Saturday, November 1, 2008

Chinese Car Exports Retreat, Return Under Cover

(First published in TheTruthAboutCars on October 28, 2008 )

For the few past years, European and American automakers looked to Chinese carmakers with hope and trepidation. They hoped the booming Chinese market would lift their worldwide sales. It did. They feared the Chinese would export cars en masse, swamping Europe and the U.S. with cheap vehicles. They did not. For various reasons (crash tests, emissions, the economy), the arrival of the four-wheeled Yellow Peril was a non-starter. What little exports the Chinese managed went to second- or third-tier markets like Africa or South America. Even those are are going down, down, down. In August, China exported a mere 44,400 units, a decline of 22.18 percent month-on-month and 11.29 percent year-on-year. This according to numbers straight from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, quoted in Gasgoo, which calls the news “discouraging.”

Chinese companies who had Europe in their sights are holstering their guns. The German trade publication Autohaus reports that Chinese auto maker Geely is back-pedaling from prior announcements of an entry into the European market. With unusual candor, Jie Zhao, Vice President of the Zhejiang Geely Holding Group said: “Our products aren’t ready for the European market. We are realistic. We will not get ahead of ourselves.” According to Jie Zhao, they may reconsider a market entry “after 2010.”

Instead, Chinese exports are happening under cover. Under the cover of your car, to be exact. More and more parts in your American or European car are already made in China. Compared to 2002, exports of automotive products surged twentyfold to $41b last year. With cost cutting and job cutting being the mantra, this is just the beginning. Gasgoo reports that Daimler AG plans to increase its sourcing of automotive components from China nearly eight-fold within four years. The luxury car maker will buy $3.25b worth of car components per year in China, up from the $400m for this year. Will your next S-Class Merc be Made in China? Partly, at least.
(Picture courtesy Thank you!)

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