Visitors attend the fifth Western China International Fair for Investment and Trade in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, May 18, 2023. (Xinhua/Chu Jiayin)
The manufacturing base of the Great Wall Motor Company Limited (GWM), located in the Yongchuan District of southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, is now operating at full capacity, as workers are working up their sweat to fulfill orders from Saudi Arabia.
Since its debut in Saudi Arabia in July 2022, Tank 300, one of GWM's popular models, has become a hot-selling off-road vehicle in the Middle East country, according to Shi Qingke, vice president of GWM.
The company exported its first pick-up car to the Middle East in 1997. "In July 2022, the company announced it had sold 1 million vehicles abroad, a milestone that represents the 25-year-long unwavering dedication to tap into the overseas market," Shi said.
GWM is not the sole Chongqing enterprise setting its sights in the Middle East market. Chongqing Changan Automobile Co., Ltd, a leading vehicle manufacturer, has also made significant strides in exporting vehicles to Saudi Arabia. The company said the number of exported vehicles to Saudi Arabia exceeded 35,000 units last year, an increase of 22 percent compared to the previous year.
Early in the 1990s, Changan began to explore the Middle East market and now it has grown to a popular Chinese brand in Saudi Arabia, said Song Shuang, general manager of Changan International Corporation.
In 2022, China's auto exports soared to 3.11 million units, up 54.4 percent year on year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). Thanks to the ceaseless efforts of Chinese automakers, Chinese vehicles have brought new options for customers in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt.
Apart from fossil-fuelled cars, new energy vehicles (NEVs) are also exploring overseas markets.
In the recently concluded fifth Western China International Fair for Investment and Trade in Chongqing, Yan Tianxiao with Changan has noticed the changes. Yan observed an increasing number of NEVs, NEVs components, and NEV-related technologies at the previous fairs.
"Robust growth of new energy products is taking place in my company. We brought only one fossil-fuelled model to the fair last year, while this year, all the vehicles on display were NEVs," Yan said.
According to CAAM, China produced about 7.06 million and sold 6.89 million NEVs in 2022, jumping 96.9 percent and 93.4 percent from the previous year. Its export volume reached 679,000 units, an increase of 1.2 times year on year.
Against this backdrop, more Chinese auto enterprises are turning their attention to smart and new energy.
Middle East countries, be they oil producers or not, all take the development of a green economy, and new and renewable energy, as their fundamental strategy for sustainable development. In this context, NEVs have become an important pillar in the Middle East market, said Liu Xinlu, dean of the School of Arabic Studies, at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
"This has brought vast opportunities for the Chinese self-developed NEVs in Middle East countries," said Ding Long, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, adding advanced technology, stable performance, and fair prices can gain recognition of local consumers.
At the second edition of the E-MotorShow Middle East for Electric & Hybrid cars held in Lebanon earlier this month, about one-third of the exhibited brands were from China. Local car salesmen expressed optimism about Chinese cars, predicting that Chinese brands would capture the biggest share of Lebanon's car market in the coming years.
"Many auto enterprises are also seeking to enhance technology cooperation with Middle East countries, which not only creates employment opportunities for locals but also helps improve the industry level of these countries," Liu said.