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      补贴减少,竞争放开,中国电动汽车市场迎来群雄逐鹿时代

      Jeffrey Ball 2019年03月26日

      中国正在向西方电动汽车制造商敞开大门,这将给中国本土企业带来巨变,同时也为外国竞争对手带来了机遇。

      图片来源:Cui Guanghua—VCG via Getty Images

      ?#26412;?#26032;能源汽车股份有限公司(下文简称“北汽新能源?#20445;?#30340;总部坐落于中国首都的边缘地带。在这个玻璃钢铁结构建筑群的内部,一间自助餐厅正在等待装修,以便厨师们为该公司预?#24179;?#32856;用的外国人制作披萨和其他西餐。“我们需要增加一点国际范儿。”王世涛(音译)说。在德国获得储能专业硕士学位之后,这位中国工程师返回国内,尝试着在方兴未艾的电动汽车行业一?#32929;?#25163;。“总不能强迫外国人一直吃中餐吧。”

      中国政府已经决定,官员们也不能继续积极引导中国消费者购买国产?#25918;啤?#19968;个不可避免的现实是:北汽新能源亟需升级改造。

      在本土之外鲜为人知的北汽新能源,不仅是中国最大的纯电动汽车制造商,也是全球仅次于特斯拉的第二大制造商。这家公司成立于十年前,它的发展在很大程度上得益于政府的鼎力支持。

      但现在,中国政府开始逐步收回这些援助。它正在削减最便宜电动汽车的买家所享受的政府补贴,而这类汽车恰恰占据北汽新能源销量的大头。此外,中国正在向实力更强的西方制造商开放其电动汽车市场。外界普遍认为,?#21496;?#26159;为了平息全球贸易战。

      有鉴于此,北汽新能源必须大幅提升其技术造诣,而且动作要快。因此,该公司计划从国外聘请一批电动汽车专家。

      中国电动汽车市场的规模远胜于其他国家。彭博社新能源财经的数据显示,去年全球共销售了130万辆纯电动汽车,其中的60%拜中国市场所赐。此外,电动汽车的市场需求增长预?#24179;?#36229;过传统汽车。正因如此,外国公司认为这是一场关乎其未来运势的战斗。特斯拉、通用汽车、大众和宝马正在加紧扩大各自的地盘。

      中国的电动汽车竞赛具有重大的地缘政治、经济和环境意义。?#26434;?#22320;球来说,中国发生的事情将是迄今为止对电动汽车能否真正取代?#21152;?#27773;车的最大考验,这可能对石油行业和气候产生巨大影响。在电动汽车竞赛的第一阶段(西方是主战场),世界上的传统汽车巨头被特斯拉搞得?#38480;?#19981;已。?#26434;?#36825;些公司来说,对中国市场的争夺将决定它们能否最终挫败备受争议的特斯拉CEO埃隆·马斯克。对中国自身而言,这场竞赛将考验其工业发展是否已经达到一定程度,以至于像北汽新能源这样的本土公司能够在一个?#28304;?#20110;起步阶段、全球领军企业尚未巩固其地位的行业中击败西方竞争对手。

      彭博新能源财经驻?#26412;┓治?#24072;寇楠楠表示,中国电动汽车市场正在迫使“国际汽车制造商加快实施其全球电动汽车战略”。

      成立于2009年的北汽新能源是中国最大的汽车制造商之一、国有企业北汽集团的子公司。今年2月,马坊列被任命为该公司总经理,成为这家拥有约6000名员工的企业的掌门人。北汽新能源表示,他的前任是“由于健康?#22270;?#24237;原因”而离职的。

      在书面回答《财富》杂志的问题时,马坊列承认北汽新能源面临巨大挑战。随着政府补贴的减少,他?#23454;潰骸?#26032;能源汽车如何才能打动消费者?”至于竞相涌入中国的西方汽车企业,它们的“?#25918;?#31215;累和技术实力是不容低估的。”但北汽新能源了解中国市场,并且正在努力改进自己的汽车。“我们认为,车企之间的竞争最终要?#27492;?#30340;血更多,谁的血流得更慢。”马坊列说。

      2018年,根据能源咨询公司Wood Mackenzie的数据,纯电动汽车占中国新乘用车销量的3.3%,高于2015年的0.7%,是这类汽车在美国市场所占份额(1.3%)的两倍多。合并计算的?#22467;?#32431;电动汽车和插电式混合动力车占2018年中国市场的4.5%。

      据彭博社报道,北汽新能源2018年在中国销售了约15.2万辆纯电动汽车,比中国第二大制造商比亚?#40092;?#20986;的纯电动汽车多出近50%。如果加上插电式混合动力车的?#22467;?#27604;亚迪是中国最大的插电式汽车制造商,去年售出24.8947万辆。北汽新能源不生产混合动力车。

