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Introducing China's Auto Industry (Part 2)

This article is the continuation of our Overview of China's Auto Industry series. In Part 1, we examined the size and scale of China's automobile industry in the global context and summarized key policy developments that shaped the sector's evolution. In this article, we introduce a selection of the top 15 Chinese auto companies ranging from large state-owned automakers to traditional private players and new electric vehicle start-ups. We also present statistics on China's bestselling auto companies and car models, including new energy vehicles. In Part 3, we discuss the future of China's auto industry.

This article is part of our China auto industry series, which includes:


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Introducing China's Auto Companies

In this section, we provide a brief summary of 15 of China's most notable auto companies. We categorize the companies based on whether they are state-owned or privately-owned.

Note: we also include stock tickers for each company where applicable, although not all publicly listed companies are listed at the mother holding company level. In such cases, we include stock tickers for any publicly listed subsidiaries held by the mother holding company. In multiple cases, the main business operations of the auto company are conducted via a publicly listed subsidiary rather than at the mother holding company level.

State-Owned Auto Companies

China's state-owned auto companies primarily produce cars in the affordable price range, with the notable exception of Wuling Motors (五菱汽车), which manufactures value-for-money cars targeting lower income, price-sensitive consumers. In this sub-section, we categorize state-owned auto companies based on whether they are standard auto companies mostly targeting the affordable range or whether they are value-for-money oriented companies, namely Wuling Motors. Naturally, individual companies may also have more affordable or more luxurious product lines, so we are making generalizations with regards to the core product offerings of each company.

As mentioned in our Part 1 article, until 2018, foreign automakers were required to form a joint venture with a Chinese automaker to produce and sell cars in China. Consequently, many of China's auto companies derive their sales from both in-house developed and foreign brands.

>> Standard State-Owned Auto Companies

Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC)(北汽集团)(HKEX: 1958)

BAIC produces passenger vehicles primarily in the affordable price range, with notable marques including the core in-house Beijing (北京) brand and joint ventures with Mercedez-Benz and Hyundai. Additionally, BAIC manufactures vehicle components for sale to other auto manufacturers, and also has a car financing business segment. BAIC is also the largest shareholder of Foton Motor Group (福田汽车)(SHA: 600166), a commercial vehicle company which BAIC co-founded in 1996.

Changan Automobile (长安汽车)(SZEX: 000625)

Changan primarily produces affordable but also occasionally medium-tier passenger and commercial vehicles with a brand portfolio consisting of in-house brands as well as cars manufactured under the Ford and Mazda marques.

Read about Changan in detail in our Changan Automobile series here.

Chery Automobile (奇瑞汽车)(not publicly listed)

Chery is a smaller state-owned, private (i.e. not publicly listed) company that primarily produces affordable passenger and commercial vehicles most notably under the Chery (奇瑞) marque. The company is also engaged in a joint venture with Jaguar Land Rover to produce cars under the Jaguar and Land Rover marques in China. Moreover, Chery also has smaller scale auto-related financing and logistics businesses.

Dongfeng Motor Corporation (东风汽车集团)(HKEX: 0489)*(SHA:600006)**

Dongfeng produces passenger and commercial vehicles mostly in the affordable price range, with several small in-house brands (none particularly noteworthy) and a significant proportion of sales derived from joint ventures with Nissan and Honda. Dongfeng also produces cars under the Peugeot and Citroen marques in China as part of a joint venture with PSA Group (now part of Stellantis), and has a smaller scale auto financing business.

*this is the ticker for Dongfeng Motor Group (DFG)(东风汽车集团股份有限公司), Dongfeng Motor Corporation's publicly listed subsidiary in Hong Kong

**this is the ticker for Dongfeng Automobile Company (DFAC)(东风汽车股份有限公司), a subsidiary of Dongfeng Motor Corporation which produces commercial vehicles

FAW Group (中国第一汽车集团)(SZSE: 000800)*

FAW Group produces passenger and commercial vehicles primarily in the affordable price range. The company's brand portfolio comprises of both in-house brands, most notably Hongqi (红旗), and joint venture brands Volkswagen and Audi. Additionally, FAW produces auto components primarily for self-use but also for sale to other manufacturers, and has a supplementary auto financing business.

