Chinese brands seek to crack Western Europe with EVs

Yang Jian

Automotive News | 2018-12-7

SHANGHAI -- No Chinese brand has succeeded in distributing vehicles in Western Europe, but that may soon change as several Chinese companies are preparing to crack the market with electric vehicles.

On the sidelines of an event organized by U.S. marketing consultancy Ries & Ries last week in Shanghai, Michael Ning, vice president of Great Wall Motor Co., told  Automotive News China   his company expects to launch electric-car sales in Western Europe in late 2020 or 2021. 

The first product Great Wall, a major private light-vehicle maker in China, will bring to Europe is a four-seat subcompact sedan, which will be marketed under the company¡¯s Ora EV brand.

The Ora R1 electric car was designed to meet European standards for city commuting. With a range of up to 350 kilometers (217 miles), it will go on sale in China on Dec. 18 with a starting price 61,800 yuan ($8,970) after government subsidies, according to Ning.

Aside from Great Wall, at least two Chinese EV startups also plan to sell their products in Western Europe. 

In September, Huang Ximing, chairman of Bordrin Motor Corp. in Shanghai, told  Automotive News China   that he had been contacted by a group of European car dealers about marketing his company¡¯s first product, a B-class electric SUV, in Western Europe. 

Huang, a former engineer at Ford Motor Co., said European dealers were impressed by the EV¡¯s long range (550 km), low prices (around 220,000 yuan) and light weight (1.93 tons) compared with similar models of Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

In October, Thunder Power, an EV startup with r&d and production operations in Ganzhou of east China¡¯s Jiangxi province, signed an agreement with the government in southern Belgium¡¯s Wallonia region to construct an assembly plant along with a tech center in the region. 

The plant, funded by the Wallonia government, is to start producing an electric car designed for urban consumers in Europe in 2020. Its annual output will increase to 30,000 vehicles in 2021 from 10,000 initially, according to Thunder Power. Details of the electric car have yet to be revealed. 

Meanwhile, SAIC Motor Corp., which sells a small volume of gasoline-powered cars in the United Kingdom under the MG brand it acquired 2007, is also seeking to gain market share in other Western European countries with its latest EV -- a battery-powered version of the MG ZS subcompact crossover.

While unveiling the electric MG ZS at an auto show in the South China city of Guangzhou last month, SAIC announced that it would test the vehicle on roads several European countries including the United Kingdom, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Germany and France over the next two months.

Its goal is to launch sales of the EV in Europe including the United Kingdom in the first half of 2019, the major state-owned Chinese automaker said. 

In the past decade, a slew of Chinese brands including Brilliance, Geely, Changan and Chery have displayed their gasoline-powered cars at the Frankfurt and Geneva auto shows. But none has gained a toehold in the traditional European car market, which is dominated by global brands.

Now, armed with EVs for which no global brand has established a dominant position in Europe, other Chinese vehicle manufacturers seem to believe they have a better chance of establishing a presence in the market.

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