Legacy automakers, analysts and outspoken CEOs alike have been warning about the threat of Chinese-made electric vehicles for quite some time. More to the point, both the United States and the European Union plan to increase the import duties on Chinese EVs, which may affect even the American Tesla Model 3.

Even though everybody seems to be talking about these EVs and the companies behind them, we’ve never seen them on the global top 10 list of best-sellers. Until now, that is.

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China is moving fast on EVs

Buoyed by massive state incentives, China's electric vehicle industry is taking the world by storm, one way or another. After buying up countless legacy automakers in Europe over the last decade, China's automakers are now setting their sights on conquering the global top 10 sales chart.

In the first quarter of 2024, the Geely Group–known formally as Zhejiang Geely Holding Group–sold 730,000 vehicles globally, making it the first Chinese carmaker to enter the global top 10 sales chart for the January to March period, according to Nikkei Asia.

Geely, which owns several established names such as Volvo and Lotus, as well as other self-made brands like Polestar and Zeekr, overtook Germany’s Mercedes-Benz Group and BMW to secure the 10th spot on the list with its sales volume increasing 27% year-over-year. In the first quarter of last year, Geely was in 12th place globally.

Toyota Motor topped the global sales chart in Q1 2024 by selling 2.52 million vehicles (5% down year-over-year), followed by Volkswagen Group with 2.1 million cars (up 3%) and Hyundai Motor Group with 1.76 million vehicles (down 2%).

Other Chinese companies are also catching up. Even though Q1 included the extended Lunar New Year holiday, which usually means stores are closed and sales are slow, BYD, Changan Automobile, Chery Automobile and SAIC Motor all secured a place in the global top 20 sales chart. Together, the five Chinese players saw their combined sales volume increase more than 20% year-over-year while the overall sales growth for the top 20 automakers was just 2%.

2024 Lotus Eletre S Exterior Front Quarter
2025 Volvo EX30 Twin Motor Performance (Vapour Grey)
2024 Polestar 2 First Drive Review

The Lotus Eletre (top left), Volvo EX30 (top right) and Polestar 2 (bottom) are all made by companies owned by Geely.

Volvo, which is part of the Geely Group, had its sales increase by 12%, while BYD recorded a 13% uptick. The main driver for these numbers was exports, Nikkei Asia wrote, pouring more fuel on the fire that was billed by the West as “the threat of Chinese EVs.” Geely saw its overseas sales rise by 43% in Q1, while BYD recorded a massive increase of 150%.

In the whole of 2023, China exported 1.2 million so-called new energy vehicles (hybrids, plug-in hybrids and full-on EVs), a 78% increase over the previous year. Meanwhile, experts estimate that China will see its battery-powered vehicle exports rise to 3.5 million next year.

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