China: the long (electric) march towards western markets

Small signs. Someone points out that, compared to its best times, the Dragon shows the first signs of fatigue in its long run; that some indicators are bearish or, at least, are no longer rising as they used to. Blame the microchip crisis, which also affected local industries. It is also the fault of the political guidelines impressed by the current great helmsman Xi Jinping, who, with the new slogan “shared prosperity”, has put a stop to the excessive power of major economic protagonists such as Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba (colossus of online commerce), and giant companies such as Didi (local Uber) and Tencent (messaging, web, electronic games). To this we add the risk of default of the real estate speculative bubble, with one giant in the sector (China Fortune) going bankrupt in February and another (Evergrande, which also has an automotive division) one step away from default. Warning signs, but everything is relative. And a few jolts do not seem able to stop the long march of the Chinese locomotive. Let’s go back to the car, then. Up to now, the Chinese market has been a redeeming outlet for many Western manufacturers. In 2018 (latest Acea data available), the European manufacturers produced just under 6 million cars on site, equal to 25% of the country’s total, in about thirty plants. To these are added 545 thousand machines imported from Europe, for a value of 22.4 billion euros (mostly premium models). They may seem important numbers – and in some respects they are, having also helped our industries in the past in moments of greatest decline in Western markets – but they must be compared with global local production which, in 2020 (an anomalous year, as we have said) , has reached 20 million specimens and which, in the first seven months of 2021, has already reached 11.4 million. Of all these cars produced between January and July, 1.18 million were electric. Let’s now analyze the opposite flow. In 2018 (source Acea), just under 320 thousand cars arrived in Europe from China; again in the first seven months of this year, the overall exports (therefore not only to the Old Continent) exceeded, albeit slightly, one million specimens (in all of 2020 they were 995 thousand, source Caam). These are still low numbers to suggest phalanxes of Chinese cars ready to invade our markets, but the growth is evident. And already in 2019 the Asian country was in sixth place in the ranking of car imports into the European Union (led by Turkey).

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