4 Chinese Car Brands Worth Watching
Some of China's biggest carmakers have international ambitions.
China became the world's largest new car market in 2009 and remains in the top spot. Annual sales reached 21.48 million units in 2021, compared to about 15 million units in the United States, and analysts expect this trend will continue. Encouraged by success in their home market, and emboldened by a transition to electric cars, some of the biggest Chinese carmakers are turning their attention to foreign markets. Here are four Chinese car brands worth watching.
Hangzhou-based Zhejiang Geely, the parent company of Geely Auto Group, has already planted its stake in the U.S. Geely purchased Volvo from Ford in 2010 and funded the renaissance that spawned a new range of models, including the current-generation Volvo XC90. It also masterminded Polestar's transformation into a standalone carmaker and relied on economies of scale to significantly increase its sales in China and abroad during the 2010s.
Lynk & Co is one of Geely's most promising brands. Owned jointly with Volvo, it's an EV-focused division emphasizing technology and connectivity. The brand designed its cars to be shared between private parties or through car-sharing programs. Lynk & Co sells vehicles in Germany and several other European markets. The company's experience across the pond could help it sell cars in the United States. Lynk's CEO said an American launch is on his radar, though he didn't set a timeline.
Headquartered in Shanghai, NIO specializes in electric cars and lists seven vehicles on its website, including four SUVs and two sedans. It's not a household name and remains relatively small even in China, but its sales are growing. Nio delivered 10,052 vehicles in July 2022, a year-over-year increase of 26.7%. The total number of cars delivered since its inception in 2014 stands at 227,949.
NIO sells cars in some European countries and plans to open a factory in Hungary in September 2022. American sales could start in the not-too-distant future. In January 2022, NIO signed a 10-year lease on an office building in San Jose, California, to house a research, innovation, and digital development center.
Based in Shenzhen, BYD (Build Your Dreams) is backed by Berkshire Hathaway, otherwise known as Warren Buffet's company. It’s one of China's three biggest carmakers. Founded in 1995 as a battery manufacturer, BYD is particularly strong in the electrified car segment while boasting a portfolio that includes a diverse range of vehicles such as passenger cars, buses, and forklifts. While it doesn't sell cars in the United States yet, the buses it builds in Lancaster, California, carry passengers in some American cities and airports. It notably inked a deal to deploy 20 electric school buses in California's Antelope Valley, its U.S. home territory.
MG, the British carmaker famous for selling roadsters like the Midget, lives on in some overseas markets. Shanghai-based state-owned firm SAIC Motor purchased MG in 2007 and is slowly rejuvenating the line-up with a focus on electrified cars. It's aiming to achieve volume, so it no longer offers a convertible. Its British range includes hatchbacks, a station wagon, and crossovers. MG sells some cars in Mexico, but there's no indication that U.S. sales are in the pipeline yet.
MG is open to the idea of branching out of the mainstream. If everything goes according to plan, it will become one of the first companies to release a series-produced electric roadster. The brand has previewed "the return of a legend" on various social media channels and described the model as a sports car. However, specifications, pricing, launch date, and other details remain under wraps.
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