The Auto Companies That Turned China Into the World’s #1 Auto Producer and Buyer


While the average US or European consumer may very well have never heard of a Chinese auto company, the fact remains that China is both the #1 producer of automobiles (with over 25 million passenger cars and over 4 million commercial vehicles for the year 2017 alone) and the #1 buyer of cars worldwide (with over 35 million vehicle sales expected for 2020).

Which companies are making all of this happen, you might ask?

Without further ado, here are the most important ones:

  1. FAW Group, founded on the 13th of July, 1956 with the help of… you’ve guessed it, the USSR. This entity is essentially responsible for enabling China to become a player (albeit a small one at the time) in the automotive age. Contrary to the one-model production line it had at the beginning of its existence, they now produce hundreds of different models and surpassed 1,000,000 yearly sales back in 200
  2. DFM (Dongfeng Motor Corp.), with its predecessor (Second Automotive Works… not exactly the most original name in the world) appearing in 1969. At this point, DFW is one of the top Chinese state-owned enterprises, located in Wuhan. In 2011, DFM (exceeding the industry-average growth rate by 10 points) matched FAW Group’s performance of exceeding 1,000,000 yearly auto sales
  3. The Great Wall Motor Company Ltd., which owns two brands (HAVAL and Great Wall) and represents China’s most important manufacturer of SUVs and pickup trucks. Boasting more than 30 subsidiaries and exceeding 60,000 employees, they also ventured onto the global scene, with Australia being their first destination back in 2009. This expansion, along with strong domestic sales, enabled them to pass the 1,000,000 sales mark in 2016, a whopping 25% more than in the previous year
  4. GEELY, founded in 1997. With more than 50,000 employees, their vehicles are sold in China as well as overseas. Listed on the Hong-Kong stock exchange, they managed to exceed the 1,000,000 sales mark in 2017
  5. SAIC Motor, the largest auto company on the stock market of China and a household name on the Forbes list (with over 10 appearances). From traditional cars to intelligent self-driving vehicles based on technology developed in-house, they’ve generated almost 7,000,000 sales in 2017, a 6.8% YOY increase

… as can be seen, domestic demand accounts for the overwhelming majority of sales at this point in time. However, as the international exposure of these company increases (especially in strategic markets such as Southeast Asian ones and African market), they will inevitably end up taking their dominance global.

The auto industry represents a textbook example of just how widely-spread misconceptions with respect to China are. While the Chinese auto market cannot display a track record as impressive as let’s say the German or US market, its sales numbers do all of the speaking. When you’re catering to the needs of 1.4 billion people, you can become a sales powerhouse without much international press. Time and time again, Chinese companies make this crystal-clear and after an increased international presence is added to the mix, it is hard to predict just where this can end.

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