*this ticker is for FAW Jiefang Group (一汽解放集团), formerly FAW Car Company (一汽轿车), a listed subsidiary which houses several marques including Hongqi

Other listed subsidiaries include:

  • Changchun Faway Automobile Components (一汽长春富维)(SHA: 600742), FAW's subsidiary which produces auto components

  • Qiming Information Technology (启明信息)(SZSE:002232), FAW's subsidiary which develops, manufactures, and sells software used in automobiles and auto-manufacturing

Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC Group)(广汽集团)(HKEX:2238)(SHA:601238)

GAC produces passenger and commercial vehicles, as well as motorcycles, primarily in the affordable price range. The company has both in-house brands, most notably electric vehicle brand Aion (埃安) launched in 2018, and joint venture brands with Honda, Toyota, and Mitsubishi. GAC also has a joint venture with BYD to produce electric buses. Additionally, GAC has a variety of smaller scale businesses such as logistics and transportation, as well as auto-related financial services.

Jiangling Motors Corporation Group (JMCG)(江铃集团)(SHA:000550)*

Jiangling produces passenger and commercial vehicles under in-house brands (none particularly noteworthy) as well as under the Ford, Renault, and Isuzu marques. Jiangling also has two additional core business segments engaged in the manufacturing of auto components (primarily for self-use) and auto-related financing.

*the ticker is for Jiangling Motors Corporation (JMC)(江铃汽车), JMCG's publicly listed subsidiary in Shanghai, which is 25% owned by Changan Automobile. JMC produces cars with the Jiangling and Ford marques.

SAIC Motor (Chinese: 上海汽车集团) (SHA: 600104)

SAIC has ranked as China's number one automaker in terms of number of vehicles sold for over 15 years. The company has an extensive brand portfolio covering in-house and joint venture passenger and commercial vehicle marques primarily in the affordable to mid-tier range. Notable marques include Roewe (荣威), MG (名爵), the successor of what was previously the British MG Rover Group, Volkswagen, Skoda, General Motors, IVECO, and Wuling (五菱汽车), a highly popular value-for-money auto brand. In addition to its vehicle sales and production business, SAIC also has an operating segment that focuses on the research and development, production, and sales of auto components, a mobility services segment that covers various logistics and transportation initiatives, as well as a finance segment with automotive finance services, insurance sales, and an investment portfolio worth over RMB500 billion as of the end of 2021.

Read about SAIC in detail in our SAIC series here.

>> Value-For-Money State-Owned Auto Companies

Wuling Motors (五菱汽车)(HKEX: 0305)

Wuling Motors produces engines and automotive components for Wuling-branded cars as well as other high profile auto companies in China. Cars with the Wuling marque are produced under the SAIC-GM-Wuling (SGMW) joint venture (see here), with Wuling's ultimate parent holding company, Guangxi Automobile Group (广西汽车集团), currently owning only a 5.8% share of the joint venture. Wuling-branded cars are primarily utility-based (e.g. pick-up trucks and vans), and have particularly gained traction among lower income consumers, with the Wuling Hongguang (五菱宏光) van becoming known as the iconic "farmer's car" in China, and the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV (五菱宏光 Mini EV) attaining the number one spot as the bestselling pure electric vehicle in China in terms of number of units sold.

Read about Wuling Motors and Wuling-branded vehicles produced under SGMW in detail in our Wuling Motors series here.

