lingang area.[100][101] By then, VW had already begun construction of its EV factory, with a planned annual capacity of 300,000 SAIC-VW MEB-platform vehicles, starting with three battery-electric vehicles and two plug-in hybrids.[102][103] Toyota Motor had already launched sales of an EV branded under Guangzhou Automobile Group; the two companies have a joint venture in China.[99]

Production

Automotive industry production capacity of China by province[104]
Region Production share Provincial Production volume in 2023 Capacity utilization Chinese brands Foreign brands
Yangtze Delta 28.1% Anhui 2,250,743 67.0% Chery, BYD, Changan, Sehol, JAC, Jetour Land Rover, Jaguar
Jiangsu 1,837,252 39.3% Li Auto, BYD, Ora, Roewe, MG, Maxus, Deepal, Hiphi Volkwagen, Kia, Mazda,
Shanghai 1,810,679 69.6% IM Motors, Roewe, Rising, BYD Cadillac, Audi, Tesla, Buick, Mercedes-Benz
Zhejiang 1,368,005 29.7% Geely, Zeekr, Geely Galaxy, Lynk&Co, Polestar, Aion, Neta, Leapmotor, BYD Volkwagen, Volvo, Ford
Central 14.8% Hubei 1,585,294 41.4% Voyah, M-Hero, Aeolus, Trumpchi,Tank Honda,Nissan, Infiniti, Buick, Chevolet, Dacia
Hunan 1,009,720 42.1% BYD, Denza, Geely, Beijing Volkwagen
Henan 811,836 37.4% MG, Jetour, Roewe, BYD, Fangchenbao Venucia
Jiangxi 431,244 26.3% BYD, Trumpchi, JMC Ford
Chuan-Yu 9.6% Chongqing 1,698,586 34.9% Changan, Avatr, Deepal, Oshan, Tank, Jinbei, AITO, Seres, Landian, Livan Ford, Lincon
Sichuan 782,924 43.3% Zeekr, Lynk&Co, Kaiyi Volvo, Toyota, Volkwagen, Jetta
Peral River Delta 13.2% Guangdong 3,418,749 65.5% Trumpchi, Aion, BYD, Xpeng, Beijing Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Audi, Volkswagen
Jing-Jin-Ji 9.8% Tianjin 1,075,244 71.1% Haval Volkswagen, Audi, Toyota
Beijing 912,003 45.6% Changan, Beijing Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai
Heibei 542,214 35.0% Haval, Wey, Lynk&Co Hyundai
Northeast 10.5% Jilin 1,450,020 65.0% Hongqi, Bestune Volkswagen, Audi, Toyota
Liaoling 1,197,285 64.9% Chery BMW, Nissan, Infiniti, Buick
Helongjiang 83,876 52.4%   Volvo, Ford
Other 14.0% Shaanxi 1,255,307 85.1% BYD, Yangwang, Denza, Smart  
Guangxi 882,892 36.8% Guangxi Auto, Forthing Chevrolet
Shandong 849,469 36.5% BYD, Wuling Volkswagen, Audi, Cadillac, Buick, Chevrolet
Fujian 287,021 44.5% MG Mercedes-Benz
Shanxi 164,188 54.7% Geely Geometery  
Inner Mongolia 89,775 89.8% Chery  
Guizhou 51,529 16.6% Geely  
Xinjiang 40,789 40.8% Trumpchi Volkwagen
Hainan 12,871 2.9% Haima  
Yunnan 3,387 3.4% JMEV  

Sales

As of at least 2024, China is the world's largest market both in terms of automobile sales and ownership.[105]: 105 

In China, authorized car dealership are called 4S car shops. The 4S represents Sales (整車销售 ), Spare parts (零配件), Service (售後服务) and Survey (信息反馈).

In most cases, brand-name new cars can only be purchased from 4S shops. For new cars in high demand, a high premium is added for instant delivery or just placing an order.

