China is not slowing down its production and sales of electric vehicles. The country is the global leader in both, with new data suggesting they will remain at an all-time high for some time to come! Naturally, Western companies are looking to grab a share of the Chinese electric vehicles market, while Chinese EV makers are looking for opportunities to sell their electric models in the West.
Succeeding in the Chinese EV (electric vehicles) market won’t be easy (especially with tough local competition from Chinese automakers), however, brands like Tesla are proof that it is possible. Western companies need to understand the unique dynamics of the Chinese electric cars market and adapt their products and strategies to succeed. Here’s a look at what you need to know about the Chinese EV market.
China Electric Vehicles Market Overview
China is the largest producer and buyer of electric vehicles in the world, accounting for more than half of all electric cars and hybrid vehicles produced and sold in the world in 2023. The revenue in the electric vehicles market reached US $292.1 billion in 2023. It’s predicted to grow by a CAGR of 6.38% between 2023-2028 to reach US $398 billion in 2028.
Given the global increase in environmental awareness, many countries have shared the same growing popularity for electric vehicles.
When it comes to the average price, in 2023 it is expected to amount US $46.9k. The majority of produced cars are battery electric EVS, with a smaller share of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
Similarly, the number of business-related new energy vehicles exploded in China (+180000) and the country now counts more than 321000 businesses in the industry. China has taken the turn and represents an incredible opportunity for (non-Chinese) companies that are willing to put in the efforts.
Chinese infrastructures push the development of electric vehicles
China has set itself the goal of making new energy vehicles account for 25% of car sales by 2025. To increase national productivity, national electric vehicle startups have been exempted from a sales tax of 10%, and subsidies were provided for buyers of electric vehicles. This will help make China the largest electric vehicle market in the world measured by sales volume.
The development of new infrastructures that push for the development of 5G and artificial intelligence, also creates a favorable condition for the growth of electric vehicles, promoting technologies such as autonomous driving and the internet of vehicles.
Furthermore, China is the world leader in charging infrastructure. As of 2023, China operates the world’s largest electric power grid with over 1.8 million charging points, according to the China Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Promotion Alliance. It is estimated that 14.1 million electric cars were in use in China in 2022.
Covid-19 effect on China’s electric vehicle market
China’s electric vehicle market is experiencing a shock after the pandemic. While sales of new energy vehicles fell by 37.4% from January to June from the previous year, sales of premium electric vehicles increased rapidly from May, with Tesla sales tripling from April to May and those of NIOs which have seen an increase for three consecutive months.
The electric vehicle market continues to be very promising with the growing demand from the population and the development of companies capable of meeting the needs of Chinese consumers.
In addition to that, automobile manufacturers around the globe are having problems with supply chains and car parts due to the COVID-19 crisis, which increases production costs and time. This creates a bigger demand for Chinese imports and creates a great opportunity for Chinese carmakers, who are planning to expand globally in the next few years.
Top 10 Best-Selling Electric Vehicle Manufacturers
According to Clean Technica, Tesla Model Y was the best-selling electric vehicle in the world in 2023, followed by BYD Song, the renowned Chinese EVS company. But it’s important to mention, that China’s market was the main driver of growth.
It’s worth noticing nearly half of the world’s top 10 best sellers in 2023 were Chinese brands, reflecting the huge potential of the new energy vehicle market in China. BYD is also exceeding Tesla when it comes to the best sales in Q1 2023.
Global passenger electric vehicle* (EV) sales in Q1 2023 rose 32% YoY, according to the latest research from Counterpoint’s Global Passenger Electric Vehicle Model Sales Tracker. One in every seven cars sold during Q1 2023 was an EV. Battery EVs (BEVs) accounted for 73% of all EV sales during the quarter, while plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) made up the rest.
China accounted for 56% of total EV sales in Q1 2023 and 29% YoY growth, despite a 12% drop in overall sales of passenger vehicles.
While sales in Europe and North America have suffered a severe blow, due to Covid-19. Tesla instead made a profit from local manufacturing in China, where it became the best-selling NEV model by a large margin.
Many Vehicle Manufacturers See China as a Core Market for Electric Cars
As Chinese consumers’ awareness improves, and policy support from the Chinese government is withdrawn, they are becoming more rational in their choices regarding new energy vehicles. Therefore a deeper understanding of customer needs, and improving their experience will be key to driving profitability.
