European Ports Used as Car Parks by China's BEV Makers

Cars being dumped at ports amid slowdown in BEV sales in Chinese and European markets.

Paul Myles, European Editor

April 11, 2024

2 Min Read
Zeebrugge BEV
BEVs from Chinese brands choking European ports.

Chinese battery-electric vehicles are piling up at several European ports as the new kids on the block as distribution networks struggle to cope with the influx.

The Financial Times reports that the continent’s busiest automotive ports, including Zeebrugge in Belgium and Bremerhaven in Germany, are choking under the flood of inexpensive BEVs from China as logistics companies struggle to find enough trucks and drivers to move the extra hardware to consumer markets.

The situation is being made worse by several Chinese automakers booking shipping delivery slots without ordering onward transportation for their products. Some industry watchers suspect the manufacturers are using the ports as car parks for product they are struggling to sell in China's slowing domestic car market.

This is being compounded by a similar slowdown in BEV sales in the European market where Chinese brands have yet to pick up the sales they had been expecting. 

There are vehicles from some Chinese brands languishing in the ports for up to 18 months, forcing some ports to ask importers to provide proof of onward transport. The newspaper says one car logistics expert tells them many of the unloaded vehicles were simply staying in the ports until they were sold to distributors or end users through online channels.

However, David Kelly, chief corporate officer at automotive-focused software and analytics company Cubic Telecom, believes the situation illustrates a certain amount of hubris among the newcomers who ignore the advantages of Europe’s legacy automakers at their peril.

He tells WardsAuto: “The influx of Chinese EV brands to Europe has led many to talk about the demise of European auto manufacturing as a foregone conclusion. But the troubles facing Chinese OEMs to get cars on the road and into the hands of drivers highlights the European OEM’s trump card – established distribution channels, sales networks and local knowledge built up over many years.”

Kelly adds that the rise of the software-defined vehicle makes the situation even more complex for the new brands hoping to flood the European market. He explains: “The distribution headache is likely to be an early symptom of wider challenges that will emerge in areas such as EV charging, homologation and connectivity. A footprint of 50-plus countries, with different languages and regulations, creates a lot of work and requires local know-how. Taking connectivity as an example, these cars need to stay connected, which means negotiating deals with mobile network operators in each market – a far more complicated scenario when compared to the U.S. or China.

“As well as cost, a big part of the attraction towards Chinese EVs is the software-driven, connected user experience. This is an aspect where a lot of the traditional OEMs have fallen behind. But if the European brands can quickly close this gap, they may find themselves in a much stronger position than many thought was possible.”


About the Author(s)

Paul Myles

European Editor, Informa Group

Paul Myles is an award-winning journalist based in Europe covering all aspects of the automotive industry. He has a wealth of experience in the field working at specialist, national and international levels.

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