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VW, Renault, Stellantis face China pressure to team up on EVs

As pressure builds on European automakers to sell more EVs, China’s state-supported manufacturers are entering the cooling market with models that are often better and cheaper.

BYD’s Dolphin, for example, is listed at about €7,000 less than a similarly equipped VW ID 3, which the German automaker originally pitched as the Beetle of the EV era.

The Chinese manufacturer will underscore its European ambitions by showing off several electric models at the Geneva auto show next week, including a luxury SUV rivaling the Mercedes-Benz G-Class.

Failure for Europe’s automakers to come up with a working Plan B risks rising in an industry that employs about 13 million people and accounts for 7 percent of the EU economy.

“We have spent billions as an industry to make electric mobility possible,” said Holger Klein, who heads the supplier ZF Friedrichshafen which employs around 165,000 people worldwide.

“Now the question is: Do we have the right parameters?”

Renault CEO Luca de Meo has been advocating an alliance akin to the tie-up that created a European planemaker to vie with Boeing by pooling assets in Germany, France, Spain and the UK

The executive has argued that an “Airbus of autos” would help share the massive cost of building cheap EVs, while allowing them to benefit from greater scale.

Interest in broader cost sharing rose late last year, when Renault presented a concept for an electric city car that would cost less than €20,000 — half the price of VW’s ID 3.

De Meo’s initiative was inspired by Japan’s kei cars. The popular mini vehicles are built by several manufacturers and get preferential treatment from regulators.