Chinese-made cars account for 1 in 5 BEV registrations in February in Europe: JATO

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February was a positive month for the new car market in Europe. According to JATO Dynamics’ data from 28 European markets, a total of 988,116 passenger cars were registered during the month. This marks a 10% rise in volume compared with February 2023, bringing the year-to-date total to nearly two million units – an increase of 11%. Felipe Munoz, Global Analyst at JATO Dynamics, commented: “As the economic outlook has continued to improve, the car market has gone from strength to strength. This comes despite the ongoing geopolitical tensions across the continent.”

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) are not driving growth as they historically have done. In contrast, gasoline cars performed almost as well as they did before the Covid-19 pandemic. JATO’s data revealed that these vehicles were responsible for 61% of total registrations in February 2024, in comparison to the 62% registered in February 2019. This success comes at the expense of diesel cars, with the market share of these vehicles falling from 35% of registrations in February 2019 to just 15% last month.

Munoz, added: “Despite the noticeable shift towards EVs, many European consumers are not ready to turn away from ICE cars. While we’re seeing a clear decline in demand for diesel models, drivers are opting for gasoline alternatives, rather than switching to electric.”

Chinese-made cars drive growth

In Europe, registrations of cars made in China saw the highest levels of year-on-year growth last month (+45%) and in January-February (+43%). By comparison, the registrations of cars made in Germany and Spain – the second and third most popular origins – saw increases of 6% each during February. This is the highest increase among the top 10 origins – allowing the market share for these vehicles to reach 4.0%, up from 3.0% in February last year. As a result, cars made in China outsold cars made in Italy, Korea, Morocco, and Romania, while also closing the gap between cars made in Turkey and the UK.

This growth is even stronger when looking at BEV registrations, with cars made in China accounting for one in five BEV registrations in February and January-February. In contrast, registrations of BEVs made in Germany increased by just 8% in the first two months of this year. The volume of plug-in hybrid cars made in China fell by 62% last month, with these vehicles making up just 3.4% of the total coming from China, compared to 66% for BEVs.

Munoz, continued: “The growth is partly explained by action taken by some Chinese OEMs to accelerate imports ahead of the EU decision on the anti-subsidy investigation. Increased tariffs could slow the growth of China’s OEMs, but as a knock-on effect it could also prompt them to accelerate their deliveries to Europe.”

While these results are impressive, it is notable that approximately 44% of all the volumes of made-in-China cars were registered by Western brands including Tesla, Volvo, and Dacia, while 40% were registered by MG – fully Chinese-owned and designed, but positioned as a UK brand in the West. This means that Chinese brands accounted for just 16% of Chinese-made cars registrations, reinforcing the fact that these manufacturers continue to face challenges related to perception and awareness in Europe.

Munoz, added: “Chinese brands still have a long way to go before they occupy a significant part of the European market. Despite the strides they have made in regard to performance and affordability, increasing awareness and shifting long-standing perceptions will take time.”