The Expanding Growth of the Chinese Auto Industry Examined

By Gary S. Vasilash

Tu Le grew up in metro Detroit. He made his way out to Silicon Valley, where he lived and worked. Then made a move to Beijing.

He recalls that when in China he recognized that there was a massive shift going on in the auto industry, one largely predicated on the digitalization borne of on-board electronics. Then there was the electrification of the powertrain.

This led him to found a consulting firm, Sino Auto Insights, which has a perspective on what’s going on in the industry—which he refers to as the “mobility industry”—from the perspectives he’s gained from living in Detroit, working in Silicon Valley, then spending serious time in China.

Tu thinks that one of the things that is happening that is going to have profound effects on the traditional OEMs—be they based in the U.S., Europe or Japan—is that Chinese companies are working at a clock speed that can make efforts undertaken by those traditional seem to be in slow motion.

The technology transition is not in the least bit minor.

What’s more, not only is the competitiveness of Western companies operating in China waning, but Chinese OEMs are now selling their vehicles—which have, he says, surprising levels of tech and capability—in markets around the world, which puts pressure on OEMs in their home markets.

And while this hasn’t happened in a notable way in the U.S., it is a matter of when, not if, Tu says.

On this edition of “Autoline After Hours” John McElroy, Lindsay Brooke of SAE International and I talk with Tu about these developments.

Not only is the growth and expansion of the Chinese auto industry a technology story, but given the tensions that are increasing between the U.S. and China (think only of the recent spate of balloons), there is a political aspect to this, as well.

And you can see the show here.