The President of the European Commission (EC) made a significant announcement on September 13, revealing that the European Union (EU) has initiated an investigation into the electric vehicle subsidies provided by the Chinese government. The EU’s aim is to shield Europe’s automotive industry from the perceived threat posed by competitively priced Chinese electric cars.
In her annual address to the European Parliament, President Ursula von der Leyen emphasized the need to address the proliferation of low-cost Chinese electric vehicles in the global market. These vehicles, she noted, benefit from substantial government subsidies that artificially lower their prices, creating distortions within the market. President von der Leyen firmly asserted that such market distortions, whether originating domestically or externally, would not be tolerated within the EU.
The launch of this investigation, despite potential concerns of retaliatory measures from China, underscores the EU’s apprehensions regarding the ability of European automakers to compete with the formidable Chinese auto industry.
News of the investigation had an immediate impact on the stock market, with shares of BYD, a leading Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer, dropping by 2% on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Xiaopeng’s shares also experienced a decline of up to 2.8%, while Li Auto saw a decrease of 0.5%, touching an intraday low.
Conversely, the European Stoxx 600 Automobiles & Parts Index surged by 2.2%, reaching its highest intraday level since July 27. This index proved to be the best-performing sub-sector among European stock indices. Renault shares soared by 4.9%, while Volkswagen shares witnessed a 2.6% increase.
China’s electric vehicle sector has been a recipient of substantial government support, benefiting both manufacturers and consumers. This support has persisted despite the fact that many Chinese EV startups are yet to achieve consistent profitability.
As the EU embarks on this investigation, it signals the region’s commitment to preserving fair competition in the electric vehicle market and safeguarding the interests of European automakers. The outcome of this inquiry will be closely watched by industry stakeholders on both sides, as it has the potential to shape the future of the global electric vehicle landscape.