Automakers promote advanced tech to compete in China — the world’s top EV market

Environment

An XPeng Inc. G9 electric vehicle at the Shanghai Auto Show in Shanghai, China, on Monday, April 24, 2023.
Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Global electric vehicle makers are tapping advanced technology to vie with each other and domestic brands in the intensively competitive Chinese market.

China is the world’s largest EV market with 5.9 million units sold in 2022, capturing 59% of EVs sold globally, according to Canalys. Counterpoint Research data showed that domestic brands command 81% of the EV market, with BYD, Wuling, Chery, Changan and GAC among the top players.

“China’s domestic brands are leading the market in the development and implementation of advanced assisted driving systems, capitalizing on their early-entry advantages in the electric and intelligent vehicle sector,” research firm Canalys said in a recent report.

“These brands have an edge over other joint ventures in the planning and execution of smart assisted driving systems.”

BofA Securities in a May report said it expects China to still be the world’s largest EV market in 2025, standing at 40%-45% market share.

“China auto makers are accelerating vehicle platform, technology upgrade or innovation, leading to outstanding user experience. China EV products are much more competitive than before, and China will continue to see EV penetration expanding, in our view,” said the BofA Securities analysts.

But these global players are now stepping up their efforts.

On Friday, BMW China announced that it is accelerating the development of hands-free autonomous driving features, also known as Level 3 or L3 functions. BMW China said it plans to roll those out by end of 2023 or early 2024 and will ensure compliance with local regulations.

L3 autonomous driving has not been widely approved in China, though some companies including domestic EV maker Xpeng has been authorized to test the technology.

The Chinese market is growing at an unprecedented pace. Toyota will also work together as a group to reform how we work & think to survive in China.
Tatsuro Ueda
CEO of the China Region, Toyota

Last week, Germany’s Volkswagen Group said it is investing approximately $700 million in Xpeng and taking a 4.99% stake in the company.

“We are now accelerating the expansion of our local electric portfolio and at the same time preparing for the next innovation step,” Ralf Brandstätter, Volkswagen AG board member for China, said in a company statement.

Volkswagen and Xpeng will co-develop two new EVs that will incorporate its advanced driver-assist software for the Chinese market and aims to roll them out in 2026.

Intense competition

Tesla and Chinese EV brands are promoting self-driving tech to attract buyers — with an eye on full autonomous driving.

For example, BYD is partnering with Nvidia and Horizon Robotics to develop autonomous driving technology. On Monday, Chinese automaker Leapmotor told reporters it developed a new platform and aims to license it to other automakers to make intelligent EVs. On the same day, Japanese automaker Toyota said it will boost its development of EV technology, in a bid to compete in the Chinese market.

“The Chinese market is growing at an unprecedented pace. Toyota will also work together as a group to reform how we work & think to survive in China,” Tatsuro Ueda, CEO of China for Toyota, said in a company statement.

“By promoting local development … we will attempt to develop and provide competitive products that can satisfy Chinese customers at a fast pace.”

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