Electromobility: The Chinese are strangers to German e-cars

Status: 04/18/2023 08:18 a.m

Electric cars are booming in China, and the competition between brands is fierce. That’s why the manufacturers are in a real price war. But where are the German car manufacturers?

Electric cars “made in Germany”? Snap poll on a Beijing street – and the answer couldn’t be clearer. “E-cars have to offer highlights. I’ve never seen anything like that from VW,” says a passer-by. “The Germans are good at combustion engines – hardware, mechanics, chassis. I would buy German e-cars, but they’re not that good so far.”

Astrid Freieisen

And a woman in her mid-thirties also says: “I don’t see German e-cars catching up.” She is a typical car buyer – because they are usually much younger in China than in Germany.

Dependence on battery suppliers

Although German brands are popular in China, the car companies cannot score with their e-models there. But why are the e-models from German manufacturers not ahead – except in the segment of 100,000 euros or more? After all, electric cars are in demand in China like never before, forecast for the current year: ten million vehicles will be sold. Last year, the number of e-cars sold was 6.5 million.

For Philipp Kemmler, spokesman for the Chinese car manufacturer Great Wall in Munich, the division of labor is one of the problems for the Germans: “In China, the battery comes from the same company as the vehicle itself.” He sees the fact that things are different in Germany as a problem: “You are highly dependent on the suppliers of the battery cells. And that causes one or the other bottleneck.”

Cars must “be able to do as much as cell phones”

But the biggest problem seems to be digitalization. On the Internet, Chinese customers complained about massive software problems in their cars – for example because the screens in their German electric cars suddenly went black. Manufacturers like Volkswagen have long promised to solve such problems.

Jochen Siebert, the automotive expert specializing in China, sees the greatest weakness here: “The vehicle must be able to do at least as much as the mobile phone. That’s not the case at VW, but neither at Mercedes.” From his point of view, the Germans have missed a trend here.

Digital helpers bind customers to the brand

What is trending in China may sound strange to Germans – such as a karaoke function. Or Nomi, the digital assistant in Nio’s e-cars. This can be used to activate a massage function in the seats, for example. Chinese brand Nio is also pushing into Europe. In China, it is among the top.

You have to bind customers closely to the brand in order to survive, explains European boss Zhang Hui: “To date we have already had four million downloads for the Nio app, while the sales figures are around 300,000 vehicles. And the daily active users of the Nio app are already over 400,000”. An enormous market that is opening up for the car manufacturer.

China imposes production quotas

A dealer network loses importance as a result. And the pressure on German car manufacturers continues to increase: the Chinese government has canceled its subsidies and replaced them with mandatory production quotas for e-cars. At the same time, the US carmaker Tesla has rapidly reduced prices.

The entire car market in China is in turmoil, says Siebert. The expert finds: The Germans must now quickly solve their problems. So has the train already left for the Germans? Kemmler’s verdict: “The conductor whistled. We can still jump in. But we really have to hurry and put our feet up to remain internationally competitive here.”

Don’t the Chinese like German electric cars?

Astrid Freyeisen, BR, April 12, 2023 10:53 a.m

#Electromobility #Chinese #strangers #German #ecars
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