Gen Z Americans are more open to Chinese electric cars than you think: study

The potential presence of Chinese electric vehicles in the United States has quickly become a hot-button issue. We’ve noticed very polarized reactions to our reporting on the Beijing Auto Show. However, the difference between what someone says online, what an elected official would say behind a podium, and what people really think can often be very different things.

Automotive research firm AutoPacific shared some useful information that could contradict (or confirm, depending on your views) how Americans feel about Chinese electric vehicles. The group found that Americans are very open to Chinese electric vehicles, especially if they are younger buyers.

It’s not clear whether Chinese electric cars will make it to the United States

The Biden administration has enacted new tariffs to counter the potential onslaught of cheaper Chinese electric vehicles. Imposing a 100% tariff on electric vehicles made in China would make them unpalatable in the United States

However, there are concerns that some brands like BYD could build factories in Mexico and import into the United States, avoiding tariffs. This route is also being politicized, with former President Donald Trump promising to impose tariffs on all vehicles made by Chinese companies, regardless of whether they are made in North America or not.

For the survey, AutoPacific queried 800 people between the ages of 18 and 80. From this survey, the group learned that about 36% of all users surveyed said they would “definitely” or “probably” consider a Chinese-branded electric vehicle. However, this number rises to a whopping 76% when we only look at data for buyers under the age of 40. Millennials and Generation Z are very open to Chinese brand electric cars.

Why? Ed Kim, president and chief analyst at AutoPacific, has some thoughts. It’s no secret that Millennials and Generation Z are less economically well-off (read: broke) than previous generations. Chinese cars seem to promise a lot of content for little money.

“AutoPacific research has shown that the main reason many Americans are hesitant toward electric vehicles is the purchase price, and Chinese brand EVs are likely to offer attractive EV products that can generate excitement for EVs at very affordable prices,” Kim said. “For cash-strapped young people, an affordable, feature-packed electric vehicle will be exactly what they are looking for.

BYD Dolphin 8

Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and rainbows for Chinese automakers. All age groups were fairly equally concerned about data protection and cybersecurity risks that could come with a Chinese electric vehicle. Even among people under 40 who would be available to Chinese electric vehicles, at least 68% of all survey respondents were concerned about cybersecurity-related issues if the vehicles reached the United States.

But again, these concerns seem very minor. The survey also learned that if Chinese cars were manufactured in the United States, all age groups (including people over 60) would be more willing to consider the vehicles. Kim also believes those pesky cybersecurity concerns will fade away since “most of the connected smartphones, smartwatches, laptops, and connected home devices that we’re comfortable using every day are actually made in China.”

Study AP China 2

This is probably very bittersweet news for Chinese, American, European, Japanese and Korean automakers as well. For China, this survey shows promise that the second-largest auto market is receptive to its products despite the escalating automotive Cold War (and, indeed, escalating trade tensions more generally) between the two countries.

However, it will be difficult to act on that, as the 100%-plus tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles have put up a significant barrier (or perhaps a speed bump would be more accurate) to selling any of those brands in the US.

For others, it shows how backward and unsuccessful they are in dealing with buyers. Arguably the most surprising part of the AutoPacific survey is how aware all age groups are of Chinese brand EVs.

How the hell are they aware of these brands? Social media most likely.

“I absolutely feel that social media makes the world a lot smaller and increases awareness of products and technologies available in other parts of the world. This creates awareness and even demand for interesting and attractive products that are otherwise inaccessible,” Kim said. Not available here. I would say this absolutely applies to cars, which in the case of Chinese vehicles speaks not only of car enthusiasts but also of technology enthusiasts.


This may be related to the US State Department’s criticism of TikTok; The Americans fear that this will affect its users at the request of the Chinese government. Thus, some might insist that American consumer interest in Chinese EVs is not entirely organic, but merely a function of the Chinese government to get the world to buy its products.

Maybe a little neo-McCarthyism mixed in with a grain of truth. But Americans see what’s happening abroad, and they are fascinated.

If US automakers don’t want to lose young people entirely, they should join the program. Because according to Kim, it’s a matter of “when” and not “if” Chinese electric cars come here.

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