Update on Chinese EVs

Two days ago I wrote about an article that said that Chinese electric vehicles are superior to the ones made in the US though they have not penetrated the market here as yet. Just today, an article appeared that seemed to reinforce the idea.

A tiny, low-priced electric car called the Seagull has American automakers and politicians trembling.

The car, launched last year by Chinese automaker BYD, sells for around $12,000 in China, but drives well and is put together with craftsmanship that rivals U.S.-made electric vehicles that cost three times as much. A shorter-range version costs under $10,000.

Tariffs on imported Chinese vehicles probably will keep the Seagull away from America’s shores for now, and it likely would sell for more than 12 grand if imported.

But the rapid emergence of low-priced EVs from China could shake up the global auto industry in ways not seen since Japanese makers exploded on the scene during the oil crises of the 1970s. BYD, which stands for “Build Your Dreams,” could be a nightmare for the U.S. auto industry.

“Any car company that’s not paying attention to them as a competitor is going to be lost when they hit their market,” said Sam Fiorani, a vice president at AutoForecast Solutions near Philadelphia. “BYD’s entry into the U.S. market isn’t an if. It’s a when.”

Even with the 100% tariff on Chinese EVs proposed by Biden, the Chinese cars may still be competitive.

The situation is starkly similar to what happened with cars in the 1960s. While the US continued to make huge gas guzzlers, the Japanese automakers focused on small, fuel-efficient ones and once their quality improved, they dominated the market.

This time around, US automakers seem to be going for large EVs (like the Tesla Cybertruck monstrosity) that can attain high speeds and go off-road, while the Chinese makers seem to be going for smaller vehicles that are cheaper with smaller batteries that are quick charging and thus ideal for city use. It is not hard to guess which market is larger.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    “put together with craftsmanship that rivals U.S.-made electric vehicles that cost three times as much”

    A low bar.

  2. says

    The impression I get from several sides is that safety is not much of a concern in China.

    So I wonder if those cars will still be as cheap when they have to meet US and EU safety regulations.

  3. chigau (違う) says

    rsmith #2
    I think that China’s alleged lack of concern about safety is more about the safety of the workers who are doing the manufacturing.

  4. says

    chigau@5 Worker safety is part of it, and there are plenty of examples of it not being great. But design or implementation safety is what I’m more worried about.

    Things like penny-pinching by leaving out management IC’s in Li-ion batteries which are the last line of defense against a battery fire. Or building electronic equipment with underrated components. Through e.g. chargers/converters that do not have sufficient separation between high- and low voltage circuits. To chargers where the e.g. 12V output is referenced to mains voltage and water heaters where your water is live at half mains voltage. You can find examples at the bigclivedotcom and EEVblog youtube channels.

  5. xohjoh2n says


    Yes, they demand, absolutely DEMAND, that anyone wishing to sell within the EU paint two little letters on their product.

  6. John Morales says

    xohjoh2n, really?
    Ah, well. Weak, are those EU institutions. Not so seriously taken.

    So, basically, EU regulations can be bypassed by anyone who paints two little letters on their product.
    According to you.

    (Well, one hears they are bureaucratic)

  7. John Morales says

    Just to clarify, there’s a distinction between Chinese car brands and cars built in China, but that distinction does not relate to the country of manufacture.

    BEIJING, Jan 3 (Reuters) -- U.S. automaker Tesla (TSLA.O)
    , opens new tab sold 94,139 China-made electric vehicles (EVs) in December, a 68.7% increase from a year earlier, China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) data showed on Wednesday.
    Deliveries of China-made Model 3 and Model Y vehicles were up 14.2% from November.
    Chinese rival BYD (002594.SZ)
    , opens new tab, with its Dynasty and Ocean lineup of EVs and petrol-electric hybrid models, delivered 341,043 passenger vehicles in December, up 13% from November and a 45% jump year-on-year.
    BYD had a record quarter with sales of 944,779 new energy vehicles in the fourth quarter, including 526,409 pure EVs.


    I suppose one could try to argue the differences between a chinese-built Tesla and one built elsewhere, but it’s reaching a bit, no?

  8. John Morales says

    [ack! ask me to clarify if my copypaste muckup makes things too confusing]

  9. K. Swamy says

    It is believed that Chinese EV makers are heavily subsidized by the state. With declining EV sales in the mainland, these EV manufacturers are flooding overseas markets. In a free market no country can compete with state subsidies.
    Watch the linked video for a take on Chinese EV makers and the subsidies.

