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Auto China 2024 showcases revolutionary changes in the automotive industry



The Auto China 2024 car exhibition, which opened in Beijing and will last until May 4, demonstrated the tremendous progress of Chinese electric vehicle manufacturers. Chinese engineers, the fruits of whose labors were partially hidden by the forced break of Covid quarantines, have made a full-fledged revolution and are forcing such reputable manufacturers as Volkswagen and Nissan to change their approaches to car development in order to remain players in the world's largest automobile market.

“What used to be a mass market is now being replaced by new energy,” ZEEKR vice president Jason Lin said at Beijing's sprawling exhibition center. The government's green energy drive to encourage the development of the electric vehicle industry has transformed China's auto market. Sales of electric vehicles reached 25% of new car sales last year, taking over the market for gasoline-powered vehicles. The rise of electric vehicle manufacturers, fueled by tax incentives as well as clean energy subsidies, has sparked a fierce price war that is expected to shake up and consolidate the industry in the coming years. For example, Geely's ZEEKR division, which launched its first car less than three years ago, has yet to turn a profit but aims to break even this year.

With competition fierce at home, many Chinese manufacturers are looking abroad, raising concerns in both Europe and the US that cheaper Chinese imports could disrupt their auto industries. The EU is weighing whether to impose tariffs on Chinese-made electric cars due to government subsidies that have fueled the industry's growth.

In Mexico, the share of Chinese cars rose from about 2.6% of the market in 2021 to 19.2% in the first quarter of this year. Most were gasoline-powered cars because charging stations are scarce and the cost of electricity makes it expensive to use at home. This year, BYD launched the low-cost Dolphin Mini in Latin American markets, sold in China as the Seagull. The company accounted for 41% of electric vehicle sales in Brazil in the first three months of this year.

At the Beijing show, Chinese manufacturers presented electric cars that accelerate to 100 km/h in 2 seconds, showed miracle batteries that charge a kilometer per second, and even promised pre-orders for flying cars next winter.

The rapid expansion of the Chinese automobile industry has pushed the traditional leaders of the world market - the Germans, Japanese and Americans - into the corner of the Beijing Salon. And the main competitor of the Chinese in the electric vehicle market, the American Tesla of Elon Musk, is not represented at the show at all. Musk recently warned that without the protection of the authorities, the Western auto industry will lose competition to the Chinese one. “Chinese automakers are the most competitive in the world,” Musk told investors in January. “Honestly, I think that if there are no trade barriers, then the Chinese will simply wipe out almost all competitors in the world.”

Chinese companies in which engineers work according to the generally accepted 9-9-6 schedule in the country (from nine in the morning to nine in the evening, six days a week) have managed to shorten the development-implementation cycle to one and a half to two years from three or more. Western automakers don’t know how to do this yet: at last year’s Munich Motor Show, Volkswagen promised to reduce the time it takes to introduce new models into production to three years from the current 4.5 years – and not all of them.

The result of the loss in speed, variety and price is the loss of the market by Western manufacturers. First Chinese, and then worldwide. Last year, the share of foreign car sales in China fell below 50% for the first time, and it is declining rapidly - now it is 48%, and two years ago it was 57%.


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