Japan Is No Longer the No. 1 Auto Exporter

China takes the title with its surging industry
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2024 11:22 AM CST
Japan Is No Longer the No. 1 Auto Exporter
An employee cleans a BYD Seal car at the IAA car show in Munich on Sept. 8.   (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, File)

Japan has long been the world's top exporter of automobiles, but that reign is now over. China has overtaken it for the No. 1 spot, and it's no blip—Beijing's lead is expected to "solidify" in 2024, reports the South China Morning Post. The Wall Street Journal assesses the numbers and sees a "tectonic shift for the global industry" at play. Coverage:

  • Numbers: China sold an estimated 5.26 million vehicles overseas last year, roughly 1 million more than Japan, according to newly released stats from the China Passenger Car Association, per Reuters.

  • Russia factor: China got a boost in exports because of the Russia-Ukraine war, notes the Journal. As many foreign automakers ditched the Russian market, China filled the void. It sold an estimated 800,000 cars there last year, up from 160,000 in 2022. In particular, Chinese automaker Chery benefited to become the world's top car exporter.
  • Electric: The New York Times reports another factor at play: Sales of electric vehicles are surging in China (with Chinese automaker BYD leading the way), leading to a glut in gasoline-powered vehicles. Those are now being sold in foreign markets at lower-than-usual prices. However, expect China to sell more and more EVs and hybrids abroad; BYD already has moved ahead of Tesla as the world's No. 1 seller.
  • Electric, II: "Chinese electric-car makers enjoy an advantage in terms of technology," UBS analyst Paul Gong tells the SCMP. "Aside from high-performance batteries, they also have good command of some manufacturing techniques, which make production processes simpler and cost effective." Reuters uses the word "nimble" to describe the nation's EV makers.
  • Markets: Tariffs largely keep Chinese autos out of the US market, but China is an increasingly big player in Southeast Asia, Australia, South America, and Mexico, per the Times. It's also making gains in Europe, despite an ongoing investigation by EU regulators related to subsidies.
(More auto industry stories.)

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