Will China car brands overtake the Japanese?

The records speak for themselves and the Chinese automotive brands have been improving in the last few years across the world. China, where the COVID-19 is said to have originated is now one of the largest automotive makers in the world.

What is the landscape like?

Perhaps the biggest name to have ventured into Malaysia is Geely, which acquired the controlling stake in Malaysian national car brand Proton. Since then, it has already launched a new and successful marketing campaign with the launch of the X70, becoming the best-selling car. With the acquisition of Proton, Geely also owns Lotus while its parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group also owns Volvo, SMART and others.

And to put that into context, Geely is not the biggest player in China. The ‘Big Four’ names from China are SAIC Motor, Dongfeng, FAW and Chang’an. Geely, together with others like Jianghuai (JAC), Brilliance Automotive, BYD, Chery, Great Wall, Beijing Automotive Group and Guangzhou Automobile Group are among the other players which have strong influences both within and outside the country.

Competing with the Japanese brands

To date, Japanese automotive brands are sill leading most of the Asian market, even in China. In 2019, Honda recorded a new sales record in China when it sold more than 1.5 million units. It was also the same year that saw Toyota passing the 1.4 million units. Nissan recorded slightly lower but rolled out more than 1.2 million units. In comparison, SAIC’s MG sold about half a quarter-million units while Volvo sold about 130K units that year. But it remains to be seen if these brands are considered ‘China’ brands or still continental as they were known previously.

Hongqi cars from HAW sold about 100,000 units which was the first time it reached that mark which means there is still a lot of grounds to go before the China brands can surpass the Japanese names. That said, it must be noted that the Chinese brands are not that far off. With the acquisitions of technologies from known brands like MG, Volvo and Lotus, it won’t be long before these platforms are transferred onto the cheaper and more affordable models produced by China car brands. This makes it really interesting because it means customers could well enjoy better features for lower-priced cars in the future. When that happens, it would surely give the Hondas and Nissans a run for their money.