top of page

Editorial 01/2024: Geely's, masked-ball strategy, sees the Chinese holding company deliver every tenth new BEV car in January

Europe versus China car manufacturer history infographic


All eyes were glued on BYD's Explorer One Pure Car Truck Carrier (PCTC) last month, which delivered 6,000 models across three European ports on its maiden voyage to Europe – leaving 1,000 unoccupied spaces aboard the ship's 7,000 capacity decks – following a 40-day voyage, meaning a realistic annual delivery rate of around 30,000 units per year, or more of a sedate ripple effect on the market – perhaps which one could expect to see in a calming Monet landscape artwork – considering the new regional BEV market is expected to reach over 2 million new units this year, rather than anything like the impression of a piece of work from Kanagawa, such as The Great Wave, often used as an analogy to describe China's threat to the European auto market. However, another Chinese manufacturer and holding group, which has been in stealth mode and deviating radar, delivered five times as many models as BYD in January. Snapping up 10% of the region's BEV new car market and ending the opening month as the West European region's fourth largest passenger car group in terms of new BEV volumes, Geely, through their intelligent strategy of turning up to a Venetian masked ball, and blending in perfectly with other guests, have silently but surely hit the market running. Purchased-in brand equity adding almost one century's worth of automotive heritage and competence, coupled together with "China-speed" and domestic procurement scaling benefits have been key, and helped the Chinese holding group, headed by Eric Li, be more akin to a silent travelling torpedo, travelling under the surface of the water to Europe. Hitting the European market right where it hurts, in the high-margin premium segment, other Chinese brands, such as NIO and FAW (Hongqi), have tried and failed so far. China's largest group in Western Europe's BEV passenger car market thanks to its foresight to acquire crucial brand-equity with Volvo Cars, which it still owns almost 80% of, following a minor 3.4% trim of its stake at the end of last year, and in turn indirectly a large part of Polestar (Volvo currently controls 48%), although the Swedish company is in the process of off-loading a large share. Eric Li, also holds a large private stake in Polestar. Geely also controls major stakes in Lotus Group and Lotus Tech, as well as being part of a 50/50 Smart joint venture with Mercedes. They are also in the process of rolling their Zeekr brand out across Northern Europe, using intelligent architecture sharing across all-brands. This report has shifted Smart to Geely from 2024, given both Chinese-developed and manufactured Geely-based architecture (SEA) models (#1 and #3) now account for more than half of its West European registrations while this year also witnesses the phase-out of the French-made Smart fortwo.

Thanks to being in the right place at the right time (Sweden), with the takeover of Volvo Cars in 2010, one year later, following the eventual collapse of Saab, located 90 km away from Volvo's Torslanda HQ, Geely were able to acquire a large part of the skilled engineers, and marketing team from the former GM-owned company and effectively helped lay the foundations for Polestar and Lynk&Co. Ironically, GM failed to allow a potential Chinese investor to take control of Saab, saying it "would not be able to support a change in the ownership of Saab which could negatively impact GM's existing relationships in China or otherwise adversely affect GM's interests worldwide". The rest is history! A look on the business social network site, Linkedin, is proof that indeed many Lynk&Co and Polestar staff, were former employees of Saab or GM Europe, including former Lynk&Co CEO Alain Visser. However, it may not be just in the east where all eyes should be focused. US start-up Rivian, who delivered 50,122 new vehicles across North America last year, unveiled a new mid-size platform at the start of March, which will be rolled out in the US in 2026 and make its international debut soon after. The R3, which appears to look like an early Golf II Country SUV, is sure to send shivers down the backs of Volkswagen's Scout Motors brand, the nameplate the Germans inherited, having found it stuffed between the driver and passenger seats on the purchase of the US Navistar truck and bus brand, formally known as International Harvester, in 2001, which now sits under its TRATON truck and bus operation. Having broken ground on its first production site in the US state of South Carolina last month, the all-electric cult off-roaders from Scout (VW of America reloaded), looking more Bronco than Bora, won't begin rolling off the production line until the end of 2026, based on a body-on-frame architecture. Meanwhile, switching the compass back in an easterly direction, the European Union, in a foretaste to the results of the full investigation into anti-subsidy investigation into the imports of battery electric vehicles (BEV) from China, appear confident that they have found evidence of unfair competition. The formal deadline for any provisional measures of the investigation is set for June 5, meaning member states will be informed in May, resulting in more details becoming clear. As part of a document published by the European Union, it highlights that "the Commission has at its disposal sufficient evidence tending to show that imports of the product concerned from the PRC are being subsidised." It highlights "the available evidence at this stage tends to show that the exports of the product concerned are benefiting from countervailable subsidies."  With imports from China having to be logged now, retrospective tariffs could well be taken. However, crucially, at this stage of the investigation, the EU says it is not yet possible to estimate the amount of subsidisation accurately. Thus, the Commission has not yet found it appropriate to provide an estimated amount of future liability. During the opening month of 2024, made-in-China models accounted for 23,596 BEV units, accounting for 20.3% of all the new models entering Western Europe, which includes non-EU markets, the UK, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. However, only 10,472 of those were Chinese brand models, with the rest (just over half) coming from Western brands, including BMW, Tesla, Honda, Volvo and Dacia.

Luckily for Geely, they already have the pieces in place to switch from Chinese to European plants, as they already plan to do so with the SEA Geely-based platform EX30 from 2025, leveraging its Ghent facility. A spokesperson from Geely HQ in China confirmed to this report that other Holding brands are activity considering producing in Europe, accelerated by the current political climate, however a European Geely spokesperson couldn't confirm this when asked. ◼︎︎

The European Electric Car Study published by Schmidt Automotive Research each month and is available to purchase as a single edition or an annual subscription.

The study now also features a double page in-depth look at the Chinese OEMs as their European expansion slowly begins.


*Western Europe 18 Markets: EU Member States prior to the 2004 enlargement plus EFTA markets Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, plus UK


bottom of page