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Tesla cars. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Tesla cars. Picture: BLOOMBERG

They may account for eight of the world’s 10 fastest-growing motor brands, but Chinese companies have a mountain to climb before they can challenge traditional automotive giants. The good news for them is that the performance of US upstart Tesla shows it can be done.

The latest ranking of automotive brand values shows Toyota still out in front, with a value of $63.4bn. That’s 8.1% more than last year’s $59.5bn. It extended its lead slightly over second-placed Mercedes-Benz, which grew 4% to $60.7bn.

Then there’s a big drop down to Tesla in third place, on $46bn. But that’s only part of the story. The value of the electric car company has grown by 44% from last year’s $32bn. Since 2020, its brand value has leapt a phenomenal 221%.

The figures are supplied by multinational brand consultancy Brand Finance. The UK-based group describes brand value as “the net economic benefit that a brand owner would achieve by licensing the brand in the open market”. Measurements include earnings, brand strength and reputation, forecast revenue, market share and brand royalties.

Tesla’s growth owes much to the way it has positioned itself as a leader in electric cars – but also for how founder Elon Musk has hogged news headlines. Brand Finance group MD Richard Haigh says: “Musk has played a huge part in the growth of the brand, with his charismatic and at times controversial behaviour keeping it firmly in the limelight.”

The global shift towards electric cars has also seen a surge in the value of Chinese motor companies. Most of the world’s electric vehicles (EVs) are sold in China, so it’s no surprise that the country’s companies should specialise in electric technology.

Among them is Great Wall Motors (GWM), the fastest-growing performer in Brand Finance’s 2022 ranking. The company, best known in SA for traditional petrol bakkies, increased its value by 109%, to $2.6bn. That’s barely 4% of Toyota’s.

China’s most valuable brand, BYD (the initials stand for Build Your Dreams), is worth $6.4bn after growing 100%. That helped it into 19th place overall, one ahead of Haval, which improved by 55%, to $6.1bn. Haval is becoming a significant presence in SA (though not with EVs), but many of the other Chinese big-value jumpers are unknown here: brands like Song, Qin, Tang, Nio and Wey.

Tesla’s leap up the value rankings, from sixth to third place, is at the expense of Volkswagen (VW), BMW and Porsche. Each has dropped a place, to fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. Worse, they have also lost value. VW is down 13% to $41bn, BMW 6% to $37.9bn and Porsche 2% to $33.7%.

The VW group’s Audi brand also took a knock, shedding 20% to $13.8bn and dropping out of the top 10. German brands were victims, says Brand Finance, of global motor industry challenges.

“With lockdowns, network contractions in production and the ongoing semiconductor shortage, the industry has been faced with many challenges. Apart from sector-wide disruptions, the German automakers that were reliant on diesel-powered vehicles have had to deal with regulatory challenges and the transition to electric mobility and electric production methods, resulting in rolling back on production to meet industry trends.”

The seventh-most valuable motor brand in 2022 is Honda, despite a 10% drop to $28.2bn. Ford’s value grew 6.6% to $24.2bn, keeping the company in eighth place. It was followed by Nissan, down 10% to $14.6bn, and Volvo, which lost 20%, to $14.2bn.Numbers 11 to 20 were occupied, in order, by Audi, Hyundai, Chevrolet, Lexus, Land Rover, Renault, Ferrari, Subaru, BYD and Haval.

Mercedes-Benz bucked the German downward trend by growing EV sales 90%, launching a new version of its core C-Class model and, crucially, rebranding the group it is part of. By changing the name from Daimler to Mercedes-Benz Group, there is clearer brand identity, says Brand Finance.

Toyota managed the semiconductor shortage better than most, by stockpiling supplies before the crisis reached its peak, thereby keeping production levels relatively high. It was the only motor company to sell more than 10-million vehicles in 2021.

There are no positional changes among the leaders in Brand Finance’s value ranking of leading automotive components brands. Denso remains top, with $4.2bn, followed by Hyundai Mobis ($3.7bn), Magna ($2.8bn), Sumitomo Electric ($2.4bn) and Valeo ($2.3bn).

Michelin has extended its lead at the top of the tyre brand value charts, growing 15.6% from last year, to $7.7bn. It is followed by Bridgestone ($7.1bn), Continental ($4.3bn), Dunlop ($2.5bn) and Goodyear ($2.3bn).

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