China says it has become the world’s biggest exporter of cars after overtaking Japan in the first three months of the year.
Official figures released in the last week showed that China exported 1.07 million vehicles in the period, up 58% compared to the first quarter of 2022.
At the same time Japan’s vehicle exports stood at 954,185, after edging up 6% from a year earlier.
China’s exports were boosted by demand for electric cars and sales to Russia.
Last year, China overtook Germany to become the world’s second largest car exporter.
According to China’s General Administration of Customs, China exported 3.2 million vehicles in 2022, compared to Germany’s 2.6 million vehicle exports.
The shift away from fossil fuels has helped fuel to the rise of China’s motor industry.
First quarter exports of new energy vehicles (NEVs), which include electric cars, rose by more than 90%, compared to a year earlier.
Tesla’s China arm, SAIC – the owner of the MG brand – and BYD, which is backed by veteran US investor Warren Buffett, are among China’s top exporters of NEVs.
Elon Musk’s electric carmaker has a huge manufacturing plant in Shanghai which exports to regions including Japan and Europe.
Tesla’s ‘Gigafactory’ is currently capable of producing 1.25 million vehicles a year, and the company is planning to further increase capacity.
Last month, it started making Model Y sport utility vehicles for export to Canada.
China has also seen exports to Russia surge since the start of the Ukraine war, as Western countries imposed trade sanctions on Moscow.
Last year, Chinese carmakers – including Geely, Chery and Great Wall – saw their market share in Russia jump after rivals including Volkswagen and Toyota quit the country following the invasion of Ukraine.