      中国政府正在考虑制定电动汽车的长期销售目标。中国汽车工程学会宣称,到2030年,电动汽车或插电式混合动力车应该占到乘用车销量的40%。中国的雄心壮志蕴含着三大战?#38405;?#26631;:治理污染、限制石油进口,以及打造有竞争力的电动汽车公司。各级政府一直在通过胡萝卜加大棒的方式来实现这些目标。

      胡萝卜包括大量的补贴——就某些车型而言,消费者购买一辆电动汽车只需支付官方指导售价的一半。2018年中国最畅销的电动汽车,是北汽新能源生产的一款名为EC的经济型轿车:补贴后的?#23548;?#21806;价约为8000美元。

      对许多司机来说,大棒至少同样重要。像?#26412;?#36825;种以交通堵塞著称的特大城市,已经大幅减少了传统车辆的新牌照数量,并?#24050;?#26684;限制这些车辆在某些地区的行驶时间。但各大城市正在发放更多的绿色电动汽车牌照,同时不限制其行驶时间。

      给北汽新能源敲响警钟的是,中国正在将电动汽车补贴转向效率更高、每次充电续航能力更强的车型。该公司也在努力应对政府着手取消保护主义政策这一事实。长期以来,这些政策让国内企业备受娇惯。

      中国仍然要求在境外生产汽车的外国汽车制造商缴纳进口税。但从2018年起,外国企业不再需要与中国企业组建合资企业,就可以在国内生产——从而避免关税。

      中国今年开?#38469;?#26045;的一项要求进一步放开了外国竞争。根据这项新政策,任何一?#20197;?#20013;国销售?#21152;?#27773;车的汽车制造商,要么必须销售最低数量的电动汽车(这一数?#25351;?#30456;关汽车制造商的总销量挂钩),要么从其他汽车制造商那里购买所谓的新能源汽车积分。这是中国效仿加州的一项环保规定。

      2018年,大众汽车在中国仅售出约8000辆电动和插电式混合动力车。据彭博社报道,该公司计划到明年销售令人瞠目的40万辆,到2025年实现高达150万辆的年销量目标。此前,当中国仍然要求外国汽车制造商建立合资企业的时候,特斯拉一?#26412;?#32477;在中国生产。政策调整后,特斯拉改变策略,并于今年1月在上海开工建造它在美国本土之外的首家工厂。特斯拉表示,该工厂每年生产的电动汽车最终将达到50万辆。

      在如此?#22303;?#30340;冲击下,北汽新能源陷入挣扎。?#29992;?#24180;开始,该公司计划销售50万辆电动汽车,并且正在开拓海外市场。在公司总部的一间会议室(和其他房间一样,它也是以一个全球大城市的名称命名的——这间叫“柏林厅?#20445;?#21271;汽新能源的工程师王世涛解释说,中国汽车制造商一直专注于提供诸如Wi-Fi这类辅助汽车功能,但在安全性和高速操控等基本?#38405;?#26041;面仍然落后于那些久负盛名的汽车巨头。

      “在最基本的事情上,他们拥有丰富的经验。”谈到西方竞争对手时,王世涛这样说道。“在未来,我们需要关心汽车的质量——不能只是宣称我们的汽车最便宜。”他补充说:“我们需要迎头赶上。”(财富中文网)

      本文最初刊载于2019年4月的《财富》杂志,标题为《中国电动汽车市场迎来关键时刻》。

      译者:任文科

      Inside Beijing Electric Vehicle's headquarters, a glass-and-steel complex on the Chinese capital’s edge, a cafeteria awaits renovation so that cooks can crank out pizza and other Western fare for the posse of foreigners the company expects to hire. “We need to have a more international feeling,” says Wang Shitao, a Chinese engineer who earned a master’s degree in Germany in energy storage before returning to his country to ply his skills in its new and booming electric-car industry. “You cannot force them to eat Chinese food all the time.”

      Nor, the Chinese government has decided, can bureaucrats continue to aggressively steer Chinese electric-car buyers to domestic brands. The inescapable reality: Beijing Electric Vehicle needs a tune-up.

      All but unknown outside its homeland, Beijing Electric Vehicle, or BJEV, is China’s largest maker of pure-electric vehicles and the world’s No. 2 manufacturer, behind Tesla. A decade old, BJEV owes its growth to state support.

      But now the Chinese government is ratcheting back that aid. It’s slashing customer subsidies for the cheapest electric cars, which are the bulk of BJEV’s sales. And it’s opening the country’s electric-vehicle market to greater competition from the West’s better-established automakers, a move widely seen as a bid to tamp down the global trade war.

      As a result, BJEV must get a lot more sophisticated, and fast. Thus its plan to hire an army of electric-car experts from abroad.

      Because the electric-car market in China dwarfs those of all other countries—China accounted for 60% of the 1.3 million electric-only cars sold globally last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance—and because the growth in demand for electric cars is expected to outpace that for conventional vehicles, foreign firms see it as a fight for their futures. Tesla, General Motors, Volkswagen, and BMW are ramping up their presence.

