European auto veteran says Chinese carmakers will dominate mainstream market for next decade

Peng Chen, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Gianfranco Pizzuto is the founder and CEO of Automobili Estrema. Credit: DIGITIMES Asia

China's automotive offense has pressured legacy carmakers in Europe and other markets. Gianfranco Pizzuto, an Italian automotive veteran and the former co-founder of Fisker Automotive, predicted that Chinese carmakers will lead the mainstream market for the next 10 years. The luxury segment is where European companies can stay ahead of competitors.

Pizzuto is the founder and CEO of Automobili Estrema, an Italian company focusing on electric sports cars. On April 18, he shared his views on carmakers' challenges on the sidelines of the 360 Mobility forum in Taiwan.

"If you are trying to compete in always getting the cheapest price, you're going either to be killed, or you need to kill. There is no other chance," Pizzuto said of the ongoing price cuts.

He also said Chinese automakers will dominate the mainstream segment worldwide for the next 10 years. European counterparts will have a chance in the luxury market, where the brand is still critical because the wealthy demand premium products.

According to Pizzuto, many Europeans saw China-produced vehicles as products with cheap-made finish and design 20 years ago. The Chinese carmakers knew they would not reach the level that Europeans achieved with gasoline cars. Therefore, they decided to pivot to EVs as the country has manufactured batteries for consumer electronics, he added.

Pizzuto said Chinese carmakers control the supply chain from accessing battery minerals and automotive components to the final product. This is why European competitors can not beat them in volume or in price.

Statistics showed that petrol cars accounted for 35.3% of European car sales in 2023. Hybrid EVs took up 25.8%, while battery EVs occupied 14.6%. The continent has welcomed more battery projects in recent years, including CATL's first European plant in Germany. The Czech Republic founded the Czech Battery Cluster in 2022 to foster partnerships between the public and private sectors.

Tomas Kazda, chairman of the Czech Battery Cluster, said the automotive industry accounts for 9% of the Czech Republic's GDP and 24% of exports. The country also has access to battery materials like lithium and manganese, besides 6.99 million tons of the lithium carbonate equivalent, making it a competitive battery producer.

According to Kazda, the battery cluster has 32 members, including Skoda and Foxconn. The group focuses on battery material mining, recycling, and other segments. It helps members stay informed of new trends and search for talents, he added.