At the Car Of The Year award, there have never been so many Chinese cars. Out of the 28 revealed candidates, five, or seven if we include two more, are cars from Chinese manufacturers or built in China, with four of them coming from a single manufacturer, and 2 of them are in the 7 finalists voted on 27th November 2023.

We’re talking about BYD Atto 3, BYD Han, BYD Dolphin, BYD Seal, and Nio ET7. We can also add Smart #1 and Volvo EX30, and we will discuss separately why these two can be considered (also) Chinese or Euro-Chinese cars.

China occupies the largest share of the award

If we considered Europe as a single area, it would still be the Old Continent, mostly thanks to Germany, holding the largest share of award candidates. But if we look at individual European countries, then China, with its 25%, occupies the largest slice of candidate vehicles.

Japanese cars follow with 6 vehicles representing 21.6%, German cars at 17.8%, North American cars at 10.7%, South Korean and French cars both at 10.7% each, and finally, Italian cars at 3.7%, consisting of the Fiat 600e, which is actually not produced in Italy but in Poland together with the Jeep Avenger.

Car of the year
Image: BYD

As always, each candidate is a new car for sale or soon to be on sale in at least five European markets, explaining the presence of the Nio ET7. There are two voting phases, and after the first one on November 27, the group has been reduced to 7. The Phase 2 voting will elect the winner, which will be announced on February 26, 2024, at the returned but desolate Geneva Motor Show.

Below are all the candidate cars:

The finalists are:

  • BMW Series 5;
  • BYD Seal;
  • Kia EV9;
  • Peugeot e-3008/3008;
  • Renault Scenic;
  • Toyota C-HR;
  • Volvo EX30

A percentage that remains quite high, with 2 out of 7 candidates being considered as Chinese cars.

Smart #1 and Volvo EX30 are Chinese cars?

The debate could arise on how to consider the two cousin cars on the list, the Smart #1 and the Volvo EX30. They are cousins because both Smart and Volvo are part of Geely, with the German manufacturer at 50% and the Swedish one at 100%, and because both share the compact version of Geely’s SEA platform.

Car of the year
Image: Smart

However, Smart is the one that has shifted the center of gravity more towards the People’s Republic. As we know, in 2020, Geely bought 50% of Smart’s shares from Mercedes, also acquiring 10% of Daimler-Mercedes itself, with the goal of radically changing the brand and developing a new generation of larger and more premium electric vehicles. In 2021, the Smart Automobile JV was born, a joint venture between the two giants, with its headquarters in Ningbo, in the Hangzhou province, China. Mercedes, in fact, retains only the aesthetic side, the design, but everything else comes from China: the SEA platform, the electric motors from Viridi E-Mobility Technology, controlled by Geely, the NMC battery from CALB, and the LFP battery from Rept Battero. Production is finally at the Zhejiang Haoqing plant of Geely.

The situation is different for Volvo. The brand, the first European one to be acquired by Geely in 2010, has kept almost everything in Sweden. In fact, it can be said that Geely has taken advantage of this to move much of its core to Gothenburg, where it created Uni3 by Geely for the development of other vehicles, from Lynk & Co to Zeekr, as well as its first Geely Design Centre (the second one will be in Milan, Italy). Volvo cars were long produced in Europe, from the XC40 to the XC60, with the only exception of the XC90, always produced in the USA because it was designed more for the North American market.

Volvo Recharge Highways
Image: Volvo

Only with the last three models, EX90, EX30, and EM90, has production shifted partly to China. But the EX90, like the XC90, is also produced in North America, and the EX30 will also be produced in Ghent, in Volvo’s historic plant in Belgium where XC40 and C40 are already produced, once its adaptation for the production of electric vehicles is completed. Therefore, design and engineering are indeed Swedish, but the SEA platform is Chinese, as are the electric motors of E-Viridi E-Mobility Technology, and the NC batteries of Shandong Geely Sunwoda Power Battery, a joint venture between Geely and Sunwoda.

So, if the Smart #1 is now considered a Chinese car, the doubt arises at most about the Volvo EX30. But if we only consider where it is produced, then yes, it is a Chinese car. The debate remains open: is the origin of a car where it is engineered and designed, or where it is assembled?


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