Vauxhall owner to sell cheap Chinese EVs in UK and mainland Europe


The global carmaker Stellantis is to sell cheap electric cars made by its Chinese partner Leapmotor in Europe, including the UK, as it criticised Joe Biden’s decision to impose a 100% tariff on Chinese EVs imported to the US.

Stellantis, which owns brands including Fiat, Peugeot and Vauxhall, will start selling two Leapmotor models in September, at prices of less than €20,000 (£17,200). UK sales will start in March 2025.

Carlos Tavares, the Stellantis chief executive, said the move would allow it to profit from the wave of Chinese cars coming to Europe, and strongly decried protectionism as the US launched steep tariffs to shield its own industry.

Related: Biden announces 100% tariff on Chinese-made electric vehicles

Biden on Tuesday announced a 100% tariff on Chinese-made electric vehicles, as the US industry lagged behind China and Europe. However, Tavares said tariffs would increase inflation in the US, a key political concern before the presidential election in November.

China has taken a global lead in producing battery electric vehicles, and is the world’s biggest electric car market. Dozens of Chinese manufacturers, including BYD, which vies with Tesla as the world’s single biggest electric car manufacturer, are starting to sell cars in Europe.

European and US carmakers are scrambling to catch up with China’s host of EV makers, which often benefit from direct government support, cheaper labour costs and China’s dominance of global battery supply chains.

Tavares portrayed the deal with Leapmotor, which is likely to increase China’s surging battery vehicle sales, as a pragmatic and “opportunistic” move to profit from the rise of Chinese manufacturers.

“Whether I like it or not they are grabbing share,” he said. “What I can do is leverage that dynamic.”

The first models to be sold in Europe will be the T03, a small, five-door city car, and the bulkier C10 SUV.

Stellantis also owns big US brands including Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge, but Tavares strongly opposed Biden’s measures to protect US manufacturers. Tavares said three automotive “bubbles” were being created in the US, Europe and China via trade barriers.

Tariffs are “just going to end up with more inflation inside the bubble”, he said. “Protectionism has a lot of drawbacks. They don’t appear immediately; they appear one after the other.”

Tavares acknowledged that the situation for Chinese-made vehicles in Europe could change if the EU also decided to impose tariffs. The EU is examining whether Chinese electric cars are being dumped in Europe, which could lead to tariffs or other barriers in response.

Stellantis will own 51% of the Amsterdam-headquartered Leapmotor International, while the Hangzhou-headquartered Leapmotor will own 49%. Leapmotor was founded in 2015 by Zhu Jiangming, an electrical engineer. Stellantis had previously invested in Leapmotor in a deal agreed in October.

The partnership will expand Leapmotor sales to India and the Asia Pacific region, the Middle East and Africa, and South America starting in the fourth quarter of 2024.