Currently reading: New 31% EU import tariff for car makers that move production to China
European Commission announces new tariffs aimed mainly at penalising subsidised Chinese manufacturers

European car makers that build EVs in China and import them back to the continent will be hit with 21% additional duty taxes by the EU.

Announced yesterday by the European Commission, these new tariffs, which could go as high as 38.1% for some Chinese car makers, are aimed at levelling Europe's automotive playing field.

The new taxes are on top of the existing 10% import tariff.

As well as penalising Chinese manufacturers that are undercutting local rivals with the help of government subsidies, the European Commission is also hitting firms – such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Renault – that have moved some production from Europe to China, where labour rates are cheaper.

BMW Group boss Oliver Zipse blasted the decision as "the wrong way to go".

He said: "The EU Commission is thus harming European companies and European interests.

“Protectionism risks starting a spiral. Tariffs lead to new tariffs – to isolation rather than cooperation.”

Tesla, which builds the Model 3 in Shanghai, “may receive an individually calculated duty rate”, the European Commission said.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis previously said: “Competition must be fair.”

This aggressive stance from the Commission is, however, aimed more at Chinese EV makers.

In documents released yesterday, the Commission confirmed each manufacturer will be hit with taxes ranging from 17% to 38.1%.

As part of a sample pool, it confirmed Volvo parent Geely will be charged an additional 20% tax duty, and BYD 17.4%. 

MG owner SAIC, which the Commission has considered not to have cooperated with the probe, has been hit with a 38.1% rate. Others that fail to assist will be charged at the same rate, it said.

In layman's terms, this could potentially make the MG 4's £26,995 starting price rise to as much as £37,280.10, but in reality the brand will absorb most of the tax increase rather than pass it on to customers.

Talks will now be held with Chinese manufacturers over the levy and "should discussions with authorities not lead to an effective solution" tariffs will begin from 4 July.

The Commission said it could revise these figures if car makers provide "sufficient counter-balancing evidence".

Chinese-made EVs currently hold an 8% share in the EU market and the Commission predicts this will rise to 15% by the end of 2024.

Back to top

The Commission said these new laws are being put in place because of the "threat of economic injury to EU BEV producers".

China’s foreign ministry has claimed the imposition of the new duty rate “violates market economy principles and international trade rules”, the FT reports.

It branded the move as “a typical example of protectionism”, adding: “Protectionism has no future. Open cooperation is the right path.”

The UK is now expected to follow suit with its own rules after secretary of state for transport Mark Harper previously promised “robust measures”. However, any new legislation will not be tabled until after the 4 July general election. 

Not all EU member states were in favour of the move. Germany, for example, which exported 216,000 cars to China last year, warned against the sanctions, fearing that it would spark a trade war with Beijing. China has already warned it would retaliate in kind so as to get European car maker support.

Will Rimell

Will Rimell
Title: News editor

Will is a journalist with more than eight years experience in roles that range from news reporter to editor. He joined Autocar in 2022 as deputy news editor, moving from a local news background.

In his current role as news editor, Will’s focus is on setting Autocar's news agenda; he also manages Autocar Business and Haymarket's aftermarket publication CAT.

Writing is, of course, a big part of his role too. Stories come in many forms, from interviewing top executives, reporting from car launches, and unearthing exclusives.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
LP in Brighton 12 June 2024

This is massive news. If introduced it will decimate sales of Chinese imports and do likewise to European exports when China introduces reciprocal tariffs.