As Chinese carmakers including BYD Co. and Nio Inc. look to expand in Europe, the region’s incumbents are divided over how Brussels ought to respond.
Carlos Tavares, who heads Fiat and Peugeot maker Stellantis, warned Tuesday that competition will be fierce given the head start China has jumped out to in building batteries and affordable electric vehicles. During the inauguration of a battery factory in northern France, he reiterated his view that Europe’s political leaders ought to come to the aid of homegrown manufacturers that are struggling to keep pace.
“Whether the European car industry must be protected during the catch-up period, that’s a question that should be asked,” Tavares told reporters. “I think it would be reasonable to do so, at least in a degressive manner, so that we are on a real equal footing, given that the imbalance has been caused by the fact that the European regulation has been set exactly on the strongest skills of our Asian rivals.”
Unlike Stellantis — which shuttered its only Jeep factory in China last year — Germany’s carmakers have much more to lose if trade relations between Europe and China deteriorate.
Take Mercedes-Benz Group, for example. China accounts for around 40 percent of its deliveries, with the luxury carmaker selling more than twice as many vehicles there as it does in the U.S.
In an interview on the sidelines of the same event Tavares attended in France, Mercedes CEO Ola Källenius said Europe should resist the urge to take protectionist measures.