      The Chinese electric-car race has big geopolitical, economic, and environmental stakes. For the planet, what happens in China will be the biggest test yet of whether electric cars can meaningfully displace gasoline cars, with potentially huge repercussions for the oil industry and the climate. For the world’s conventional-auto giants, embarrassed by Tesla in the electric-car race’s first stage—the one in the West—the scramble on Chinese turf will determine whether they can finally outflank Tesla’s controversial CEO, Elon Musk. And for China, the competition will test whether the country’s industrial push has advanced to the point where homegrown companies, such as BJEV, can best Western rivals in a still-fledgling industry in which global leadership has yet to solidify.

      China’s electric-vehicle market is forcing “the international automakers to accelerate their electric-vehicle strategies globally,” says Kou Nannan, a Bloomberg analyst in Beijing.

      BJEV, founded in 2009, is a unit of state-controlled Beijing Automotive Group, or BAIC Group, one of China’s biggest automakers. In February, Ma Fanglie was named to lead the unit, which has around 6,000 employees. His predecessor left, the company says, for “physical and family reasons.”

      In written answers to questions, Ma acknowledges BJEV’s challenges. With subsidies falling, he asks, “how can new-energy vehicles impress consumers?” As for the Western auto companies piling into China, their “brand accumulation and technical strength cannot be underestimated,” he says. But BJEV knows the Chinese market and is scrambling to improve its vehicles, says Ma: “We believe that the competition between car companies is to see who has more blood and who is bleeding slower.”

      Pure electrics accounted for 3.3% of new passenger-car sales in China in 2018, up from 0.7% in 2015 and more than double the U.S. share of 1.3%, according to Wood Mackenzie. Together, pure electrics and plug-in hybrids accounted for 4.5% of China’s market in 2018.

      BJEV sold about 152,000 pure-electric cars in China in 2018, according to Bloomberg. That was nearly 50% more than the number of pure electrics sold by China’s No. 2 manufacturer, BYD. Adding plug-in hybrids, BYD was China’s top maker of vehicles that plug into a socket, selling 248,947 of them last year. BJEV doesn’t produce hybrids.

      The Chinese government is mulling long-term targets for electric-car sales. China’s Society of Automotive Engineers has said 40% of passenger-vehicle sales should be electrics or plug-in hybrids by 2030. Behind China’s ambition are three strategic goals: combating pollution, curbing oil imports, and building competitive electric-car firms. Governments at every level have been pursuing the goals through carrots and sticks.

      The carrot consists of big subsidies, which, in the case of some models, make buying an electric car half as expensive as it would otherwise be. By far the bestselling electric car in China in 2018, an econobox from BJEV called the EC, sold for about $8,000 after subsidies.

      For many drivers, the stick has been at least as important. Traffic-clogged megalopolises such as Beijing have greatly reduced the number of new license plates they issue for conventional vehicles and have limited when such cars may drive in certain areas. But cities are issuing more electric-car license plates, which are green, while not restricting when electric cars can be used.

      The wake-up call for BJEV was China’s shifting electric-car subsidies to car models that are more efficient and go farther on every charge. The company is also grappling with the government’s eliminating protectionist policies that coddled domestic firms.

      China still requires that foreign automakers pay import duties if they manufacture the cars outside the country. But as of 2018, foreign companies no longer need joint ventures with Chinese firms to undertake local manufacturing and thus avoid tariffs.

      Further unleashing the foreign competition is a Chinese requirement taking effect this year that any automaker selling petroleum-powered vehicles in the country must either sell a minimum number of its own electric cars—a number pegged to its total-vehicle sales—or buy so-called new-energy-vehicle credits from other automakers. It’s an environmental mandate China modeled on one in California.

      VW, which sold only about 8,000 electric and plug-in hybrids in China in 2018, according to Bloomberg, says it plans to sell an eye-popping 400,000 annually by next year and 1.5 million annually by 2025. Tesla, which resisted manufacturing in China when the country still required joint ventures, shifted strategy after the policy changes and broke ground in January on a factory in Shanghai, its first factory outside the U.S. Tesla says the plant will ultimately produce 500,000 electric cars annually.

      Amid that onslaught, BJEV is scrambling. It has targeted selling 500,000 electric vehicles annually starting next year, and it is pursuing foreign markets. In a meeting room at the company’s headquarters that, like others, is named for a major global city—in this case, Berlin—Wang, the BJEV engineer, explains that Chinese automakers have focused mostly on ancillary car features, like Wi-Fi, but still lag established auto giants on the basics, such as safety and high-speed handling.

      On “the fundamental things, they have the experience,” Wang says of Western rivals. “In the future, we need to care about the quality of the car—not only to say we are the cheapest.” He adds, “We need to catch up.”

      This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “China’s Electric-Car Showdown.”

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