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[From the Scene] Chinese EV leaders take Europe's biggest auto show by storm

BYD draws largest crowd during press day at IAA Mobility 2023

Sept. 6, 2023 - 15:09 By Kan Hyeong-woo
Hundreds attend BYD's press conference at IAA Mobility in Munich on Monday. (Kan Hyeong-woo/The Korea Herald)

MUNICH -- Chinese companies led by electric vehicle giant BYD were the talk of the town during the press day at IAA Mobility in Munich on Monday.

BYD, which had set up one of the biggest exhibition booths at the Messe Munich exhibition center, seemed to draw the largest crowd, filled with hundreds of reporters from across the world as the company announced the launch of its EV sedan, Seal, for the European market during the press conference.

A local German journalist who wished not to be named told The Korea Herald that the progress that Chinese companies have made since the last IAA two years ago was pretty obvious.

“The BYD Seal fits the taste of Europeans. BYD cars did not used to be like that four to five years ago. I think they will be successful in Europe,” he said. “German automakers recognize the rise of Chinese EV competitors, which is a good thing because more competition will push them to develop better cars.”

According to BYD, it sold 1.86 million EVs last year to become the biggest EV seller in the world. China currently has the biggest EV market worldwide. The Chinese firm also touted that the fact the company has now entered 15 countries in a span of 11 months.

People visit Leapmotor's exhibition booth at IAA Mobility in Munich on Monday. (Kan Hyeong-woo/The Korea Herald)

A similar trend could be found with Chinese battery giant CATL, which also drew a huge crowd during its press conference. The exhibition booth of CATL was bustling with numerous visitors every time this Herald reporter went there to check out the scene.

Leapmotor, another Chinese EV maker, announced that it will launch its sports utility vehicle, the C10, to the European market next year, underlining that the company would aim to introduce “globally-oriented” vehicles for customers all over the world.

“Our strength is that we have everything that goes in our vehicle from our in-house domain,” a Leapmotor official said. “That means we can lower the cost to provide better products to our customers.”

The official emphasized that it does not wish to be labeled as a Chinese firm but rather as a global company, as it is seeking to deliver cars wherever the need is.

Zhang Feng, head of the market support department at Dongfeng Liuzhou Motor, which produces auto brand Frothing, said the company even tailored the new hybrid van so that it would better fit the body sizes of Europeans.

“Europeans are taller and bigger than us,” he said. “So we made this vehicle to specifically target European customers.”

People look at BYD Seal at IAA Mobility in Munich on Tuesday. (Kan Hyeong-woo/The Korea Herald)

According to the IAA exhibitor directory, there were 671 companies that have each set up an exhibition booth at this year’s event. Chinese firms accounted for 45 of them. China's participation more than doubled from the previous event in 2021.

Germany's auto giants -- BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen -- led the charge with the biggest exhibitions in the city and outside of the event venue, the Messe Munich exhibition center, for the public. What they called “open spaces” were opened to visitors from Tuesday. The outdoor exhibitions on Tuesday drew hundreds of visitors. BYD once again was no exception to widespread attention.

Santana Moreno, a visitor from Spain, said he was surprised when he found out that BYD is Chinese firm.

“I didn’t know about (BYD) but their cars look fine,” said Moreno. “(BYD cars) could appeal to people in Spain. If the price is lower than other European EVs and the performance is on par with other cars, I would buy their car.”