Cars and Drivers

US Car Companies Told to Abandon China

Shanghai China
Yongyuan Dai / Getty Images

24/7 Insights

  • An expert warns the Big 3 U.S. automakers that they should exit China completely.

In 2010, China passed the United States as the largest car market in the world, based on unit sales. That delta has grown significantly since then. Ford, GM, and Chrysler saw China as unusually promising as American car sales plateaued in their home country. And each was remarkably successful in China for several decades. That success started to dwindle in the past several years. For example, Ford’s China sales dropped 32% between 2018 and 2022. An auto expert warns the “Big 3” to exit China completely.

BofA Securities research analyst John Murphy, a top auto analyst, told CNBC that U.S. car companies should abandon China “as soon as they possibly can.” His reasons are simple. There are dozens of local car companies in China. The electric vehicle (EV) market is growing rapidly. The Big 3 do not have EV fleets that will allow them to compete in the world’s most populous nation. Their fossil-fuel-powered cars do not have much of a future as EV adoption grows.

If Ford, GM, and Chrysler leave China, they will be trapped in smaller markets, the largest of which will be the United States. Their fossil fuel cars and the strongest Japanese manufacturers dominate America. However, if the car industry’s future is EVs, Tesla has a lead in the United States, and every large manufacturer in the world wants EV market share in the United States as well.

U.S. car companies do have European sales, but that market is dominated by local companies, led by Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes. U.S. manufacturers cannot look to Europe as a solution to their problems. Some countries in South America are promising. Brazil is among the largest car markets in the world. The car industry is increasing in India. Each of these nations has tremendous competition in terms of fossil-fuel-powered cars and EVs.

The future of the Big 3 worldwide is starting to look grim.

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