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China's EV Boom: Quality Triumphs Over Price, Fuels Innovation Race


Lauren Miller

May 19, 2024 - 10:48 am


Electric Car Market in China: The Shift from Price to Features

The landscape of the electric car market in China is undergoing a dramatic transformation that shifts the battleground away from solely competitive pricing. Recent tariffs imposed by the United States have failed to impede the momentum of this burgeoning market, which is already entering a new phase of competition. This progression extends beyond the allure of affordability to encompass the quality and range of features desired by consumers, signaling promising news for profit margins. However, this paradigm shift demands auto manufacturers to invest diligently in feature development to meet consumer preferences, which could range from high-tech advancements to as simple an addition as a panoramic sunroof—proving to be a lucrative aspect for glass manufacturers.

Panoramic Sunroofs: A Lucrative Untapped Market

In a striking display of changing consumer preferences, over 80% of Chinese car buyers indicated their preference for an electric car with a panoramic sunroof, according to a survey conducted by JPMorgan. These consumers are not only interested in this feature but also willing to invest an additional 600 yuan (approximately $84.50) to obtain it. Yet, this significant demand contrasts with a relatively untapped global market—a mere 12% of cars, inclusive of conventional fuel-driven models, are equipped with panoramic sunroofs. This information, derived from a report referencing late 2023 figures by Fuyao Glass, positions Hong Kong-listed Fuyao—a prominent supplier of automotive glass—as an advantageous player supported by JPMorgan to capitalize on China’s growing electric vehicle (EV) market. Panoramic sunroofs contributed to about 7% of Fuyao's revenue in 2023.

Shifting Consumer Priorities: A Survey Insight

The transition in the Chinese EV market from price sensitivity to content reflects the results derived from more than 2,500 Chinese consumers surveyed by JPMorgan and its partner. These surveys, conducted in mid-April, revealed a consumer base increasingly willing to pay for upgraded content. Contrastingly, surveys by AlixPartners found that European and U.S. consumers are more price-conscious regarding electric car purchases. However, as Stephen Dyer of AlixPartners explains, Chinese consumers are inundated with a variety of affordably priced options, steering their focus toward technological features. This heightened interest was apparent at the Beijing auto show, where nearly every EV manufacturer showcased their cars’ driver-assist features and in-car entertainment amenities. Despite these shifts, the core technology driving EVs continues to be the battery, with around 70% of JPMorgan respondents stating their willingness to pay a premium for renowned battery brands, notably those offering super-fast charging capabilities. In this context, the report emphasizes Shenzhen-listed Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) for its pioneering superfast charging batteries, positioning CATL as a leading player within JPMorgan's recommended Chinese EV supply chain investments.

The Rising Popularity of Hybrid Vehicles

Despite the electric fervor, not all Chinese consumers are ready to fully embrace EVs. JPMorgan's recent survey indicates a marked increase in respondents favoring hybrid-powered vehicles over strictly battery-operated ones. In 2023, 44% of participants expressed a preference for a plug-in hybrid or vehicles with supplementary fuel tanks for battery range extension, a sharp rise from 27% in 2023 and 24% in 2022. This indicates a significant segment of the Chinese automobile market remains open to a mix of electrified options.

BYD Leading the Charge in Brand Recognition

When it comes to brand preference, BYD has consistently emerged as the top choice among Chinese consumers for the past three years, according to JPMorgan’s findings. As a battery manufacturer and electric car powerhouse, BYD's portfolio includes both hybrid and battery-only vehicles. Notably, BYD's prestige has slightly faltered compared to the previous year's survey, with newcomers such as Xiaomi closely trailing. Other brands, including Geely, Huawei's Aito, and Li Auto, have seen substantial gains in brand recognition. While Tesla's brand influence witnessed a marginal dip, its Model 3 remains the most coveted battery-only vehicle within the 200,000 to 300,000 yuan price spectrum. JPMorgan's respondents predominantly budgeted a minimum of 300,000 yuan for their car purchase, signaling a sizeable consumer base willing to invest in quality EVs.

Nio's Strategic Positioning in the Price Sensitive Market

The Chinese electric car company Nio unveiled its Onvo L60 SUV last week, strategically priced just over the 200,000 yuan mark. While it stands as a marginally pricier option compared to Xiaomi's SU7 electric sedan, it is around $4,000 less expensive than Tesla's Model Y. William Li, Nio's CEO, expressed his anticipation that the price competition within China's EV market is reaching its plateau, as the substantial price reductions have already been implemented. This sentiment was shared during a press briefing where Li addressed the current dynamics and future expectations within the industry.

The report indicating a shift from price-centric competition to one focused on feature-rich content reflects a broader trend observable at industry events such as the Beijing auto show, where technological innovations took center stage. Almost every electric car manufacturer highlighted the extent of their driver-assist capabilities and the quality of onboard entertainment systems.

But the ultimate underlying technology for electric vehicles, the battery, continues to take precedence. The willingness of survey participants to invest more for well-regarded battery brands, particularly those that provide superior charging capabilities, signals a significant consumer sentiment. CATL's lead in launching superfast charging batteries further cements its advantageous positioning in the market.

Interestingly, amidst the flourishing electric-only vehicle segment, there's a growing trend for hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). These hybrids, offering a combination of traditional combustion engines and electric power, are gaining traction among consumers who may still be hesitating to fully commit to electric propulsion. The increase in preference for hybrids could suggest an intermediary step for consumers transitioning from gas-powered vehicles to electric ones.

The evolution of brand preference over the years also provides a window into consumer psyche and market dynamics. Despite BYD's dominance in brand favorability, the rise of new entrants like Xiaomi demonstrates the electric car market's vibrant and competitive nature. Other brands, such as Geely, Huawei's Aito, and Li Auto, are not far behind in capturing consumer attention and expanding their market share.

Furthermore, Tesla's enduring appeal highlights the importance of branding in the electric vehicle space. Despite a slight decline in brand power, the Tesla Model 3's popularity within its price segment shows that established brands with a track record of performance and innovation can still resonate with consumers. This suggests that beyond the race for lower prices, reputation and proven technology play pivotal roles in attaining consumer favor.

In a market where price wars have been a defining characteristic, Nio CEO William Li's insights into the stabilization of pricing strategies offer a glimpse into the evolving strategies of EV manufacturers. As the price reductions reach a natural threshold, the emphasis is likely to continue shifting towards innovation, technological refinement, and feature enhancement to attract buyers. This redirection is a strategic move that suggests companies are looking beyond cost competition to forge a lasting presence in the market.


As the Chinese electric car market matures, it becomes clear that an intricate blend of pricing strategy, technological excellence, and brand equity is vital for success. With survey data underscoring the willingness of Chinese consumers to invest in both innovative features and trusted battery technology, EV manufacturers are navigating a transformed landscape where satisfying customer demands means delivering on a complex array of desirables.

As panoramic sunroofs become a coveted accessory and brands like CATL and BYD reinforce their leading positions, the future of China's electric car market will likely be shaped by those who can blend the aesthetics and amenities craved by consumers with the supercharging capabilities and energy efficiency that define the cutting edge of automotive technology. The winners in this shifting market will be those who can turn these survey insights into strategies that resonate with the evolving preferences and values of the modern Chinese consumer.