Will Chinese Car Brands shake Europe up?

Automologist MAC thinks we shouldn't turn our noses up so quickly at Chinese car brands... 

For years now, Chinese industrial giants have been studying and learning the ancient art (well, not so ancient) of car manufacturing from their European, American and Asian joint venture partners. You see, to operate as a car manufacturer in China, you have to have a JV with a local company, with whom you would share ideas and technology, and jointly develop some models, whilst all the time sharing production know-how.

About a decade ago, certain Chinese manufacturers made a big push into European markets in an attempt to win market share. It was a disaster. The initial offering of cars were simply outdated before they had even arrived and worse, had powertrains that failed to live up to Europe’s tough emissions standards. But far worse than that, all of them scored woefully low on Europe’s crash tests.

Since 2006, Chinese marques have been conspicuous by their absence in Europe, with just 3,866 units sold in a market where more than 14 million vehicles are bought every year. But worse, just about all of these sales came from MG motors in the UK or GWM in Italy.

Coming into the present, things could not look better for the Chinese brands that are trying to dip their toes back into the European pond. At the vanguard is of course Geely’s Lynk & Co brand, which is looking like a serious contender in the near future. Of course cynics out there would argue that this is because of the help that it has received from its sister brand Volvo, which is of course owned by Geely as well. But in a way, that is exactly my point.

Also on the horizon is the rebirth of Borgward, a famous old German brand that is set to be revived with Chinese money, support from the likes of Bosch, Webasto and Schaeffler, along with the involvement from some notable ex-Daimler executives, including CEO Ullrich Walker, who was formerly the Daimler head in China. Borgward, which originally went out of business in 1961, plans to assemble about 10,000 BX7 cars from kits imported from China in its first year, at a factory in Bremen, its former hometown.


The BX7 posing above an original Borgward Goliath.

Both of the companies plan to tap into the current fashion for alternative drivetrains. Lynk & Co will feature a Volvo-sourced hybrid drivetrain and probably be built at the Volvo factory in Ghent, Belgium. Brogward is opting for a purely electric drivetrain, although there is no detail on where this would be sourced from.

Many years ago, I remember when the first Japanese cars driving along the streets of my hometown; we were singularly unimpressed. Little did we know just how determined the Japanese manufacturers were to play a role in the future of global transportation. Much the same could be said for the Chinese now, only they have the advantage of a massive low-cost labour force and the help of the established brands to learn the market. Who knows when we all may view Geely or GWM in much the same way as we currently view Honda or Toyota.

Chinese brands not doing so well….for now.


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