Citing Data Risk Concerns

BYD U9 Chinese Car Supercar
China's BYD U9 electric car.

“Demolish the ‘old legends’ and achieve new world-class brands.”

Roughly translated, that’s what BYD founder and chairman Wang Chuanfu said during a presentation in August of 2023, which are of course very pointed words towards major global automakers based in rival nations Japan, USA and Germany. And if these same nations aren’t careful, that could happen.

The United States government is exploring measures to restrict the influx of Chinese “smart cars” and their components into the United States. Individuals familiar with the matter disclosed concerns regarding data security may force more extreme policy measures than import tariffs. Nevermind the migrant crisis happening for a second. A pack of Chinese automakers amassing a footprint in Mexico are busy figuring out a way into the USA, too.

Notably, US officials are concerned about substantial data sets amassed by modern vehicles. This encompasses electric and conventionally powered vehicles offering connected and autonomous features. The widespread integration of internet-connected modems in today’s ‘smart cars’ introduces a cybersecurity risk that would never exist if you just drove a 2007 Mercury Grand Marquis.

Tesla Model 3 Price Sales Rates

More Data, More Problems

It’s believed the Biden administration could look to address the data security risks through the Commerce Department, using policy to regulate information and technology transactions. At this time no decision has been made.

Electric vehicles are notable for collecting vast amounts of information and there is an arms race between automakers to equip their cars with increasingly better sensors and driver assistance software. The Chinese require automakers to store and process much of that ‘smart car’ data within the country, which could include sensitive personal information like license plates and facial characteristics. This is where US concerns lay. China has already banned Tesla cars from operating near government gatherings and for military use due to national security concerns.

Separate from data privacy, officials are also looking at increasing the 27.5% tariff on Chinese EVs, originally levied by then-President Donald Trump. According to Reuters, a review of the Trump-era policy could target electric vehicles and ancillary parts originating from China, irrespective of their final assembly location.

Ford F-150 Lightning Logo
Image copyright Steven Pham, Muscle Cars & Trucks.

Chinese automakers have been evaluating sites in Mexico for factory investments, which could allow them to circumvent tariffs. Thus far, Chinese automakers have stayed out of America partially because of the high tariffs. Officials believe the Chinese EV’s lower cost of assemblage could spur some manufacturers to swallow the costs of tariffs and enter the high-dollar, still-water US market, threatening US efforts to homegrown EV production.

Ironically, Congress is concerned that Chinese companies may try to take advantage of tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act designed to reduce American dependence on China’s dominant EV manufacturing and supplier base.

“If there are no trade barriers established, (BYD) will pretty much demolish most other car companies in the world,” is how Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk put it recently. “They’re extremely good.”

What’s Wrong With Chinese Cars, Anyway?

What does it mean for the American consumer? Presently, the myth of the “affordable EV” continues to be just that. A myth. But not so with Chinese automakers. In fact, they happen to excel at them, but perhaps not for the most ethical reasons. Benefiting from largely dominating the EV supply chain, and the cheapest (unethical by Western standards) forms of labor through the entire manufacturing process, Chinese automakers are uniquely positioned to deliver on a competent product at a price that US, Japanese and European automakers just cannot compete with. But it’s not just BEVs, as it’s evident that Chinese-made cars and trucks with internal combustion engines could undercut traditional makes, too.

All of this is to say that without access to a Chinese option, there won’t be many desirable EVs in the USA for under $35,000 (hence everybody’s recent foray into the “premium” and “luxury” space like the Mustang Mach-E and Hummer EV). But even if there was a BYD for sale in the ‘States, would you consider it?


Rivian R1T Electric Vehicle Truck Trucks EV Pickup
Image Via Rivian

Written by Michael Accardi

Michael refuses to sit still, he's held multiple hands-on automotive jobs throughout his career. Along with being an investigative writer and accomplished photographer, Michael works for several motorsports organizations.

He was part of the Ford GT program at Multimatic, oversaw a fleet of Audi TCR race cars, has ziptied Lamborghini Super Trofeo cars back together, been over the wall in the Rolex 24, and worked in the cut-throat world of IndyCar.

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