It is still early days and the Chinese manufacturers’ invasion of Europe is at a very early stage. But the data is not positive for the groups of the Asian giant that are seeing how their sales figures, with some exceptions, are residual. And worst of all, they are going in a negative direction.
The strategy of brands like NIO, Xpeng or BYD, has been to try to compete with the European groups one on one. With models from higher segments at prices very similar to or even higher than the local ones. Something that undoubtedly entails its risk as we are seeing.
It is the case of Germany. There the start of the year for the Chinese groups is being very hard with almost non-existent sales despite the heavy investment that some brands are making in commercial deployment and battery change stations.
According to data from the German Federal Motor Transport Authority, in February of this year brands such as NIO registered only 13 registrationswhile BYD stayed at 7 units. An NIO whose cumulative deliveries since August of last year, when it began its activity in the German market, are 512 units.
Figures that are also produced at a time of growth, and in February the Germans registered a total of 32,475 pure electric cars, 15% more than last yearwhile plug-in hybrids reached 11,916 units.
Faced with the clear failure of the Chinese, where only one MG is saved that between January and February 1,341 registered units have been signed up, we find brands such as Lynk&Co, only with plug-in hybrid models, which registered 276 units in February, 33% less than last month. Another Chinese electric car startup, airwaysdid not register any units in February, for just 5 in January.
The great protagonist in this period in Germany has been a Tesla which has been the clear winner with 7,711 units registered in February, 29% more than the previous year, and accumulating a total of 11,995 units so far this year.
The problem of Chinese manufacturers
The big question is why the Chinese groups are not managing to establish themselves. As we said at the beginning, it is early to draw conclusions, but it is clear that targeting the premium segments has its risks. Especially if you do not do it with weighty arguments beyond design, technology and benefits. And it is that if the price is high, the balance will tip towards local brands.
Now the objective is to continue expanding the ranges towards lower segments. In the case of NIO, the protagonist will be ET5. A compact sedan with a clear European design that wants to stand up to the Tesla Model 3 and become the first really serious alternative to the Chinese in the premium segments.
But before arriving, the ET5 has already disappointed precisely in the economic aspect, with a price for its most economical version, 75 kWh and 456 km WLTP, which will start in the €61,900while the variant with 90 useful kWh (100 gross kWh) and 590 km WLTP, will do so from €70,900.
In parallel, NIO itself is also preparing its first European brand that has the provisional name of Firefly, and that will be launched in 2024. A sub-brand that will aim to put cheaper cars on sale.
Some first approximations of the Chinese brands that It is serving them as learning to know what they are doing wrong, and that it can work. And it is clear that the price is one of the fundamental keys as the most successful Chinese electric car has shown so far in Europe. The MG4.