This is a huge market for many vehicles manufacturers and the following examples explain how much China is seen as a core market for electric cars:
- Toyota Motor and BYD signed a 50-50 joint-venture agreement to produce electric vehicles and the batteries they will need.
- BMW and China’s massive State Grid announced a tie-up that aims to double the number of charging piles for the German company’s China vehicles, a shortage of electricity stations that has turned away potential buyers.
- Volkswagen has led the way among foreign firms harnessing China’s early recovery.
Volkswagen said it would invest $2.2 billion in EV-related projects across China. Nearly half of this will increase its joint venture with Chinese state-owned JAC Motors from 50% to 75% and acquire a 50% stake in JAC’s parent company.
Volkswagen also announced that it will become the largest shareholder of Chinese battery maker Gotion High-Tech, buying 26% of the shares for $ 1.23 billion.
How EV Manufacturers are Leading the Chinese Market? Strategies for Success
The large Chinese market often leads companies in the sector to wage war with competitors to increase brand awareness and reliability among Chinese consumers. Companies entering the Chinese market should know how much branding and brand reliability are necessary to sell in China.
Chinese consumers tend not to trust companies they do not know (even well-known companies outside of China, may not be known by Chinese consumers), they seek information, advice, and reassurance on the internet through social media or Q&A platforms or ask for information from friends, people who know the electric vehicle sector or people who have already tried the vehicle.
Therefore, improving digital brand awareness and reliability is vital for brands in China. But how to do this in China?
Localization is the key to improving brand reliability
Localization is the basic aspect of being successful in the Chinese market. A completely different culture and language lead to completely different marketing strategies than we are used to.
Localizing the content, the channels, and the way to communicate are all necessary steps for the Chinese market. For example, companies in this sector should know that social media like Facebook, Twitter, or the Google search engine don’t work in China, so which communication channel to use?
Let’s see together how companies in the electric car sector are using the Chinese internet to promote and sell their vehicles in the Chinese market.
Baidu SEO strategy to rank first on the Chinese search engine electric vehicle results
It is essential for a foreign brand to create a visible website on Baidu for two main reasons:
- Chinese are among the world’s largest internet users. To reach Chinese users it is essential to use Baidu. The reason is simple: it holds over 70% of the search engine market.
- Nine out of ten Chinese users say they use Baidu to search online.
Remember that If well indexed on Baidu, traffic to the site will increase exponentially. Therefore, a proper Baidu SEO strategy is important.
Brands should create a Chinese-language website for two reasons:
- will be rewarded by Baidu (therefore it will be faster to load)
- the knowledge of English is not yet widespread in China.
As you can see in the previous picture Tesla has a Baidu account and a Chinese website hosted in China.
If you want to know more about how to create a Baidu account and how to set up a Baidu SEO strategy, or simply to translate your website, contact us!
Chinese Social media to increase visibility in the China’s electric vehicle market
The two most used social media to look for vehicles in China are WeChat (monthly active users 1.2 billion) and Weibo (520 million monthly active users). Therefore, open accounts on social are essential for electric vehicle brands that want to increase brand awareness and visibility in the Chinese market.
Wechat is definitely an effective tool for sharing information and news with your followers. Marketing on Wechat can mean many things:
- new vehicles can be presented and promotions launched,
- create exclusive competitions and games to interact with your audience,
- allow the user to browse the site to receive information.
As you can see here, both Tesla and BYD have a Wechat account to communicate with their community, to share companies updates, new products, new functions, benefits, and so on.
Weibo features make it useful for communicating quickly with many followers at the same time. Weibo is the most open social network in China, in fact, users can see posts from anyone.
Weibo offers brands various functions:
- increase in brand awareness
- starting collaborations with Key Opinion Leader
- word-of-mouth spread
- investments in brand advertising
BYD and Tesla are using this social media to show their vehicles functionalities, especially through videos.
Short-video and live streaming have become important for the vehicle industry in China
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Chinese vehicle manufacturers turned to short video platforms like Douyin (TikTok)and Kuaishou to drive up sales. They embraced live streaming as a way to keep the conversation going with potential consumers who were also stuck at home.
The number of live streaming sessions involving the auto industry increased 15 times in March compared to January, and the total number of attendees increased six times.
The new trend of automobile live-streaming has captured the attention of both consumers and content creators with its informative, efficient, and interactive way of connecting to its users.
The use of these platforms could be a big opportunity for brands to increase their brand awareness and to show their brand’s value to their customers, gaining visibility and increasing sales.
