SOLIHULL, England, Nov 21 (Reuters) – Chinese electric vehicle (EV) makers aim to win over European drivers and big companies with more affordable cars, top safety ratings and plenty of high-tech features .
Over the past few months, several Chinese electric vehicles have received five stars under the European New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) – an achievement that requires charging vehicles with active and passive safety features that go well with the beyond legal requirements.
“All Chinese electric vehicle makers want to achieve the five-star Euro NCAP rating in order to be more competitive in the European market,” said Brian Gu, president of Chinese electric vehicle maker Xpeng (9868.HK).
Gu said Xpeng had spent the last three years building stores and service centers in Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden – with some initial sales in Norway – ahead of the official launch next year. its P7 electric sedan and its G9 sport utility vehicle (SUV) in all four countries.
Chinese electric vehicle makers have recognized that safety plays a hugely important role in the sales process, said Matthew Avery, director of Thatcham Research, an insurer-funded British automotive research center and board member of Euro NCAP.
Five-star Euro NCAP ratings are seen as key to overcoming residual European concerns over the quality of Chinese-made cars, after horrific crash test failures in 2006 and 2007 made cars from China appear weren’t sure.
Perhaps more importantly for sales, high safety ratings also open up the potentially huge corporate car fleet market for Chinese EV makers.
Fleet sales account for around half of all car sales in major markets including Germany, France and the UK, and many corporate buyers prioritize safety.
“Fleet sales are very important, and many fleets have a mandatory five-star rating for car purchases,” Avery said.
CAR RENTAL COMPANIES
Additionally, many fleets want to quickly transition to electric vehicles to meet their sustainability goals. But corporate fleets are struggling to get enough electric vehicles in Europe as supply chain issues have pushed wait times for some models to more than 12 months.
Strong demand for electric cars amid supply chain shortages has allowed European automakers to raise prices for electric vehicles and focus more on retail customers, rather than customers such as car rental companies that were traditionally less profitable for them.
This has created a window of opportunity for Chinese electric vehicle makers who have already outpaced most of their foreign rivals in China, by far the world’s biggest market for electric vehicles.
In October, for example, the German car rental company Sixt (SIXG.DE) announced that it would buy around 100,000 electric vehicles from BYD (002594.SZ), starting with its Atto 3 SUV which received the very coveted five-star Euro NCAP in the same month. .
Chinese company Great Wall Motors (GWM) (601633.SS) received five stars in September for its WEY-branded Coffee 01 hybrid SUV and ORA-branded Funky Cat electric sedan.
European automakers are also seeking five-star ratings for their electric and hybrid vehicles, from BMW’s iX (BMWG.DE) to Volkswagen’s ID.4 and ID.5 (VOWG_p.DE). In October, Mercedes achieved the highest score for its EQE sedan and its driver assistance features received the highest marks to date from Euro NCAP.
Chinese electric vehicle maker Aiways has yet to put its U6 electric crossover to the NCAP test, but it is also aiming for the highest rating on offer, said Alexander Klose, who heads the automaker’s operations outside of China. China.
He said Aiways had invested in additional safety features for the U6 to open up sales opportunities to European fleets, including car rental companies, when it goes on sale next year.
“There will be a natural demand for vehicles like ours which are fully equipped and very competitively priced,” he said, adding that Aiways hopes to sell 30,000 electric vehicles in Europe in 2023, up from around 5 000 this year.
French automotive consultancy Inovev said around 155,000 Chinese-made cars were sold in Europe in the first nine months of 2022, or 1.4% of the market. Chinese companies are on track to reach 150,000 cars this year, nearly double the 80,000 sold in 2021.
But almost half of Chinese cars sold were electric vehicles, according to Inovev, giving them a 5.8% share of the European fully electric vehicle market.
Inovev vice-president Jamel Taganza said all Chinese cars sold in Europe would be electric vehicles within a few years, with other lower-cost models on the way.
By 2030, Inovev estimates that electric vehicles will represent 40% of new car sales in Europe and that Chinese brands will represent between 12.5% and 20% of this all-electric market, with sales between 725,000 and 1 .16 million vehicles.
“This is a conservative forecast,” Taganza said. “But it could grow faster, especially if European automakers fail to meet Europe’s need for affordable electric vehicles.”
Achieving a five-star rating is expensive for automakers, as it means investing in additional safety features, from additional airbags to collision avoidance, driver assistance and driver monitoring systems.
Thatcham’s Avery said Chinese EV makers have been actively engaging with Euro NCAP and eagerly making the necessary investments to achieve top marks.
“Forget what you might think Chinese means lower quality or lower safety performance,” he said. “Their quality is now better than others.”
BYD is launching three cars in a handful of European markets and will add more models and markets next year, all of which should have top safety ratings, said Michael Shu, general manager of BYD Europe.
“We think a five-star rating should be a very basic requirement,” he said.
“TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS ADVANTAGE”
Great Wall Motor’s ORA Funky Cat, meanwhile, will launch in Britain, Germany, Ireland and Sweden later this year.
Starting at around 32,000 pounds ($36,330) in Britain, around 5,000 pounds cheaper than VW’s ID.3, Funky Cat features include facial recognition to store seat preferences, driver assistance systems, rear view camera and wireless phone charging.
Toby Marshall, UK sales and marketing director for GWM’s ORA brand, said that if a car is well made, feature packed, has a high safety rating and is competitively priced, no matter where it has been built.
“These are the key ingredients that matter to car buyers,” Marshall said, while showing off the Funky Cat in his office in Solihull, in the Midlands of England.
Bill Russo, director of Shanghai-based consultancy Automobility Ltd, said the problem for many international automakers was that they were ceding the advantage to Chinese rivals when it came to building lower-cost electric vehicles. .
“The only place on the planet where you’ll find an affordable electric vehicle today is China,” Russo said. “And they’re leveraging that advantage.”
($1 = 0.8808 pounds)
Additional reporting by Zoey Zhang in Shanghai and Giulio Piovaccari in Milan; Editing by David Clarke
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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