Private Auto Companies

China's private auto companies generally produce cars of a somewhat higher price range than those produced by state-owned companies. This is especially true for high-profile electric vehicle start-ups such as the three included in this article, namely Li Auto (理想汽车), NIO (蔚来), and XPeng (小鹏汽车). Of course, there may be exceptions to this which are not covered in the scope of this article. In this sub-section, we categorize Chinese private auto companies based on whether they are traditional, longstanding and mature auto companies, or if they are new electric vehicle start-ups.

>> Traditional Private Auto Companies

Build Your Dreams (BYD) Group (Chinese: 比亚迪)(HKEX: 1211)(SZEX: 002594)

Though most commonly known for its accomplishments in the electric vehicle industry over the past couple of years, BYD is actually a long-standing electronics manufacturer company established in 1995 with a portfolio spanning three segments: automobiles, handset components and assembly services, and rechargeable battery and photovoltaics. In the automobile segment, BYD targets the mid- and mid- to -high-end segment of China's automobile market with cars from the BYD dynasty series (王朝系列) being particularly popular. BYD's most notable achievement in recent years is the launch of its Blade Battery (刀片电池) technology, an electric vehicle battery that is much safer and far less likely to catch fire than other forms of EV batteries in the industry. As of early 2023, Tesla started manufacturing cars equipped with BYD batteries.

Read about BYD in detail in our BYD Group series here.

Geely Auto (吉利汽车)(HKEX: 0175)

Geely Auto produces a range of affordable to premium cars under in-house and acquired marques. Geely's main in-house brand is named after the company itself, i.e. Geely Auto (吉利汽车), while other notable in-house mentions include LYNK & CO (领克), a joint venture brand between Geely and Volvo that targets young professionals in the premium price range, and Zeekr (极氪), a premium in-house electric vehicle brand. In 2010, Geely acquired Volvo Cars and currently produces cars under the Volvo and Polestar (极星) marques. In 2013, Geely acquired London EV Company Limited (LEVC), the maker of the iconic London black cab, and now produces commercial vehicles under the LEVC marque. Additionally, Geely also holds 49.9% of Malaysian auto company Proton Cars.

Read about Geely in detail in our Geely series here.

Great Wall Motor (长城汽车))(HKEX: 2333)(SHA: 601633)

Great Wall Motor is China's leading producer of affordable SUVs (namely the Haval range) and pick-up trucks, although the brand has branched out in recent years to produce niche market products such as feminine electric vehicles, i.e. the ORA (欧拉) range, and high-end off-road SUVs, namely the TANK (坦克) range.

Read about Great Wall Motor in detail in our Great Wall Motor series here.

>> Private Electric Vehicle Start-Ups

Li Auto (理想汽车)(NASDAQ: LI)(HKEX: 2015)

Li Auto is a start-up founded in 2015 which designs and manufactures new energy vehicles targeting China's higher end automobile market. The company differentiates itself from competitors through a focus on extended range electric vehicles which are more versatile for longer range driving. Li Auto also adopts a more family-oriented focus in car design, with all four of the company's cars currently on the market being family-friendly SUVs.

Read about Li Auto in detail in our Li Auto series here.

NIO (蔚来)(HKEX: 9866)(NYSE: NIO)(SGX: NIO)

NIO is a start-up founded in 2014 which designs and jointly manufactures "smart" premium electric vehicles targeting the mid-high range of China's automobile market. NIO currently has seven vehicle models on the market, and differentiates itself from competitors through its famous battery swapping technology (Battery-as-a-Service) scheme where NIO vehicle users can stop by a Power Swap station to exchange their depleted batteries for new ones rather than waiting for their cars to charge via the traditional plug-in charging method. NIO had 1,200 Power Swap stations in China in November 2022 and 1,315 Power Swap stations globally (i.e. including China and abroad) by the end of December 2022.

Read about NIO in detail in our NIO series here.

XPeng (小鹏汽车)(NYSE: XPEV)(HKEX: 9868)

XPeng is a start-up founded in 2015 which designs and manufactures "smart" electric vehicles targeting the mid- to high-end segment of China's automobile market. XPeng aims to differentiate itself from competitors through attractive designs and relatively longer vehicle driving ranges. XPeng currently has four cars on the market.

