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'There's going to be a clean-out': Xpeng says new car landscape in Australia will look very different in coming years as 'quality' Chinese cars rather than just low-cost ones arrive to upset Tesla Model Y and Polestar 2

Xpeng says new Chinese cars will change your mind.

Xpeng’s luxury midsize G6 SUV will be on-sale in Australia before the end of 2024, and speaking to CarsGuide the local importer’s boss Jason Clarke was not only confident there was a place for Xpeng in Australia, but the new car landscape will look significantly different in a few years' time.

When queried on whether Australia’s market was becoming too crowded with new players, Clarke said: “If you haven’t been to China, on the roads, you would say eight [new automakers] is way too many, and there’s not 400 million cars on the roads in Australia like there is in China, but there’s just going to be a clean-out.”

“Obviously the growth in EVs is going to escalate rapidly. We’re at eight per cent adoption right now. That’s going to double in the next two years and then double again.”

There’s a good chance that he’s right. Chinese manufactured vehicles have taken Australia by storm in the last few years, as more storied automakers from Europe, Japan and Korea struggle to compete in a post-COVID environment where entry-points to their ranges are more expensive than ever.

As a result, MG soared into the top-10 off the back of its affordable MG3 hatch and ZS small SUV, bolstering its lead with the follow-up HS mid-sizer and MG4 electric hatch. Looks like the next to enter the top-10 will be GWM, which sits just a few thousand units away in 12th place. Its formidable incoming catalogue of new and updated nameplates will no doubt help it overtake the few manufacturers which stand in its way.

Chery may well be next as it takes on rivals with a more traditional and combustion-heavy line-up as opposed to the hybrids and off-roaders imported by GWM, and the light and electric cars which have led MG to success.

Meanwhile others have been eyeing the success of SAIC (MG and LDV) and GWM Down Under, and since the Beijing motor show, have signalled their intent to launch here before the end of 2024. Geely is advertising jobs in Australia, while GAC has also confirmed its launch plans to media. Both are mainstream players in China, with full ranges of combustion cars, hybrids, and EVs.

The G9 large SUV will be added to Xpeng's line-up in 2025.

Xpeng is positioned somewhat differently, however. It is a pure-EV play and is hoping to take some sales away from the low-cost BYD, but primarily more ‘premium’ players like Tesla, Polestar, and others.

Clarke says Xpeng is spending hard to get ahead of other potential rivals from China who are yet to arrive, as it seeks growth outside of a saturated Chinese market. He is also not phased by the recent EV downturns in other markets.

When asked if Xpeng HQ was pushing to launch in Australia to get ahead of contemporaries like Nio, he said: “I believe so, yeah.”

“On the platform, they’ve spent significant capital to do it. People report things like ‘EV sales are slowing in China’ but in percentage terms of course they are, because the penetration is so high. You’ve got 75 per cent in Shenzhen, 50 per cent in Guangzhou, the rural areas yeah not much take-up but urban areas it’s massive so growth rate does slow [as a result].

Xpeng says it is a premium offering rather than a low-cost one.

“We mentioned 120 automakers, it’s so populous there that they have to find new markets. They’ve done Malaysia, Macau, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Laos as right-hand drive, and the Australian market as well. They see this as a regional play. In those markets they can sell a lot of vehicles with very similar specs.”

“They’re taking this seriously, they’re capitalised to do it. Our market testing leads us to believe we will be some thousands of units [in the first two years].”

Clarke says True EV was founded based on the quality and scale of manufacturing in China, particularly for pure EVs. He wants Australians to move past the long-held stigma that Chinese vehicles aren’t as good as their rivals from Korea, Japan, and Europe.

Xpeng's G6 midsizer is set to arrive in a single variant before the end of 2024.

“True EV we put all that together - a bunch of guys working in the Auto industry that realised the change was coming because they went to China. You can defend ICE and say ‘things won’t change’ all you want, but as you found out once you go to China and see the level of take-up for EVs and see the quality of what’s on offer, it’s obvious where things are going.

“I think that’s what’s not understood by Australians - there’s some really high quality, sophisticated and advanced vehicles coming our way, but there’s this blanket of thinking that they’re not going to be very good, or they’re cheap or badly manufactured, but that’s not the case.”

“The [EV] penetration won’t be like China, but it is going to be high.”

Tom White
Senior Journalist
Despite studying ancient history and law at university, it makes sense Tom ended up writing about cars, as he spent the majority of his waking hours finding ways to drive as many as possible. His fascination with automobiles was also accompanied by an affinity for technology growing up, and he is just as comfortable tinkering with gadgets as he is behind the wheel. His time at CarsGuide has given him a nose for industry news and developments at the forefront of car technology.
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