Chinese automakers have moved quickly in the first five months of 2022, securing a lion’s share of the country’s electric vehicle market. The country’s EV makers are likely to keep that momentum going for the rest of the year, according to management consultant firm AlixPartners.

Domestic auto brands have extended their lead over their foreign rivals in the EV segment this year, making up 85% of all new EV sales in the first five months of 2022, up from 80% in 2021 and 74% in 2020, official figures show. This number may remain unchanged by the end of the year as Chinese brands continue to launch more new EV models than their foreign counterparts, Stephen Dyer, co-leader of AlixPartners’ Greater China business, told TechNode on Thursday.

However, as more traditional global automakers prepare to launch new EVs in the next few years, this share will likely go down due to the increased availability of foreign EVs, Dyer said, predicting an increasingly competitive environment for less experienced automakers.

China’s growing EV industry is holding up better than that for combustion engine vehicles and will likely maintain an upward trend in the coming months, despite Covid-19-related lockdown measures and supply chain constraints. AlixPartners projects that there will have been 5.1 million EV sales in China by the of the year, representing a 45% increase year-on-year and accounting for 22% of total new car sales.

With that said, overall auto sales may fall by 11% year-on-year to 23.4 million units in 2022, as stringent Covid control measures disrupt offline sales, the firm said during an online briefing on Thursday. Meanwhile, supply chain issues will continue to be a headwind for Chinese automakers until 2024, when chip supply issues will largely be resolved, allowing China’s auto sales to return to normal growth rates, according to Dyer.

Chinese EV makers have been moving upmarket and squeezing most international competitors out of their home market. Major Chinese automaker BYD’s EV sales more than tripled to 507,314 units as of May this year, driving its market cap to nearly $130 billion and making it the third-largest automaker in the world in early June.

SAIC-GM-Wuling, a joint venture between General Motors, SAIC, and Wuling Motors, is by far the country’s second-biggest EV maker, with sales of 164,552 vehicles over the same period, mostly thanks to its affordable Hongguang Mini EVs. US-listed EV makers Li Auto and Nio last month launched their new electric crossovers with price tags starting from RMB 459,800 ($68,418) and RMB 468,000 respectively, aiming to take on luxury carmakers such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Tesla and Volkswagen are the only two global automakers with a major presence in the Chinese EV race, selling around 172,000 and 54,000 vehicles respectively to local customers from January until May. In November, Volkswagen moved to replace its China head Stephan Wöellenstein, in part due to lower-than-expected EV sales, according to a Reuters report. The German automaker announced on June 17 that it has set up a regional China board with a new leadership team that includes Marcus Hafkemeyer, a former adviser at Huawei, as technology chief.

Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen