China was the world’s number one car exporter in 2023

Industry data show that in 2023, China became the world’s biggest car exporter for the first time, dethroning Japan with overseas solid sales of electric vehicles.

Data from a Japanese trade organization, released Wednesday, showed the country’s car exports in 2023 rose 16% from a year earlier to 4,42 million vehicles, falling behind China, which saw a 58% increase to 4,91 million vehicles.

Six years on top

Japan was overtaken for the first time since Germany ranked at the top in 2016. Demand for all-electric vehicles to reduce carbon emissions is growing worldwide, and China’s automakers, such as BYD Co., are boosting exports with solid support from the Chinese government. China exported 1.77 million EVs last year, more than one in three electric ones.
Chinese exports of gasoline-powered cars to Russia also rose after Japanese, American, and European automakers pulled out of the market due to the war in Ukraine. Russia and Mexico were China’s two most important export countries in 2023. Electric cars mainly were exported to Europe and South-East Asia.
Wednesday’s data showed Japan’s car exports rose for the first time in two years but fell short of the pre-pandemic level of 4,82 million vehicles in 2019.
The importance of this shift has to be relativized because Japanese manufacturers produce two times more vehicles (17 million) outside Japan than in their homeland. China doesn’t have this impressive amount of plants outside its boundaries yet, but it’s working on it.

Reviewing strategies

Japanese automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp. have recently reviewed their production strategies. They aim to rely less on gasoline-powered cars and ramp up sales of gasoline-electric hybrids, which, in many cases, have higher mileage than pure EVs.
Experts said that maintaining its top position could prove a challenge for China as global EV sales have shown signs of slowing recently due to high prices and a shortage of charging stations. The fast export increase has also provoked some irritation in Europe and the US, accusing China of ‘illegal subsidies’ to its car industry.
China is now trying to copy what the Japanese manufacturers did in the 1980s. Car manufacturers are still increasing daily in China, but many disappear soon after. The bigger ones are starting to look outside China, with BYD as the pack’s leader. It recently announced that new car assembly plants will be built in Hungary and Brazil.
On Tuesday, the agreement for building a new car plant was officially signed between Hungary and Chinese car importer BYD in Budapest /BYD
On the other hand, one has to take into account that foreign manufacturers also have plants in China that not only produce for the Chinese market but also for export, like Tesla, with its giga-plant near Shanghai, BMW in collaboration with BBA, Volkswagen producing in the people’s republic, etc.
Some analysts say that the danger for Chinese supremacy in the car market will come from their dominance in the battery manufacturing sector and in providing numerous parts for the EVs of the future, as those of European, American, or Japanese competitors.

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