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How Chinese car brands plan to take over Britain’s roads

Chinese brands will make a ‘lasting footprint’ on the UK car market in the ‘not-so-distant future’.

That’s according to insight from one of Britain’s biggest new car platforms, Carwow, and its commercial director, Sepi Arani.

He outlines how Eastern automotive newcomers intend to cement themselves in the UK with a line-up of affordable electric vehicles (EVs) and using established dealer networks to gain trust among motorists in this country. 

How will Chinese brands cement themselves in Britain? Carwow's commercial director outlines the strategies being used to gain drivers' confidence to bolster sales How will Chinese brands cement themselves in Britain? Carwow's commercial director outlines the strategies being used to gain drivers' confidence to bolster sales

How will Chinese brands cement themselves in Britain? Carwow’s commercial director outlines the strategies being used to gain drivers’ confidence to bolster sales

While Chinese car brands are a relatively new phenomenon here, they’ve already developed a significant stronghold on the global EV market.

In fact, 60 per cent of all electric car sales worldwide are Chinese makes. But the UK’s driving public remain undecided on turning to Chinese motor brands.

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Less than a third (29 per cent) of Britons polled back in April said they would consider buying a Chinese car, even as brands from the region become more prominent in the UK.

MailOnline readers cast an even greater majority against, with 75 per cent of 4,400 votes [at the time of publishing] saying they would not have a Chinese car as their next motor (let us know your thoughts on the poll below). 

Poll

Would you buy a Chinese car as your next motor?

Would you buy a Chinese car as your next motor?

Yes 2032 votes No 5255 votes

Now share your opinion

   

Much of the hesitancy centres around concerns over spy software.

Top of the reasons (37 per cent) to avoid Chinese cars in the earlier Carwow poll was ‘political matters’. 

And Carwow’s new report published this week says dealer sentiment towards Chinese motor manufacturers is also varied.

In a recent survey, 73 per cent of dealers said they think Chinese manufacturers will capture up to 10 per cent of UK car sales in the next year, while one in three believe they’ll establish a 21 to 30 per cent market share within the next five years.

Meanwhile, just one in five said they feel they currently know enough about Chinese carmakers and their plans for the UK market.

According to Carwow, 60% of all electric car sales worldwide are Chinese makes. Pictured: A Geely dealership in Kirov, Russia According to Carwow, 60% of all electric car sales worldwide are Chinese makes. Pictured: A Geely dealership in Kirov, Russia

According to Carwow, 60% of all electric car sales worldwide are Chinese makes. Pictured: A Geely dealership in Kirov, Russia

How Chinese brands plan to establish themselves in Britain

Recently, several Chinese manufacturers, including brands such as BYD, Nio and Great Wall Motor’s (GRW) Ora, have outlined their UK specific strategies.

Arani in Carwow’s new Insider Report says that rather than trying to establish themselves with a network of showrooms, many are signing deals to operate in partnership with existing UK dealers, either via new franchise networks or through an agency model.

For instance BYD has already signed a deal with Pendragon, the UK’s second largest motor retailer group that owns dealer networks including Evans Halshaw and Stratstone, while GWM Ora has joined forces with respected outfits including Peter Vardy, Lookers, Sandicliife, SLM Norwich and Wessex Garages as it plans to have 20 sites in Britain before the end of the year.

GWM Ora’s most recent deal is with Wales’ largest automotive retailer, Sinclair Group, for a single site in Swansea that opened earlier this month.

Toby Marshall, managing director at GWM Ora UK, said: ‘As a new entrant to the UK market, it is important that we ensure consumers have the right introduction to the GWM Ora brand. 

‘Our network strategy is centred around working with established and trusted retail partners that can deliver exceptional levels of service.’

GWM Ora has joined forces with respected outfits including Peter Vardy (pictured), Lookers, Sandicliife, SLM Norwich and Wessex Garages as it plans to have 20 sites in Britain before the end of the year GWM Ora has joined forces with respected outfits including Peter Vardy (pictured), Lookers, Sandicliife, SLM Norwich and Wessex Garages as it plans to have 20 sites in Britain before the end of the year

GWM Ora has joined forces with respected outfits including Peter Vardy (pictured), Lookers, Sandicliife, SLM Norwich and Wessex Garages as it plans to have 20 sites in Britain before the end of the year

GWM Ora's most recent deal is with Wales’ largest automotive retailer, Sinclair Group, for a single site in Swansea that opened earlier this month GWM Ora's most recent deal is with Wales’ largest automotive retailer, Sinclair Group, for a single site in Swansea that opened earlier this month

GWM Ora’s most recent deal is with Wales’ largest automotive retailer, Sinclair Group, for a single site in Swansea that opened earlier this month

Arani says for Chinese manufacturer with little or no brand profile, leveraging established dealers’ relationships and reputations will help them to ‘alleviate any concerns and be available to deliver aftersales support’.

