BYD’s welcome in Europe worries the continent’s big automakers

“Some of the countries are very detailed,” Michael Shu, general manager and managing director of BYD Europe, said of offers it’s getting to help address the company’s needs for labor, land, energy, construction and an ecosystem of nearby suppliers.

“Even in China, we do not have such a kind of investing in the service.”

Red carpet welcome

Automakers led by Stellantis, Europe’s second largest, are on edge about the friendly reception their potential disruptors are getting on their home turf.

“Chinese manufacturers are welcomed in Europe with a red carpet,” Carlos Tavares, CEO of Stellentis, told reporters in Paris. “It’s not like this that we are welcomed in China.”

“It’s disturbing,” said Laurens van den Acker, director of design for Renault group.

“I root for Europe. I want it to be us taking the leadership. Chinese automakers have an advantage over us, and the Chinese government has been betting on EVs for 15 years.”

Other automakers have fared better having made bargains decades ago in China, agreeing to set up compulsory joint ventures with domestic manufacturers to share in what was a jaw-dropping period of meteoric growth.

Some of those western companies, including Volkswagen Group and General Motors, built massive positions in the market that have started to deteriorate the last few years, as local players field attractive electric models.

“The competitive intensity is increasing,” Mercedes-Benz CEO Ola Kallenius said in an interview.

“It’s the most fun time to work in automotive since 1886,” he added, referring to the year Carl Benz rolled out the first car powered by a gas engine. “It’s also the most uncertain time.”

While some governments are offering a helping hand, President Emmanuel Macron is prepared to play defense. His government is preparing a measure to subsidize EVs only if they are made in France, or at least in Europe.

The policy, which appears to take a page from the Inflation Reduction Act recently signed into law in the US, may only make it more likely that China’s most well-off automakers look to manufacture in Europe.

On top of BYD, this could include Great Wall Motor, whose small Ora Funky Cat EV with retro looks to live up to its name was among the models the company is staging in Paris.

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