Venerdì, 21 Giugno 2024
New development / Belgio

How European ports became parking lots for unsold electric cars

The docks of Antwerp and Zeebrugge are inundated with a high quantity of electric vehicles, mostly from China

It is a scenario to which Belgian port workers are becoming accustomed: hundreds of thousands of electric cars are accumulating in the parking lots of the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge, awaiting sale. This phenomenon speaks volumes about the state of Europe's transition towards sustainable mobility, as well as how China is preparing to capture an increasingly larger share of the battery vehicle market.

Belgium has become a central hub for automotive companies (and others) from Beijing: the vast majority of electric cars manufactured in China, including those from Western companies like Tesla, arrive here, as confirmed by port authorities to Euronews. According to estimates, in the month of February, there was a rapid accumulation of vehicles, leading to an extraordinary congestion in the parking areas near the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge.

According to the European Car Logistics Association (ECG), vehicle imports from China reached 1.3 million units in the first quarter of this year, an increase of 33% compared to the previous year. "This is happening in all European ports handling large numbers of cars," stated a spokesperson on behalf of the Port of Antwerp-Bruges, the second largest port in Europe.

Despite the total number of vehicles (considering not just electric ones) received by the port being lower than in previous years, the congestion problem remains critical. Port authorities are urgently seeking solutions to restore the regularity of port operations and mitigate the congestion that is paralysing their activities. The flow of vehicles is not expected to stop: according to the French newspaper Le Monde, the total number of vehicles from China could reach between 600,000 and 1 million arrivals in Antwerp alone this year. Meanwhile, sales in Europe, although increasing, are not keeping pace with the production and export rates maintained by Chinese manufacturers such as MG, BYD, Nio, XPeng, Lynk & Co, Omoda, and Hongqi.

The problem, according to experts, is the lack of an established distribution network for Chinese models in Europe. Without an effective marketing strategy on the continent and without facilitated subsequent transportation, Chinese cars remain immobilized in the ports, contributing to the current logistical chaos. It is no coincidence that when news emerged of negotiations between the Italian government and BYD for the opening of an electric car factory in our country, the CEO of the Chinese giant, Michael Shu, cryptically remarked that the choice "depends on our sales." This was a way to pressure Rome to favor BYD's commercial operations.

However, the massive arrival of electric vehicles from China could also be linked to the risk that the European Commission, as has been threatened for months, might impose tariffs on car exports from Beijing, countering what is currently the significant commercial advantage of Chinese models—their significantly lower price compared to European competitors. Brussels could apply these tariffs as early as June, arguing that BYD and others receive massive state subsidies, thus engaging in unfair competition against EU manufacturers.

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How European ports became parking lots for unsold electric cars

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