As well as using big names in the motor sales sector to cement themselves in Britain, Chinese brands are also targeting the fleet market to ‘test and learn at scale’.

Currently, fleets make up the vast majority of electric car registrations in Britain and the carwow commercial director says this will provide Chinese brands the opportunity to increase brand visibility and conduct real-world field testing of in-car technologies.

‘By entering the fleet market, they can gather feedback and refine technologies through over-the-air updates, a strategy commonly used by Chinese consumer technology brands,’ he adds.

BYD has already invested billions of dollars into lithium mining and refining in a bid to create its own EV-specific supply chains, thus helping to keep their vehicle prices lower than rivals BYD has already invested billions of dollars into lithium mining and refining in a bid to create its own EV-specific supply chains, thus helping to keep their vehicle prices lower than rivals

BYD has already invested billions of dollars into lithium mining and refining in a bid to create its own EV-specific supply chains, thus helping to keep their vehicle prices lower than rivals

Competitive pricing will be key to success for Chinese brands

Chinese brands have also moved more quickly than Western rivals in terms of building up their own EV-specific supply chains, which in turn will allow them to keep car prices low. 

For instance, BYD invested in lithium mining back in 2011, allowing it to reach economies of scale faster and reduce manufacturing costs.

‘It takes eleven years to build a lithium mine, and, given that the battery of an EV can account for up to 40 per cent of the cost, securing a stable supply of lithium is crucial for competitive pricing,’ Arani says.

Given that there are few ‘affordable’ EVs on the market, Chinese car makers will ultimately take advantage of the fact motorists are eager for battery models at ‘very keen prices’.

MG Motor is the perfect model for this successful strategy, with its sales currently up 58 per cent year-on-year. 

Its lower-cost EVs, such as the impressive MG4, undercut most rivals in terms of price and has seen the brand just to eleventh in the manufacturer standings for overall sales so far in 2023 (to the end of July).

With 39,624 registrations this year, MG is outselling giants including Skoda, Peugeot, Renault and Mazda. It’s even sold more cars than Tesla. 

MG Motor's is proving that British drivers will buy Chinese brands if they make impressive, affordable cars. It is currently outselling Skoda, Peugeot, Renault and Mazda in the UK MG Motor's is proving that British drivers will buy Chinese brands if they make impressive, affordable cars. It is currently outselling Skoda, Peugeot, Renault and Mazda in the UK

MG Motor’s is proving that British drivers will buy Chinese brands if they make impressive, affordable cars. It is currently outselling Skoda, Peugeot, Renault and Mazda in the UK 

Beyond price, one in 10 car buyers polled by Carwow said they associate Chinese cars with ‘more and better’ technology. 

When asked what would ultimately persuade them to consider a Chinese car, one in five (21 per cent) of car-buyers said they wanted ‘more time’, indicating that consumers want to build up more familiarity with and trust in the new Chinese brands as they establish themselves over the next few years.

A lack of familiarity with Chinese brands was cited by 28 per cent of drivers as a reason to not consider a Chinese car.

‘With the 2030 deadline on ICE cars looming, it’s clear that the Chinese OEMs have the products, the resources and the will to succeed in the UK,’ Arani concludes.

‘Our consumer research shows that they’ll need to focus on establishing a strong brand presence and foster the trust, loyalty, and purchasing power of British consumers.

‘As the Korean marques will attest, winning over the UK consumer takes time and accessible pricing is necessary to secure a foothold.’

TEN CHINESE BRANDS COMING TO BRITAIN 

1. Aiways

Aiways has already established its European headquarters in Germany and has previously spoken about entering the UK market this year

Chinese firm Aiways could be selling cars in Britain in the coming months and already has its European headquarters in Germany.

The first model that’s likely to be seen on UK roads is its U5, which has a range of around 250 miles.

2. BYD

The Atto 3 is the first model from BYD to go on sale in Britain earlier this year, with prices starting at £36,490 The Atto 3 is the first model from BYD to go on sale in Britain earlier this year, with prices starting at £36,490

The Atto 3 is the first model from BYD to go on sale in Britain earlier this year, with prices starting at £36,490

BYD – which means Build Your Dreams – has already introduced its first UK model – the Atto 3 family SUV, which we drove earlier this year.

