Mighty oaks from little acorns grow – and if you want proof of that, you need look no further than the Japanese and South Korean car industries.
Both of them have gone from nowhere to become global industrial powerhouses, with Europe’s car manufacturers bearing most of the brunt.
Back in the late 1960s, most Japanese brands were barely heard of in the UK, then along came some canny importers and the rest is history.
Now, one of those concessionaires – IM Group – is one of the pioneers of the Chinese import market.
Meanwhile, the longest-established Chinese brand in the UK, SAIC, sits in 9th position in the UK sales charts as of the end of May 2023, its MG brand outselling the likes of Renault, Volvo, Peugeot, Skoda and Citroen during the year to date.
That’s the very same MG brand that 10 years ago was being scoffed at by cynics, many of whom were very doubtful about its existence and said it wouldn’t stand a chance.
However, so far in 2023, it has matched more than 60 per cent of Ford’s sales volume – MG, it would appear, stands for Massive Growth.
And now, many of its domestic rivals are chasing a slice of the pie.
After all, as the car industry becomes ever more reliant on battery power and electrical systems, who could be better than the world’s leading supplier of electrical goods to turn the market on its head?
Here are the top five up-and-coming Chinese brands to keep an eye on over the next 12 months:
A subsidiary of Great Wall Motors – itself a brand very briefly sold in the UK with its unsuccessful Steed pick-up – Ora is tipped to be one of the most disruptive new EV brands across Europe.
It will be distributed across the UK by IM Group, and its first model – the Funky Cat – is already on sale.
IM has a history of developing imported brands, having launched Daihatsu, Subaru and Isuzu into the UK and built up a loyal dealer network over the years, so there’s plenty of scope for Ora to hit the ground running.
The Funky Cat is as quirky as its name suggests, but this is no bad thing. It’s a characterful, high-spec car with adaptive cruise control, 360-degree cameras, LED headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Toby Marshall, sales and marketing director at GWM Ora UK, said: ‘Already, we have had overwhelming interest in the Ora brand and there is no doubt that it will play a pivotal role in accelerating the UK’s transition to a more sustainable future.’
If you live in fear of AI taking over (and don’t we all, just a little bit?), then Aiways may put you slightly on edge.
The brand’s name is apparently a portmanteau of ‘AI’s on the way’, and with its styling it apes the look and feel of the likes of Tesla’s Model Y, Nissan’s Ariya and the Ford Mustang Mach-E.
Aiways has two models destined for Europe – the flagship U6 and smaller U5 – and is apparently not looking for dealer partners, instead favouring a direct-to-customer approach.
Much as SAIC mopped up the remnants of MG Rover Group in order to relaunch MG, it also picked over the bones of another British stalwart in the late 2000s.
The defunct LDV LCV marque has since been relaunched and rebranded as Maxus, which was the model name of LDV’s last van.
With a fully electric powertrain and 60 dealers, plus some impressive contracts such as VMS Leasing and CitySprint, the brand’s growth is already quick out of the blocks.
The premium Omoda brand may be completely new but Chery Automobile, its parent company, has been going for more than a quarter of a century, selling 1.2m cars in 2022.
Chery recently announced plans to bring the new, prestige Omoda brand to the UK, Australia and mainland Europe and is expected to arrive here next year with its mid-sized crossover, the Omoda 5.
Chery has said it wants to have a dealer network of ‘at least 50’ sites in the UK but will focus on fleet sales to expedite its growth plans.
BYD is arguably the biggest car company you’ve never heard of.
But if you’ve travelled on one of the many electric buses in Britain’s biggest cities, there’s a good chance you’ve already experienced one of its products.
That’s thanks to a long-standing alliance with British bus maker Alexander Dennis.
Now BYD is introducing its car range to the UK, starting with the Atto 3 – a credible rival to the Kia Nero EV and VW ID.3 and a very well-finished and generously equipped SUV.
The brand already has distribution contracts in place with Pendragon and Lookers, giving it major inroads into the UK market, along with a 5,000-unit leasing deal with Octopus Energy.
This feature appears in the current edition of Car Dealer – issue 184 – along with news, views, reviews, interviews and much more! You can read and download it for FREE here!