China has officially surpassed fellow Asian automotive heavyweight Japan as the world’s top exporter of motor vehicles.
China beat Japan for the number one spot for the first three months of 2023, with analytics suggesting that similar growth is likely to continue, according to figures provided by China’s Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Vehicle exports in the first quarter hit a record 1.07 million units, representing a 58 per cent year-on-year increase from 2022, beating Japan’s number of 954 185, for the same period.
China’s strong start to 2023 follows up an equally strong 2022. Last year, Chinese car exports overtook Germany to become the second-largest exporter of motor vehicles, with an estimated 3.2 million units in 2022, compared to the roughly 2.6 million cars exported by Germany.
The main driver for export growth can be attributed to the increased demand for China’s electric vehicle offering, particularly in countries like Belgium, Thailand and Australia.
The current pattern of developed nations transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Accords, has been a substantial catalyst for growth in the country’s new energy vehicle (NEV) industry, according to the latest China Association of Automobile Manufacturers report.
Exports of Chinese EVs and NEVs grew by a reported 90 per cent since 2022, led by domestic manufacturers like SAIC (50 000 units), BYD (30 000 units) and Tesla (90 000 units).
A fast-growing market for Chinese passenger vehicles has emerged in the form of Russia. Ever since Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 special military operation in the Ukraine, the Kremlin has found itself the target of a broad list of sanctions, with some prominent brands like Volkswagen and Toyota departing Russia.
In their wake, demand for Chinese-developed EVs and traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, including GWM and Chery, has skyrocketed.
Chinese brands have also enjoyed a stellar first quarter in Oceania, especially in Australia, where manufacturers like MG (15 848 units) and GWM (10 410 units split between subsidiary brands, Haval and GWM) experienced substantial growth.
New entrants to the Australian market, the Warren Buffett-backed BYD (3 216 units) and Chery (425 units) have also established a foothold.
Analysts at the China Passenger Car Association project Chinese exports of motor vehicles are on pace to surpass four million units for the first time – that’s good year-on-year growth of roughly 30 per cent, according to an April 2023 article by the South China Morning Post.