    And don’t be fooled by their modern stylish looks. In my country there have been 2 cases of Chery EV’s rear axle of the Omoda 5 had broken whilst being driven, without hitting any bumps or potholes, nor being involved in any accident.

    Turkey, in 2023, imposed a 40% additional tariff on imports of motor vehicles with only electric motors from China. Without which the local Turkish industry will be decimated. Most of China’s gain in exports are structured in this way i.e. state subdizes.

    In my country China led investments invariably entail bringing everything for a project from China, including workers, chefs & raw material like steel and cement. They even have a no go zone for these projects where no locals are allowed to enter. This method deprives the locals from getting any benefits from Chinese investments. The EV’s may be their new strategy for global dominance as the Belt & Road roadmap has stalled.

  10. sonofrojblake says

    There’s some rather naive opinions on display here.

    I assume #8 refers to the CE mark, and if you think you can sell something in the EU simply by painting something on it, you’ve very obviously never tried to get something CE marked, or ever talked to someone who has. And yes, there are factories in China knocking out cheap USB chargers and painting/moulding hookie CE marks on them and flogging them on Temu and Amazon and similar, and they might be making a nice profit at it. But if you think anyone could do the same with CARS you are, charitably, deluded. Again, you’ve obviously never tried to bring a car to market, or spoken to anyone who has. One of my best friends works for a major motor manufacturer as a programme manager. It’s a pretty high-powered job, his budget responsibility is measured in hundreds of millions. The sheer magnitude of the task of bringing any model of car to market at scale, as the BYD is doing, is staggering. It’s not surprising that people not in the industry don’t understand it. Why would you?

    (Side note: one of said friend’s previous jobs on the way to this was as programme manager in special projects. You want one of their cars? Go to a dealer. You want an expensive one? Tick all the boxes in the brochure. You want a REALLY expensive one? Take it to the outfit down the road who will pull the engine out, replace the suspension, refit the interior, and generally turn it into a different, better car. But if your concept of “expensive” is out of sight even of common-or-garden millionaires, you go to special projects, and my buddy sees to the design, procurement, build and delivery of your vehicle, whatever you want. Options he mentioned included the common (bullet-proof), obvious (gold plated steering wheels), less obvious (six wheel drive), and insane (rocket launchers and anti-aircraft guns for an explicitly civilian vehicle). I pointed out to him once that his job was basically delivering batmobiles, and he pointed out that probably none of the people ordering them were heroes. And while historically a lot of his customers were Arabs, while he was in post that changed significantly to Russians and… Chinese.

    Again -- I agree the Chinese may intend using EVs to achieve economic dominance. But if you think they’re so stupid that they’d attempt to do that by selling shitty knock-off vehicles that burst into flames or break down a lot, then again you’re either naive or (yes, let’s say it) racist. They’re communists, sure. But they’re not stupid. They’re a real threat, and if you’re tempted to comfort yourself with the idea that they can’t compete with good ole USofA manufacturing quality then ask yourself how that worked out when it was what you thought about the Japanese in the 60s and 70s. And ask yourself how many Toyota Corollas have been sold in total compared to any other model, or come to that any TWO other models.

    The Chinese are a real threat to the car industry, and tariffs will keep them out for a while…

  11. John Morales says

    Here’s an economist’s take:

    CHINA Electric Vehicle Disaster as Sales Growth & Prices Fall, USA 100% Tariff & Competition Soars

    In this video I look at what is happening with Electric vehicles. Both the price and the sales growth for electric cars fell in Q1 2024, Tesla, the leading brand globally, announced it was firing 10% of its workforce including the staff at its charging business and the share prices of EV brands crashed. However, despite all of this bad news, ZEEKR, a Chinese EV brand, listed its shares on the New York Stock Exchange at a valuation of over $5 Billion and raised $441 Million from USA investors. China has been flooding Global markets with low cost electric vehicles and as a direct result of this the USA recently introduced a 100% tariff on Chinese EV’s. In this episode I look at the reasons why electric vehicle sales are slowing, why there is a reluctance to move to electric for the majority of car buyers and what the implications of the increase in competition means for EV brands such as ZEEKR.

    0:00 Intro
    4:10 ZEEKR IPO
    9:39 EV SALES
    11:27 EV BRANDS
    12:45 EV CONCERNS
    18:13 EV COSTS
    21:38 REPAIRS

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