China overtakes Japan as world's top auto exporter in 2023

Jet Sanchez
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The BYD Seal, a popular Chinese BEV.

The BYD Seal, a popular Chinese BEV.

Move over, Japan, there's a new king in town. China has officially dethroned its Asian neighbour as the world's largest auto exporter in 2023, driven by a surge in demand for both electric and petrol-powered vehicles. This remarkable feat comes despite China's absence from the lucrative US market, showcasing the sheer strength and diversity of its automotive industry.

EVs and beyond fuel China's export boom


The China Passenger Car Association estimates that the country shipped a staggering 5.26 million vehicles last year, including cars, trucks, and buses. This impressive figure outpaces Japan's projected exports of 4.3 million units, signalling a significant shift in the global automotive landscape.

China's export success is particularly noteworthy considering its limited presence in the US, the world's second-largest car market. Emerging economies like Russia, Mexico, and Europe have emerged as key destinations for Chinese vehicles, highlighting the country's ability to cater to diverse consumer preferences.

Domestic market thrives amidst price cuts and brand domination

China's domestic auto market also enjoyed a healthy year in 2023, with light-vehicle sales climbing 5.3 per cent to 21.93 million units. This marks the third consecutive year of growth and comes on the heels of significant price reductions across the industry.

While battery electric vehicle (BEV) sales experienced a respectable 21 per cent increase, it fell short of the 74 per cent surge witnessed in 2022. However, plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) stole the show with an impressive 83 per cent growth, indicating a growing consumer appetite for electrified options beyond pure EVs.

Perhaps the most significant trend in China's domestic market is the rising dominance of local brands. Chinese carmakers now command a remarkable 63 per cent market share, up from 56 per cent the previous year. This sudden surge in popularity illustrates the increasing quality, innovation, and value proposition offered by domestic players.

BYD: a global EV powerhouse emerges

BYD Atto 3

One of the biggest success stories of 2023 is undoubtedly BYD, the Chinese car manufacturer that has taken the world by storm. BYD, makers of popular EVs like the Atto 3 and Seal, sold a staggering 3,024,417 vehicles last year, propelling it into the coveted top 10 of the world's largest carmakers.

Even more impressive is the breakdown of BYD's sales: 1.57 million BEVs and the remaining units being PHEVs. This remarkable feat even saw BYD surpass Tesla's BEV sales in the crucial fourth quarter, showcasing its growing prowess in the electric vehicle space.

China's continued ascent

China's automotive industry is on an unstoppable upward trajectory. With its booming domestic market, rapidly growing EV exports, and the emergence of global players like BYD, China is poised to solidify its position as a dominant force in the global automotive landscape for years to come.

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