It costs from £36,490 and has a range of 260 miles. BYD has already signed a deal with Pendragon to launch UK dealerships.

3. Chery

Chery could become a UK car seller as early as 2024 - and it will likely sell both petrol and electric-powered vehicles Chery could become a UK car seller as early as 2024 - and it will likely sell both petrol and electric-powered vehicles

Chery could become a UK car seller as early as 2024 – and it will likely sell both petrol and electric-powered vehicles

Chinese car giant Chery is expected to launch its first car in Britain from early 2024.

While it will focus mostly on battery electric models, it is also expected to make available some with petrol engines that have proved popular in its domestic market.

4. HiPhi 

HiPhi is another Chinese start-up with grand plans to break into the European market shortly HiPhi is another Chinese start-up with grand plans to break into the European market shortly

HiPhi is another Chinese start-up with grand plans to break into the European market shortly

Chinese auto start-up HiPhi is due to start selling electric cars in Europe before the end of this year and expects to enter the UK market shortly after, according to reports in Auto Express.

It will offer the HiPhi Z and HiPhi X in Germany and Norway.

5. LEVC

One Chinese car you might have travelled in without knowing is an electric black cab. The brand that produces them - LEVC - is owned by Chinese Geely One Chinese car you might have travelled in without knowing is an electric black cab. The brand that produces them - LEVC - is owned by Chinese Geely

One Chinese car you might have travelled in without knowing is an electric black cab. The brand that produces them – LEVC – is owned by Chinese Geely

It might say London Electric Vehicle Company in the branding, but LEVC is owned and operated by Chinese automotive giant Geely.

It has been producing electrified black cabs seen in our major cities since 2017, meaning this is one Chinese car many people have unknowingly travelled in. 

6. Lynk & Co

Lynk & Co could be selling - on monthly subscriptions - its cars to Britain in the coming months Lynk & Co could be selling - on monthly subscriptions - its cars to Britain in the coming months

Lynk & Co could be selling – on monthly subscriptions – its cars to Britain in the coming months 

Another Geely product is Lynk & Co, which is set to offer cars to British drivers from next year.

Its ownership platform is somewhat different to convention, though. While you can buy its cars outright, most will be acquired on monthly subscriptions.

7. MG Motor

MG Motor sold over 50,000 cars in Britain last year and will look to beat that figure in 2023 MG Motor sold over 50,000 cars in Britain last year and will look to beat that figure in 2023

MG Motor sold over 50,000 cars in Britain last year and will look to beat that figure in 2023

The most successful arrival from the Chinese market in recent years is MG Motor.

Its range of budget-friendly petrol and electric cars are proving immensely popular, with some 51,050 MG-branded motors registered in the UK last year. It’s most recent car – the MG4 – is cheapest family-size EV currently on sale and one of just two priced below £30,000.

8. NIO

NIO is a Chinese electric car maker that’s already selling vehicles in Norway – and has recently broken into the top 25 most popular brands there

Another Chinese car brand that is likely to arrive on the UK scene very shortly is NIO, which is already a major EV player in Norway.

It has said it will have three Tesla-rivalling models available in the UK in 2023, all of them available on subscription. 

9. GWM Ora (Great Wall Motor)

The Ora Funky Cat is a compact electric hatchback already on sale in the UK. It is the first brand from the Great Wall Motor group to enter Britain The Ora Funky Cat is a compact electric hatchback already on sale in the UK. It is the first brand from the Great Wall Motor group to enter Britain

The Ora Funky Cat is a compact electric hatchback already on sale in the UK. It is the first brand from the Great Wall Motor group to enter Britain

Great Wall Motor is one of the expanding automotive groups from China that is already selling cars in the UK – and its first model has a pretty special name.

It’s from its Ora brand and is called the Funky Cat. The compact electric hatchback costs from £31,995 and has already signed a dealership network deal with major players including Lookers and Peter Vardy. 

10. Zeekr

The 001 is one of two electric models Chinese brand Zeekr is planning to bring to the European market in 2023 The 001 is one of two electric models Chinese brand Zeekr is planning to bring to the European market in 2023

The 001 is one of two electric models Chinese brand Zeekr is planning to bring to the European market in 2023

Zeekr – another brand that’s part of the Geely group – has said it will officially enter the European market in 2023, and the UK is very much on its radar.

It will offer the Zeekr X SUV and Zeekr OO1 shooting brake first.

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