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For many years, China and its car manufacturers operated solely to satisfy domestic vehicle production demands. Today, the economic titan just overtook its closest competition to become the top exporter of cars in the world. Read about Chinese car exports and brands like BYD, SAIC, and Geely. 

China says it overtook Japan as the No. 1 car exporter in the world

As of the end of the first quarter (Q1) of 2023, Chinese car export figures put the country ahead of Japan. Specifically, China states that it exported 1.07 million cars in Q1 2023, up a staggering 58% from Q1 2022. 

A lot full of hatchback cars from Chinese car brand SAIC await export.
A lot full of SAIC’s Mingjue cars | Costfoto via Future Publishing via Getty Images

According to the BBC, Japan sold 954,185 vehicles in Q1, around 115,815 fewer than China. Japan was the leading exporter of cars in the market during 2022. While the Japanese export car market experienced some growth, around 6%, it’s not enough to keep pace with the rapidly expanding Chinese automotive industry. 

Moreover, China’s automotive exports surpassed Germany in 2022 to take the No. 2 spot. In 2022, China exported 3.2 million vehicles, whereas Germany shipped 2.6 million to international markets. 

What cars are exported from China?

China exports many vehicles from its most profitable brands, like SAIC, BYD, and Zhejiang Geely. Moreover, some of China’s largest automotive manufacturers have experienced a boost in electric vehicle (EV) exports. 

However, the country’s media says that American electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla experienced the most significant bump in export traffic. The marque’s China operations shipped 90,000 vehicles in Q1, ahead of SAIC’s 50,000. Moreover, the top destinations for the country’s EV exports are Thailand, Australia, and Belgium. 

A red EV from the Chinese car brand BYD heads to export from the factory.
A BYD Qin Plus DM-i EV | VCG via Getty Images

Where are Chinese cars exported?

China produces vehicles for many markets, including new energy vehicles (NEVs) for Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Belgium. However, the most notable spike in Chinese export traffic resulted from a surge in shipments to Russia. 

After Russia invaded Ukraine in Q1 2022, large international brands like Toyota and Volkswagen scaled down and ceased production and sales for the Russian market. Consequently, China’s auto industry filled the gaps, with Russian orders tripling between pre-and-post-invasion figures, per Nikkei Asia.  

Many Chinese cars await pickup at a Geely lot.
A Geely car lot | VCG via Getty Images

What cars made in China are sold in the U.S.?

At the time of this article, no Chinese car brands export badged vehicles to the U.S. market. However, several American car brands have partnered with companies in China to produce vehicles for regional markets abroad. For instance, General Motors partnered with SAIC for vehicle production and distribution.


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