Derry Journal Motoring with Jim McCauley: Chinese Inroads as car manufacturers offer serious competition

We might consider the arrival of odd named car brands as the start of an invasion from the Chinese, but we the buyers, and the European manufacturers need to get used to them. Chinese ownership is already well established in recognised European brands with the selling of Volvo by Ford to Geely in 2010.
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The Chinese company now owns the performance wing of VolvoPolestar and it also has a controlling share in Lotus, while a Chinese chemical company is the major shareholder in Italy’s Pirelli tyre company.

BYD is one of the first to move into Ireland with dealerships opened in Belfast, Dublin and Cork. BYD (Build Your Dream) has just launched its ATTO 3 SUV here, citing a 420 km range and fast DC charging which takes 29 minutes to take it from 30% to 80% charge.

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Its exterior design, overseen by German auto designer Wolfgang Egger, sees the SUV sitting comfortably within European tastes. Its 150kW motor takes it from rest to 62mph in 7.3 seconds with a given top speed of 99mph. Comprehensively equipped, it benefits from a five star EuroNCAP award with Irish prices starting at €37,128. Towards the end of the year BYD will extend choice with the launch its SEAL and DOLPHIN models, available in a range of drive options.

BYD DOLPHIN and BYD SEAL launched in Europe.BYD DOLPHIN and BYD SEAL launched in Europe.
BYD DOLPHIN and BYD SEAL launched in Europe.

On the other hand, if you’re not easily embarrassed by the badge on your boot lid, then the ORA Funky Cat could be your friend. Launched as a ‘First Edition’ model, power is from a 45.4kWh battery giving an official range of 193 miles between charges.

It has one 179bhp electric motor driving the front wheels, giving it a 0-62mph time of 8.3 seconds. The company’s first cautious footstep in Northern Ireland is with the Charles Hurst Group, with prices starting at just over £30,000.

In the Republic, ORA is imported by the established International Motors Group with dealerships now established in Dublin, Galway and Cork. This family hatchback achieved best-in-class EuroNCAP rating in 2022 and is priced from €32,000 in the Republic, supported by a five-year, unlimited mileage warranty.

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Other Chinese manufacturers nudging westwards, and already well established in Continental Europe are NIO with its ET5 Touring, OMODA with its mid-sized OMODA 5 SUV and commitment to rolling out a wide dealership network by the end of the year. XPENG is also established in Continental Europe with plans for continuing expansion.

ORA Funky Cat.ORA Funky Cat.
ORA Funky Cat.

However, those seeking comfort with established Chinese brands, MG was the first to provide all-electric options within its range, starting off with its first BEV hatchback, the MG4 with two battery options and a given range of 281 miles. Costing from just under £27,000, the company is currently offering a £1,000 reduction and 0% APR with a minimum deposit of 30%.

The company’s ZS SUV is also available in all-electric form from just over £30,000. With its 72.6kWh battery, it has a given range of 273 miles and a combined driving efficiency of 3.5 miles/kWh. This returns a 0-62mph time of 8.2 seconds and a top speed of 108mph. All MG models come with a 7-year, 80,000 mile warranty.

With the Chinese manufacturers well established in their home country with the largest all-electric car parc, their arrival will offer serious competition to established European brands.

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