China now world's top vehicle exporter
NEVs give edge; trade body sees 2023 figure at 5m units; H1 data put Japan at No 2
China surpassed Japan as the world's largest vehicle exporter in the first half of this year — and analysts attributed the achievement to the growing popularity of new energy vehicles made in the country.
Auto manufacturers in China shipped 2.34 million vehicles overseas from January to June, up almost 77 percent year-on-year, said the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers citing data from the General Administration of Customs.
Japan lagged at 2.02 million units in the same period, up 17 percent year-on-year, data from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association showed.
China, which was the world's No 2 vehicle exporter last year, already beat Japan by the first quarter this year.
Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association, said demand for Chinese-made EVs has been surging in major markets such as Europe and Southeast Asia.
Cui estimates China's full-year vehicle exports may reach 5 million units, up from 3.11 million units in 2022.
China's exports of NEVs, which include EVs and plug-in hybrids, totaled 534,000 units from January to June, up 160 percent year-on-year, according to CAAM data.
They accounted for roughly 23 percent of the country's total vehicle exports in the period, and their growth rate was more than twice that of the average vehicle exports.
Tesla, whose Shanghai plant serves as a major export hub globally, shipped more than 180,000 vehicles out of China in the first half, up more than 87 percent year-on-year, with the list of destinations growing to include countries such as Thailand and South Korea.
BYD exported more than 81,000 vehicles in the same period, around 10 times that of the same period last year, as the largest NEV maker in China started to rev up its forays into overseas markets from the second half of last year.
SAIC, China's largest vehicle maker by sales, sold 115,000 MG-branded vehicles in Europe in the first half, of which over 50 percent were NEVs, said Yu De, managing director of the carmaker's international business department.
SAIC has been China's top exporter, with 483,000 units shipped overseas from January to June. It said it expects its total exports this year to reach 1.23 million units, of which MG-branded NEVs will likely exceed 200,000 units.
Zeekr, a premium Chinese EV brand under Geely Holding Group, saw its first model for the European market roll off the assembly line earlier this month. It will start deliveries in Sweden and the Netherlands later this year.
Zeekr said it will launch its vehicles in other European markets, including Denmark, Germany, France and Norway, in 2024.
Cui of the CPCA said Chinese brands' deeper inroads into Russia also helped boost China's overseas automobile sales as some international brands withdrew from that country because of its conflict with Ukraine.
Russia, Mexico and Belgium were among the top three destinations for China's total vehicle exports, according to GAC data based on exports in the first five months of the year.