As the pace of electrification accelerates in the global automotive market, and various governments worldwide implement subsidy policies that encourage consumer EV purchases, sales of new energy vehicles（NEV, which includes BEV/PHEV/FCV）are continuing to rise as well. NEV sales for 2021 are projected to reach 4.35 million units, a 49% increase YoY.
Due to the vast scale of the Chinese market, as well as domestic policies favorable for the growth of BEV/PHEV/FCV, various NEV brands have quickly emerged in China in recent years, such as BYD Auto, Aion（formerly GAC NE）, and BAIC BJEV. At the market’s peak, NEV manufacturers in China once numbered in the hundreds, although that number has since dwindled somewhat, as the intense competition resulted in declining sales and market shares for many automakers, including BAIC and JAC.
Four rising stars among emerging NEV manufacturers in China include NIO, XPeng, Lixian（or Li Auto）, and Weltmeister, all of which have been shipping tens of thousands of mass production vehicles each year. In particular, while NIO, XPeng, and Lixiang registered significant growths in the past few years, Weltmeister also ranked number two in terms of sales in 2019, though it fell to fourth place in 2020 as it delivered fewer vehicles compared to the top three competitors last year.
In light of the aforementioned four automakers’ current expansions, TrendForce has summarized several key aspects of their growths, including the following:
1. Autonomous Driving Technologies: Autonomous driving is not only part and parcel of these automakers’ core competencies but also a reflection of what consumers and investors expect of the automotive industry. In pursuing advanced autonomous driving technologies, the four automakers have been adopting increasingly powerful processors and computing platforms, with Nvidia being the most common partner among emerging NEV manufacturers. Remarkably, XPeng stands out as the only player making a noticeable effort to develop in-house chips.
2. LiDAR: LiDAR is integrated into an increasing number of vehicles in response to the growing demand for advanced self-driving functionalities. Although LiDAR remains out of reach for vehicles in certain price segments, autonomous driving sensors including LiDAR are no longer limited to flagship models since new NEV models’ E/E architectures are expected to be compatible with OTA updates.
LiDAR sensor demand from NEV manufacturers has significantly increased because only by pre-installing hardware ahead of time in their vehicles can automakers enable autonomous driving functionalities as a paid subscription service through OTA updates later on.
3. Battery-swapping: Battery-swapping are relatively attractive for the Chinese NEV industry for several reasons: First, battery-swappable vehicles are excluded from China’s NEV subsidy limits*; second, automakers can now afford to lower the retail price of vehicles by turning batteries into a subscription service; finally, it’s much convenience for driver because battery swapping is faster than battery charging.
For instance, NIO’s entire NEV lineup is compatible with both battery charging and battery swapping. NIO has been pushing its BaaS（battery as a service）and second-gen battery swap stations since 2020. On the other hand, Weltmeister and XPeng are also making their respective battery-swapping strategies.
4. Capacity Expansion and Overseas Strategies: The aforementioned four automakers all place a heavy emphasis on both expanding their production capacities and growing their overseas market shares. Their capacity expansion efforts include building in-house production lines, acquiring other facilities, or jointly funding automotive production with OEMs/ODMs. Regarding overseas expansion, their primary destination is the European market, which is relatively favorable to NEVs.
For instance, NIO and XPeng choose Norway as their first target market in Europe. However, while the European automotive market is conducive to the growth of NEVs in terms of both policies and cultures, competition among automakers is also correspondingly intense. In addition, most European countries prefer either domestic brands or other European brands. Therefore, Chinese automakers must prioritize gaining consumer trust via establishing a trustworthy brand image.
*China’s subsidies for NEV purchases are restricted to NEVs with a retail price of CN¥300,000 and under. However, NEVs with swappable batteries do not fall under this restriction.
Global sales of NEV (new energy vehicles, which include both BEV and PHEV) skyrocketed in the final two months of 2020, with various models setting historical sales records, according to TrendForce’s latest investigations. TrendForce estimates total NEV sales for 2020 at 2.9 million units, a 43% increase YoY, and further expects yearly sales to reach 3.9 million units in 2021. However, as the current shortage of automotive chips has had a considerable impact on the auto industry, some uncertainties still exist in the forecast of EV sales.
With regards to the BEV market, Tesla primarily focused on marketing the Model 3 as its key model for 2020. The automaker took leadership position with a 24.5% market share last year, while the Model Y is expected to be key to securing its continued leadership in 2021 primarily because China has issued a sales permit allowing the Model Y to be exempt from purchase tax. Furthermore, Tesla was able to catch its competitors off guard by discounting Model Y prices by 30% on the first day of 2021. Volkswagen took second place in the rankings due to not only the excellent market reception of the e-Golf, but also the remarkable sales figures set by the ID.3 in 2H20, which helped Volkswagen stabilize its market share. Incidentally, as the ID.4 is set to hit the market later on, it is expected to make meaningful contributions to Volkswagen’s overall EV sales in 2021 instead of 2020.
BYD derives its competitive advantage from having a comprehensive model lineup. The Chinese company comfortably took third place with a 6.4% market share. Conversely, fourth-ranked Wuling Hongguang became the dark horse of 2020 by fielding a single EV model, the Hongguang Mini. Not only was the Hongguang Mini attractively priced, but the Chinese government also made a heavy push for NEV sales in China’s rural areas. Both of these factors allowed the Hongguang Mini to become one of the global top sellers within six months of its release. Hot on the heels of Wuling Hongguang is Renault, which took fifth place in the ranking. Renault was able to score a 5.6% market share thanks to its longstanding best seller ZOE. Although other models, including the Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Kona, also posted remarkable sales performances last year, their respective automakers did not place on the top five list because these automakers each had total EV sales that fell short of the five automakers on the list.
On the other hand, the top PHEV manufacturers were neck and neck in terms of ranking by market share. BMW and Mercedes-Benz each possessed a 13% market share, followed by Volvo with 12%. Fourth-ranked Volkswagen and fifth-ranked Audi registered a 10% market share and 6% market share, respectively.
TrendForce indicates that China and Europe are perfect examples of EV markets propelled by government policies. For instance, European automakers have adopted a proactive position to expand their EV lineups as a result of the stringent emissions standards set by the EU, and these automakers have subsequently been aiming to achieve zero carbon emissions or increase the share of EVs in their total vehicle sales. Apart from China and Europe, the US is yet another market where policies may have a positive effect on EV sales. After winning the 2020 presidential election, Biden is now set to launch his clean energy proposal, which includes replacing the US government’s existing fleet with EVs, removing the previously set ceiling on federal tax credits for EV purchases, and offering consumer tax incentives to replacing their conventional fossil fuel vehicles with EVs, among other actions. If these proposed actions were eventually implemented, TrendForce believes they would be able to drive up EV sales in the US.