Read about XPeng in detail in our XPeng series here.

Stylized Facts

Next, we present some stylized facts about China's most popular auto companies, car models, and new energy vehicles.

China's Most Popular Auto Companies

In this section, we examine China's most popular auto companies in terms of total (i.e. passenger and commercial) vehicle sales for the past decade. We compare the companies based on total vehicle sales because not all companies provide a publicly available breakdown of passenger versus commercial vehicle sales. As mentioned in our Part 1 article, until 2018, foreign auto companies were required to manufacture cars through joint ventures with Chinese companies. Consequently, although purely or majority foreign-owned auto companies have started rising in China (with the most notable example of Tesla), these are very small scale relative to the incumbent Chinese players.

#1: SAIC Is China's Most Popular Auto Company By A Wide Margin Over The Past Decade

The table below presents the top three ranking of China's most popular auto companies by vehicle sales volume from 2013 to 2022. We see that SAIC has a strong lead in terms of sales volume in every year, with double the sales volume of the first runner-up during China's auto industry boom in the middle of the last decade. FAW had the second highest sales volume in every year except 2015 and 2016, when the company lost slightly to Dongfeng, which ranked third for the most part of the decade. Though not shown here, Changan, GAC, and BAIC (in no particular order) ranked fourth and fifth in terms of vehicle sales volume at different times throughout the past ten years.

China's Bestselling Car Companies 2013-2022
Data Sources: Company Annual Reports and Announcements

Note: FAW only released data accurate to the nearest thousand, as denoted by the "k" abbreviation

As shown in our in-depth SAIC article (here), commercial vehicles accounted for roughly 4% to 5% of SAIC's total vehicle sales volume in each year, meaning that SAIC's strong lead in sales is predominantly driven by passenger vehicles.

#2: State-Owned Companies Occupy The Top Spots In 2022, While BYD Is China's Bestselling Private Auto Company

We turn to a more detailed look at 2022 with the graph below showing the top ten companies that recorded the highest total (i.e. passenger and commercial) sales volumes during the year. SAIC had the highest sales volume with 5,302,644 cars sold, while first runner-up FAW sold approximately 3,200,000 cars and second runner-up Dongfeng sold 2,464,502 cars. The fourth and fifth places are taken by GAC and Changan, which sold 2,433,801 and 2,346,151 cars respectively. BYD came in sixth place as the bestselling private auto company with 1,862,428 cars sold, while Geely, Chery, and Great Wall Motor came in seventh, eighth, and ninth respectively. Rather surprisingly, BAIC, which used to rank in the top five in the earlier half of the past decade, only came in tenth place in 2022 with 947,061 cars sold.

2022 Total Sales Volume of China's Top Auto Companies
Data Sources: Company Annual Reports and Announcements (click image to enlarge)

Note: FAW only released data accurate to the nearest thousand

China's Most Popular Car Models

Next, we turn to look at China's most popular passenger car models.

#1: The Wuling Hongguang Was China's Bestselling Passenger Car For Half A Decade, But Was Overtaken Later On By The Nissan Sylphy

In the table below, we present the top three bestselling passenger car models in China over the past ten years. Numbers in parentheses show the number of vehicles sold. From 2013 to 2017, the Wuling Hongguang (五菱宏光) iconic "farmer's car" (see here) ranked first in sales, but was overtaken in 2018 by the Nissan Sylphy, which took the number one spot that year and in 2020 and 2021. The Volkswagen Lavida ranked first only once during the last decade in 2019, but was consistently in the top three nearly every single year, while the Great Wall Motor Haval (哈弗) H6 (see here), one of the most popular SUV models in China, ranked second or third in four out of the past ten years.

In 2020, Wuling Motors launched the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV (五菱宏光 Mini EV), with sales during the year being split between the traditional internal combustion engine Wuling Hongguang and the new Mini EV. Consequently, neither model had sufficient sales to reach the top three, although the Mini EV ranked second in 2021 and third in 2022.

