There has been much debate surrounding the penetration of Chinese Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) into the UK market. While a lot of the discussion is geopolitically motivated, UK fleet managers ‘on the coalface’, tasked with green transition to meet corporate sustainability goals, are more concerned with what BEVs, whether European, from China or elsewhere, are available in the here and now. Additionally, what matters to most fleet managers is the likely Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of BEVs to their fleet, rather than the total cost to UK plc.

ZEV mandate accelerates the UK’s Chinese EV take-up

With the introduction of the ZEV mandate last Autumn, 22% of new cars and 10% of new vans sold in the UK will need to be electric in 2024, ramping up to 80% of cars and 70% of vans by 2030, and increasing to 100% of both by 2035. While many fleet managers may ideally prefer to ‘buy British’, or at least European, Chinese brands accounted for 5%* of all new car sales in the UK in the first seven months of 2023, a market share second only to Sweden. In terms of total sales, therefore, the UK is now the biggest market in Europe for Chinese EV brands.

Whether we like it or not, Chinese BEVs look set to play an increasingly significant role in UK fleet electrification.

So why the negativity surrounding Chinese BEVs?

While both the SMMT and the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) are keen to foster relations, as illustrated by their recent joint trade mission, others are less enthusiastic about China’s electric car sales triumphs.

In fact, the President of the IMI, Jim Saker recently reported** that Chinese BEVs pose a serious threat to national security, due to security vulnerabilities and spyware. “A car manufacturer in Shanghai could stop 100,000 to 300,000 cars across Europe,” he said. “Virtually every country is trying to fight against an overreliance on China, except the UK.”

Meanwhile Parliament’s Intelligence & Security Committee agrees that China is actively targeting British interests “prolifically and aggressively” by “seeking to control key industrial and energy assets”. All this is before we even mention the current EU anti-subsidy investigation which is examining whether EU vehicle manufacturers efforts are being impeded by market distortions and unfair competition.

Yet with the established success of Chinese BEVs in the UK, no matter what the outcome of the EU investigation Chinese BEV power is already proving its worth to UK fleet operators. There’s no denying that Chinese BEVs are invigorating and injecting new and used car and van markets with quality new vehicles and opening a greater choice of finance options and price competition.

Chinese designs star at the Paris Motor Show

Fleet managers acknowledge this expanded range of BEVs is not just about pricing and finance though. Many recognise the turnaround in design capability coming out of the Chinese market. Chinese vehicle manufacturers were once derided for their copycat designs. An important moment was the 2019 Beijing court victory for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) against Jiangling Motors, over a Range Rover Evoque parody which JLR challenged on grounds of copyright infringement and unfair competition. Fast forward three years and the picture could hardly be more different. In October 2022, Auto Retail ran the eye-catching headline “Chinese brands star at Paris Motor Show”.

Carry on carrying on…

There are over nine months to run until the conclusion of the European Commission’s anti- subsidy investigation. Meanwhile, the debate surrounding UK security fears of using Chinese manufacturers rumbles on. While we wait for the outcome of both, the BEV market moves forward with European motor manufacturers investing in their Chinese counterparts and the Middle East funding Chinese too. It’s clear that the market is shifting. While GB PLC is a legitimate concern for those up the food chain, fleet managers must carry on carrying on, and make their fleet choices from what is presented to them.

For more on this subject visit https://www. to download the latest whitepaper on Chinese Battery Electric Vehicle Power. It will introduce you to the biggest and best Chinese BEV brands, profile key models, and predict the likely implications for UK fleets and the wider automotive industry.

Tel: 0330 0947 803

Venson Automotive Solutions Limited, 13 Castle Mews, Hampton, Middlesex TW12 2NP

* Schmidt Automotive Research – December 2023 ** The Daily Telegraph