UK buyers are starting to be swayed by Chinese cars

May 10, 2023 by

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  • Research from carwow reveals more than one in four drivers (29%) would consider a Chinese brand for their next car
  • The new wave of Chinese cars are high-quality, high-spec, affordable, and already leading the way in the EV category
  • But, one in three drivers polled (36%) cited build-quality concerns, while 28% said a lack of familiarity with the brands were key barriers to considering one

Research conducted by carwow has discovered that more than one in four (29%) of Brits would consider a Chinese brand for their next car.

carwow found that while 71% of those polled said they wouldn’t consider a Chinese car, in a separate study, two in three drivers (67%) signalled an openness to switch car brands in the future. By comparison, research across carwow’s European markets found that a similar number of German motorists (30%) and a larger (43%) proportion of motorists in Spain would consider a Chinese brand car.

carwow’s research spotlights the opportunity that many Chinese car brands are hoping to realise as they make moves to launch in the UK and Europe in the coming months.

30% of drivers polled said they associate Chinese cars with value for money, while 19% said they have more competitive prices than other car brands, and one in 10 (10%) said they have ‘more and better’ technology. However, reasons cited for not wanting to consider a Chinese car included political reasons (37%), build quality concerns (36%) and a lack of familiarity with Chinese brands (28%).

When asked what would persuade them to consider a Chinese car, one in five (21%) of those polled said ‘more time’, indicating that drivers want to build up more familiarity with the new Chinese brands as they establish themselves over the next few years.

James Hind, co-founder and CEO of carwow, commented: “The fact that more than one in four drivers would now consider a Chinese car is testament to how quickly we’re seeing perception shifting. However, Chinese car manufacturers looking to launch in the UK also have a job to do to win over new drivers; they’re battling a near-complete lack of brand awareness and will want to turn around the public’s current perception of build-quality.

“But, while build quality might have been an issue in the past, it’s now very high, as is design and safety. Chinese cars have modern, sleek styling, and European designers are being headhunted by Chinese manufacturers to ensure new models have high kerb appeal. Meanwhile, Chinese cars are getting some of the highest safety ratings in Europe, beating cars from more established brands.

“Electric vehicles are where Chinese brands are focusing; they have the battery processing and production capabilities, and can produce high-quality, long-range EV much more cheaply than European manufacturers. This is likely to drive the price of EVs down, while also increasing choice in the market, all of which is great news for British motorists considering switching to EVs.

“The majority of people tell us they are put off buying an EV because of the high purchase cost. But given the competitive prices being offered by Chinese manufacturers, this could all change.”

Chinese car brands are already in the UK

While there are a few Chinese brand cars for sale in the UK today (GWM ORA launched to the UK last Autumn with the Funky Cat) according to carwow, there is already evidence of a Chinese car renaissance in UK and Europe.

Chinese brands are already behind some of the best-selling EVs in the UK – around half of London’s black cabs are LEVC, owned by Chinese brand Geely, while London’s new electric red buses are made by BYD – ‘Build Your Dreams’.

BYD, which started as an EV battery manufacturer but now makes vehicles, is now the fourth most valuable car manufacturer in the world, and built more EVs than Tesla in 2022. It launched its SUV – ​​Atto 3 – in the UK, just weeks ago.

Hind added: “We’re always excited to see new car brands launching on carwow’s site; offering consumers more choice at different price-points. One of the most popular car brands on carwow is made by a Chinese-owned manufacturer – MG –  with its model, MG4, winning our Car of The Year Award 2023 – due to its brilliant design, quality and outstanding value for money. If Chinese brands can continue this trend of shifting perceptions and increasing their brand awareness, the next few years look set to be significant ones for Chinese car brands in the UK.