Mercedes boss calls for more Chinese electric cars on UK and European roads to promote cheaper EVs

Mercedes boss calls for more Chinese electric cars on UK and European roads to promote cheaper EVs

WATCH: The panel reacts to new electric vehicle mandates

Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves

Published: 13/03/2024

- 11:53

Updated: 13/03/2024

- 12:24

'The price difference between European and Chinese vehicles is significant'

A leading motor executive and boss of Mercedes-Benz has called for tariffs on Chinese-made electric vehicles to be cut to spur on competition among major car brands.

The European Commission is considering introducing new tariffs and raising import duties to crack down on cheap EVs made in China which threaten the long-established auto market.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, has even warned of Chinese brands, saying they could be taking advantage of “illegal subsidisation” and whether this could lead to economic injury to EU producers.

She warned that the European Union always “plays by the rules” and that the investigation would be “thorough, fair and fact-based”.

Electric car charging and a Chinese flag

The Mercedes boss said more Chinese EVs would make the market more competitive


However, Ola Kallenius, chief executive of Mercedes-Benz, said that protectionism of the European car market was “going the wrong way”.

He said that car manufacturers did not ask for the probe to be introduced and suggested that Chinese companies wanted to be competitive, like every other manufacturer.

The Swedish business executive added: “Don’t raise tariffs. I’m a contrarian, I think go the other way around: take the tariffs that we have and reduce them.

“We as companies are not asking for protection, and I believe the best Chinese companies are not asking for protection. They want to compete in the world like everybody else,” he told the Financial Times.

Currently, Chinese electric vehicles are subject to a 10 per cent tariff when imported to Europe, while European carmakers pay 15 per cent when exporting to China.

Kallenius said there was a need for a “level playing field” to ensure that all sides benefit and create better, cheaper products for drivers.

The 54-year-old added: “It has been opening up markets that has led to wealth growth, especially in the economic wonder of China, that has lifted millions of people out of poverty.

“If we believe protectionism is the thing that gives us long-term success, I believe history tells us that is not the case,” he told the Financial Times.

Major Chinese brands have already started making moves into the European market, including BYD, NIO and Xpeng.

Many of the Chinese vehicles on the market attract massive driver attention thanks to cheap production costs allowing them to slash prices for motorists.

This is highlighted by the Seres 3 electric vehicle, which is the cheapest electric SUV on the market, with prices starting from £29,995 – around £500 cheaper than the wildly popular MG ZS.

Speaking in 2023, Carlos Tavares, CEO of manufacturing giant Stellantis, said there could be a “terrible fight” between European and Chinese brands.


The BYD Seal

BYD is one of the most popular electric vehicle brands in the world


Speaking to Automobilwoche, he continued, saying: “The price difference between European and Chinese vehicles is significant.

“If nothing is changed in the current situation, European customers from the middle class will increasingly turn to Chinese models. The purchasing power of many people in Europe is decreasing noticeably.”

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