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China’s vehicle exports rose in 2023, cited by the gap left in the Russian market after its invasion of Ukraine. As car manufacturers backed out of that territory, the void was immediately filled by Chinese gas-powered options. By November 2023, China had exported six times more cars to Russia than it had in 2022.

Still, at 5.22 million exported units, China didn’t beat the world’s largest car exporter. That prize goes to Japan, which shipped out 5.97 million cars, according to CNBC.

With Japan exporting its Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Suzuki, and associated family brands, 2023 might be one of the last years with the crown before China overtakes the international scene.

While the U.S. drivers remain largely unfamiliar with Chinese car manufacturers, Mexico saw a bump in Chinese vehicles entering the country. This was a head-scratcher to some since Mexico has historically been extremely protective of its domestic automotive sector.

Belgium and the United Kingdom also received notable amounts of Chinese cars, most of which were the latest EV options.

BYD Chinese automaker showroom exterior in Shanghai, China
BYD EV car showroom in Shanghai, China | Robert Way via iStock

Earlier in January, the Associated Press reported that a Chinese shipyard finished a freighter designed to carry 7,000 cars. This is the country’s first domestically-built freighter in service. Named the BYD Explorer No. 1, it will load up with new BYD EVs and take off for Europe. BYD produced over three million units in 2023, more than Tesla. What’s more, its lineup contains better-performing, more affordable options.

EVs will remain in China’s lap until a market disrupter presents a high-quality, affordable, entry-level EV that can push mass adoption.

With its Q4 2023 earnings report, Elon Musk announced a release date for a less expensive entry-level model, codenamed ‘Redwood.’ According to the company it will begin production on this next-gen EV in mid-2025.

Sources: CNBC, Associated Press