Chinese automakers haven’t had much success when it comes to entering foreign markets. Aiways, an electric-vehicle startup based in Shanghai, isn't giving up though. The company, which launched four years ago, hopes to debut its flagship EV, the U5, in Germany, France, Switzerland, Norway, and the Netherlands next spring.
If all goes according to plan, Aiways would be the first Chinese-brand electric car sold in Europe. The company hopes to reach buyers through direct online sales and leasing, which will allow them to reduce costs and compete with petrol cars, Alexander Klose, vice president for overseas operation, told the Financial Times. The U5, he added, is expected to be listed at under €40,000, or $44,700.For leasing, Aiways would like to partner with Vehiculum, a German startup that offers an online leasing marketplace.
Experts, however, believe that the company’s expectations may be too high. As a result of government restrictions in China, Aiways was only recently granted a license to manufacture cars. Along with Chinese automaker Jiangling Motors, the company will begin producing the U5 for the domestic market in September, a mere eight months before they hope to launch the model in Europe, which has much stricter safety standards.
This wouldn’t be the first time a Chinese automaker has announced delays. BYD, the world’s largest EV manufacturer, has postponed its plans to sell EVs in the US three times. “Chinese automakers have attempted many different methods to enter overseas markets,” Quin Garcia, managing director at San Francisco-based Autotech Ventures, told Quartz, “The fundamental question I would ask is, ‘What would cause a European consumer to choose the Chinese Aiways vehicles over other vehicle offerings available to these consumers in the European market?'”
China only exported an estimated 760,000 passenger vehicles last year. In addition, car sales in China decreased last year for the first time in two decades, a trend that will likely continue given current economic conditions. It is understandable, therefore, that Chinese automakers want to enter lucrative foreign markets. Great Wall Motors, China's largest sport utility vehicle and pick-up truck producer, hopes to increase deliveries to South Africa, Chile, and Russia by a third this year.
Despite the current financial climate, electric cars have somewhat defied the economic downturn in China. Last year, EV sales continued to grow. The government, which us currently embroiled in a trade war with the US, hopes that Europe will provide a promising and profitable overseas market.