First launched in 2015, the crossover SUV BYD Song (宋) became China's bestselling car in 2022.

China's Bestselling Passenger Car Models
Data Source: China Passenger Car Association (CPCA)

Note: data in certain years are only provided to the nearest thousand, denoted by the abbreviation "k"

#2: BYD Claimed 3 Out Of The Top 10 Spots In 2022, While Tesla Was The 6th Bestseller

We turn to a more detailed look at 2022 with the graph below showing the top ten passenger vehicle models sold in China during the year. As also shown above, the BYD Song generated the highest sales with 478,811 cars sold, followed by the Nissan Sylphy with 420,665 cars sold and the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV with 404,823 cars sold. The Volkswagen Lavida came in fourth place with 351,130 cars sold, while the compact sedan BYD Qin (秦) ranked fifth with 341,943 cars sold. The Tesla Model Y was the sixth most popular car in China during 2022 with 315,314 cars sold, while the mid-size sedan BYD Han (汉) was the seventh most popular car with 272,418 cars sold. In total, BYD cars claimed three spots in the top ten ranking. Finally, the Toyota Corolla came in eighth place with 252,790 cars sold, the Great Wall Motor Haval H6 dropped to ninth place in 2022 with 250,120 cars sold, and the Toyota Camry came in tenth with 242,225 cars sold.

China's Bestselling Passenger Car Models In 2022
Data Source: China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) (click image to enlarge)

#3: BYD Dominated 2022 NEV Sales, Claiming 6 Out of The Top 10 Spots In 2022

We now look specifically at passenger new energy vehicle (NEV) sales, including the sales of both pure electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles. The graph below shows the top ten passenger NEVs in China during 2022 based on the number of vehicles sold. BYD clearly dominated the top ten sales ranking with the BYD Song* claiming first place with 475,306 cars sold, the BYD Qin coming in third place with 341,943 cars sold, the BYD Han ranking fifth with 272,418 cars sold, the BYD Dolphin (海豚) (also known in certain markets as the BYD Atto 2) coming in sixth place with 204,226 cars sold, the BYD Yuan (元) taking seventh place with 167,220 cars sold, and the BYD Tang (唐) ranking eighth with 148,585 cars sold. In other words, rather remarkably, all five models in BYD's dynasty series (王朝系列) (discussed here) were top ten bestsellers in China, with the addition of the BYD Dolphin.

*the BYD Song comes in both a new energy vehicle option and a traditional internal combustion engine option, so the BYD Song total sales figure is higher than the BYD Song NEV sales figure

The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV had the second highest NEV sales during 2022 with 404,823 cars sold. This perhaps highlight the fact that there is still a sizable market for value-for-money cars in China in spite of the country's rapidly growing middle class and income levels.

Notably, the Tesla Model Y was the fourth bestselling car in China, while the Tesla Model 3 was the ninth bestselling car in 2022. Though not very frequently mentioned, the affordable GAC Aion Y (埃安 Y) came in tenth place with 120,585 cars sold.

Bestselling New Energy Vehicles in China In 2022
Data Source: China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) (click image to enlarge)

Note: the BYD Song NEV has two product options: a pure electric vehicle option and a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle option. Considering only pure electric vehicles, the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV has a higher sales volume than the BYD Song pure EV in 2022. The Wuling Hongguang Mini EV was also the bestselling pure EV in 2021 and was also the bestselling car in the greater NEV category the same year.


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China Auto

An Overview of China's Auto Industry: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Standard State-Owned: Changan Automobile, SAIC (Part 1 and Part 2)

Value-For-Money State-Owned: Wuling Motors

Traditional Private: Great Wall Motor, Geely, BYD (Part 1 and Part 2)

Electric Vehicle Start-Ups: NIO, XPeng, Li Auto

China E-Commerce

More on China



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