The profit of car dealers in China is quite high compared to the rest of the world, in most cases 10%. This is supposedly due to the 'non-transparent invoice price' as announced by manufactures and to the premiums they charge for quick delivery. Due to the lack of knowledge for most customers, dealers can sell add-ons at much higher prices than the aftermarket.

There is no regulation by either the government or associations but some retailers are members of the China Automobile Dealers Association (CADA).[106]

Exports

MG ZS is most exported Chinese car model in 2022, with a total of 123,500 units exported.[107]

As of 2012, exports of Chinese automobiles were about 1 million vehicles per year and rapidly increasing. Most sales were made to emerging economies such as Afghanistan, Algeria, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Mexico, North Korea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, or Turkey[108] where a Chinese-made automobile such as a Geely, Great Wall, or Chery sells for about half of what a comparable model manufactured by a multinational brand such as Toyota does. Cars made in China by multinational joint ventures are generally not exported. The quality of Chinese cars is increasing rapidly but, according to J. D. Power and Associates in 2012, it was not expected to reach parity with multinational manufacturers until about 2018.[109]

Most of cars manufactured in China are sold within the country; in 2011, exports totalled 814,300 units.[108] China's home market provides its automakers a solid base and Chinese economic planners hope to build globally competitive auto companies[6][7] that will become more and more attractive and reliable over the years.[8] In 2017, the country exported roughly 891,000 vehicles.[110] In that year, the value of exports was nearly $70 billion in auto parts and $14 billion in cars, while total imports (parts and vehicles) totaled about $90 billion.[111]

In 2022, Chinese car exports reached 3.11 million units, ranking second worldwide. Domestic sales still accounted for the bulk of the 27 million units produced. Electric cars sales totaled 679,000.[4] In 2023, China overtook Japan, becoming the largest car exporter in the world. The increased export numbers contributed to the growing demand for electric cars.[19]

Export volume of Chinese automobile industry[23][112]
Year Total Passenger vehicle Commercial vehicle
2010 544,900 283,000 261,900
2011 814,000 476,100 338,200
2012 1,056,100 661,200 394,900
2013 977,300 596,300 381,000
2014 910,400 533,000 377,300
2015 699,400 345,400 354,000
2016 708,000 477,000 231,000
2017 891,000 639,000 252,000
2018 1,041,000 758,000 283,000
2019 1,024,000 725,000 299,000
2020 995,000 760,000 235,000
2021 2,015,000 1,614,000 402,000
2022 3,111,000 2,529,000 582,000
2023 5,220,000 4,450,000 770,000
The top-10 most-exported manufacturers in China[113][23]
Ranking 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018
1 SAIC 1,090,000 SAIC 906,000 SAIC 598,000 SAIC 323,000 SAIC 285,000 SAIC 238,200
2 Chery 925,000 Chery 452,000 Chery 269,000 Chery 114,000 Chery 96,000 Chery 122,900
3 Geely 408,000 Tesla 271,000 Tesla 163,000 Changan 82,000 Dongfeng 86,000 BAIC 77,000
4 Changan 358,000 Changan 249,000 Changan 159,000 Geely 73,000 BAIC 80,000 JAC 74,800
5 Tesla 344,000 Dongfeng 242,000 Dongfeng 154,000 GWM 70,000 Changan 68,000 Dongfeng 73,800
6 GWM 316,000 Geely 198,000 GWM 143,000 Dongfeng 69,000 GWM 65,000 Changan 61,400
7 BYD 252,000 GWM 173,000 Geely 115,000 BAIC 54,000 Geely 58,000 Volvo 55,800
8 Dongfeng 231,000 JAC 115,000 BAIC 81,000 Volvo 41,000 JAC 45,000 GWM 47,000
9 BAIC 190,000 BAIC 110,000 JAC 74,000 JAC 37,000 Volvo 44,000 FAW 43,600
10 JAC 170,000 Sinotruck 83,000 Sinotruck 54,000 Sinotruck 31,000 Sinotruck 40,000 Brillance 43,400

^ The figures of SAIC includes the SAIC-GM and SAIC-GM-Wuling

See also

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