Live streaming is very popular in China and are particularly loved by users for their ability to be transparent and authentic.
KOLs: Collaborate with industry experts to promote electric vehicles
Whether you are interested in boosting awareness or generating leads, a KOL can do wonders for reaching your ideal audience. Your KOL search should consist of choosing an influencer that has quality content and deep insights into their viewers. In the electric vehicle industry, the best way is to collaborate with industry experts which can contribute to making the brand more reliable and interesting.
For example, as you can see in the following picture, BYD is collaborating with electric vehicle experts to enhance its digital reputation in the Chinese market.
Q&A platforms to spread awareness of your brand and electric vehicles among Chinese consumers
Zhihu is a Chinese question-and-answer site like Quora. Key benefits for electric vehicle brands of marketing on Zhihu are:
- High-quality content
Zhihu is known in China for its reliability, therefore the content engages well-educated users with particular interests, and it can inﬂuences the user decision-making process.
- Word of mouth function
Since most of the users are well-educated, being mentioned on the platform can help your brand establish trust and go viral through word-of-mouth across the community.
- SEO exposure
Zhihu has a very high domain authority on the Baidu search engine. Therefore whenever a keyword is searched for on one of these platforms, you will most likely always see a Zhihu Q&A on the first Search engine results page.
- The rise of brand awareness through Q&A marketing campaign
Brands can register for oﬃcial veriﬁed accounts, where they can build their customer base and interact directly with their fans by answering speciﬁc questions. Companies can also promote their brands and introduce their products in a more professional and technical way.
- Leverage the community to ask questions and talk about you
This allows them to get high-quality user-generated content, improve their user engagement and amplify their influence on social media. The most common practice is for brands to post questions directly related to their products.
- Zhihu Live streaming
Zhihu Live streaming creates opportunities for brands to provide in-depth knowledge, have a discussion, and communicate with users in a more direct way.
Tesla’s Zhihu account:
Read more about Zhihu Marketing
Companies can sell electric vehicle through Tmall e-commerce platform
Electric vehicles in China can also be purchased online and this is possible thanks to the Tmall e-commerce platform.
For more than a year, the Alibaba Group has been experimenting with various online sales methods. And now, the presence of car manufacturers on Tmall is a constant.
For years, vehicles manufacturers have been investing in innovative approaches for the sale of cars and China is the market that is proving more receptive to news than any other.
As you can see in the following photo, Tesla even has a store on Tmall.
GMA Can Help You to Market and Sell Electric Vehicles in China
Gentlemen Marketing Agency is a Digital Marketing Agency that is an expert in helping foreign companies to establish or strengthen their position in China. At Gentlemen Marketing Agency, we have the expertise and tools to guide your brand to success in China’s EV industry.
We have been here for more than 10 years now, always getting better and bigger. From the outset, we have had 1000 satisfied customers. Some of them for a single mission, some of them with whom we are still working and who have grown with us. More than customers we are looking for partners we can develop with.
Here’s how we can help:
- Baidu SEO: As China’s leading search engine, Baidu is the gateway to reaching millions of potential consumers. Our team specializes in Baidu SEO strategies, ensuring that when Chinese customers search for EVs, your brand stands out prominently in the search results.
- Social Media Marketing: The power of social media in China cannot be underestimated. From WeChat to Weibo, our experts craft tailored campaigns that resonate with the Chinese audience, ensuring you capture their attention and foster brand loyalty.
- Video Marketing: With platforms like Douyin (TikTok’s Chinese counterpart) taking the market by storm, video content is more crucial than ever. Our creative team produces compelling video campaigns that strike a chord with Chinese consumers, driving brand recognition and engagement.
- KOL Collaboration: Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) wield significant influence in China. We’ll connect you with the right KOLs in the EV sector, ensuring your brand receives genuine endorsements that build trust and drive sales.
- Zhihu Marketing: Zhihu is China’s leading Q&A platform, where informed consumers go to discuss and discover. By establishing a presence on Zhihu, your brand can engage in meaningful dialogues, position itself as an industry leader, and address potential customers’ queries and concerns.
- e-commerce Integration: Online shopping is a way of life in China. We’ll help you integrate your brand into leading e-commerce platforms, ensuring seamless buying experiences for customers and maximizing your sales potential.
Tapping into China’s EV market is a golden opportunity, but it comes with its unique challenges. With Gentlemen Marketing Agency by your side, you’ll not only overcome these hurdles but thrive in this dynamic environment. Contact us to discuss it further!