These ‘Western’ cars secretly come from China

Chinese origins not always clear

Citroen C5Cupra TavascanDacia Spring Electric 65 ExtremeDS 9Honda ZR-VLotus EletreMini Cooper SESmart #1Tesla Model 3Volvo EX30Volvo XC60 from China in Ghent trainVolvo S60 and S90


The European car market is flooded with cars from all kinds of Chinese brands. Many brands think so, but not everything is as it seems. Cars from European, American and even Japanese brands are also increasingly coming from China, where they are built for the European market.

China has an image problem, to say the least. Almost every message about a Chinese newcomer to the Dutch market quickly turns to discussion on this site. A large proportion of Dutch people appear to have a moral objection to Chinese cars, while others throw around arguments such as ‘every product has something Chinese’. Volvo also often has to suffer in this discussion. The Swedish brand has been owned by the Chinese Geely for years and is in a sense becoming more Chinese than ever, now that the EX30 is the first time a Volvo on a Chinese Geely platform has been placed on the European price list.

However, if you dig deeper, you will soon come across Chinese components in other brands as well. Did you know, for example, that the e-CMP platform of the Peugeot e-208, Opel Mokka Electric and all other compact electric models from Stellantis was developed in collaboration with the Chinese Dongfeng? However, that does not suddenly make these cars Chinese. The same can be said of cars from non-Chinese brands, which are, however, built in China for export purposes. In most cases, the brands in question are ‘normal’ European, American or Japanese, but China is used as a production country for costs or logistical reasons.

At the time of writing, the following non-Chinese models are built in China:


The BMW X3 for the European market basically comes from BMW’s American factory in Spartanburg, South Carolina. However, the electric iX3 is an exception, and is also assembled for us Europeans in Shenyang, China.

Citroen C5-X

Citroen C5

Very clever: Citroën manages to build the new, compact and affordable ë-C3 without using Chinese developers or factories. However, this does not mean that Citroën is completely avoiding cooperation with China: the large Citroën C5-X is built in China.

Cupra Tavascan

It’s not here yet, but the Cupra Tavascan will also be coming our way from China soon. Remarkable, because sister models Volkswagen ID.4, ID.5 and Skoda Enyaq are normally produced in Europe for European buyers.

Dacia Spring

The car we know as Dacia Spring is based on the Renault Kwid. That is a small crossover (on petrol) for growth markets, which you can encounter in many places outside Europe. The electric version, the Renault City K-ZE, is built in a Chinese factory shared with Dongfeng. You guessed it: the Dacia logos are also stuck on ‘European’ Springs.

DS 9

Stellantis’ luxury brand DS is difficult to understand in Europe, but the focus is largely in China. The result can also be seen in European showrooms, because the flagship DS 9 is built in China. It is clear that they have not yet spent too much time on European export cars.

Honda ZR-V

Honda ZR-V

We ‘catch’ Japanese brands significantly less often in Chinese production than European brands, but there is one exception. The SUV brother of the Honda Civic, the Honda ZR-V, has the well-known ‘Made in China’ on the specification sticker.

Lotus Eletre

No surprise: just like Volvo, Lotus is now a Geely subsidiary, and so the electric Lotus Eletre is also built in China.


The new, always electric Mini Cooper is more Chinese than you think. This Mini is a product of Spotlight Automotive Ltd., a joint venture between BMW and the Chinese Great Wall. The Cooper is also built in China, although the car will eventually also be built traditionally in Oxford.

Smart #1

Another Geely brand, albeit half. The other half of Smart is still ‘normally’ owned by Mercedes-Benz, but the #1 is on the Chinese SEA platform and is produced in China.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

Tesla is also not averse to Chinese production. One of the brand’s ‘Gigafactories’ is located near Shanghai. Previously, Model Ys also came from there, but the rear-wheel drive version of that car is now also produced in Europe for the European market. This does not apply to the Model 3: it comes from China, also in a heavily updated form.

Volvo EX30 and others

The Volvo EX30 has already been mentioned before, but should of course not be missing from the overview. Feel free to call it ‘the most Chinese Volvo ever’, although it must be said that the car will eventually also be built in Ghent, Belgium. However, the EX30 is not the only Volvo that comes from China: the S90 also comes from there, while it lasts. This also applied to the more popular XC60, for a special reason. Initially, the XC60 for the American market came from China, while European units were simply built in Sweden. However, after American import restrictions on Chinese products, things were shifted, and the Swedish-built XC60s went to the US, while ‘for us’ copies from China were put on the train.

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