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Why the West can’t ignore China’s rise as an e-car empire

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My other car isn't a Tesla. Source: Bloomberg

It was another wakeup call for big-shot Western carmakers when China’s sizzling e-car startup, Byton, presented its very first sports-utility vehicle at this week’s Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show. At $45,000, it’s a sweetly-priced alternative to Tesla’s Model X or BMW’s X3.

Although still a concept car, Byton’s SUV is a symbol of China’s determination to become a world leader in electric cars and parts. Thanks to government subsidies and the verve of state-backed carmakers such as BAIC and SAIC, the communist country is building an industry that stands to transform the global car market. It could sound the death-knell of the combustion-engine car, which happens to be a German invention (1885).

China has already overtaken the United States as the world’s biggest sales market for e-cars. Sales in the Middle Realm are expected to reach 700,000 for 2017, and this year’s total could exceed 1 million for the first time. In just three years’ time, the Chinese government wants to have five million so-called new energy vehicles on its roads; by 2025, the country may produce five million electric cars every single year – almost the entire output capacity of all German car plants today. “Electromobility has become an important aspect of our economic growth and represents a huge value chain,” Cui Dongshu, general secretary of the Chinese automotive association, told Handelsblatt.

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