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China Likely World’s Top Auto Exporter in 2023, Overtaking Japan; EVs Boost Global Position

Fukutaro Yamashita/The Yomiuri Shimbun
Cars with green license plates, indicating they are alternative fuel vehicles, are seen on a street in Beijing in July 2023.

BEIJING — China’s auto exports last year surged 57.9% from a year prior to 4.91 million units, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Those figures likely put China ahead of Japan, making it the world’s largest auto exporter for the first time.

Since car exports from Japan stood at 3.99 million units from January to November, Japanese exports are expected to remain in the lower half of the 4 million units range for 2023, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. It is viewed as unlikely that Japan will make up the deficit with China.

Japan fell from the top spot for the first time since 2016, when it was beat by Germany.

China overtook Germany in 2022 to become the world’s second-largest exporter, and just one year on, it has claimed the top spot.

China’s exports have jumped from 1 million units in 2020 to nearly five times that number in three years.

In 2023, alternative fuel vehicles such as electric vehicles accounted for a quarter of Chinese exports. With U.S. firm Tesla Inc. also positioning its factory in China as a major export base, the country has made its presence felt in the EV race.

Among importers of Chinese vehicles, Russia ranked first and Mexico second from January to November 2023.

Japanese, European and U.S. firms stopped production in Russia after economic sanctions were imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Chinese manufacturers are stepping up their export offensive with low-cost EVs, taking advantage of government support. But this has increased trade friction, and the European Union launched an investigation last October.

China’s 2023 production figures, released Thursday, showed an 11.6% rise to 30.16 million units, while sales rose 12% to about 30.09 million units, both topping 30 million for the first time.