The UK car market is going to look very different in the next few years as an influx of new brands – primarily from China and the US – begin selling electric vehicles to British customers.
But have you heard of any of them?
Less than half of potential car buyers are aware of new up-and-coming brands, some of which are already here in the UK and selling thousands of cars a year, a report has found.
Companies including BYD, GWM Ora and Polestar are among those that have established themselves in Britain but many motorists are oblivious to – and a wave of fresh badges are set to enter the market in the coming months that drivers might want to know more about.
We’ve given you a brief rundown of each marque so you know what’s coming…
Have you heard of these electric vehicle newcomers breaking into the UK market? More than half of car-buying Britons don’t know they exist – here’s your chance to find out more about each one
What Car? has polled 1,033 ‘in-market’ buyers in recent weeks and found that 53 per cent had never heard of any of the ten new car makers.
The brands put in front of drivers to identify included Aiways, BYD, Chery, Lucid, Lynk & Co, Nio, Ora, Polestar, Rivian and Fisker.
The best-known brand among the ten surveyed was Polestar, which 44.5 per cent of respondents had heard of.
Polestar should top the standings, and understandably expect more motorists to know of them.
The Volvo spin-off brand – which is also owned by Chinese mega company Geely – has been selling vehicles in Britain since 2018. Its Polestar2 family saloon was the seventh most-bought electric car in the UK last year, with 7,345 registrations in total.
Order books have also opened for its Polestar3 SUV and the company has this week confirmed its new Polestar4 crossover, which has no rear windscreen and is the fastest EV it has brought to market yet.
Of the 10 new brands either selling cars in Britain already or due to do so shortly, US firm Fisker was the next company the highest proportion of survey respondents knew (12.5 per cent).
Its first EV, the Fisker Ocean, is due to go on sale in Britain before the end of the year, with starting prices for the impressive battery-powered electric family car expected to start from just under £35,000.
The next best-known new brand – with just 10.7 per cent of drivers aware of it – is American firm Rivian, which is already taking its domestic market by storm with its battery powered SUV and pick-up models.
The 10 little-known new electric car brands: Percentage of drivers who have heard of each
Lynk & Co: 3.3%
None of the above: 53.0%
Source: What Car? poll of 1,033 in-market car buyers
China’s BYD, which already sells more EVs globally than Tesla and recently opened orders for the Atto 3 in the UK, was familiar to just 8.2 per cent of respondents.
Similarly, just 6.4 per cent of those taking part in the poll said they had heard of Ora before, which launched the Funky Cat supermini earlier this year in the UK.
The marque is a sub-brand of China’s Great Wall Motor group, which has recently signed a partnership deal with Mini to produce its next-generation electric hatchback in Baoding, China.
Aiways, which has announced plans to sell vehicles in the UK shortly, was the least-known brand, with less than 1 per cent of the car-buying public recognising its name.
With so many fresh marques set to flood the British market in the run-up to 2030, when a the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars comes in, What Car? also wanted to gauge public opinion on whether they would want to buy from a little-known brand.
While 62 per cent had no preference, more than a third (36 per cent) said they’d prefer to buy from a traditional manufacturer, and just 2.3 per cent from a relative newcomer.
Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car?, said: ‘Our data highlights just how hard it will be for new entrants to break into the new car market in the UK, as they have to build up a strong brand reputation as well as convincing buyers of the quality and value of their products.
‘However, some of the cars we have tested from emerging brands such as Polestar and BYD have shown considerable quality. Canny buyers will continue to survey third-party reviews to ascertain which of the newcomers has the potential to spring a surprise and shake-up the established order.’
THE UK’S 10 ELECTRIC CAR NEWCOMERS
Coming to Britain: This year
Aiways already has its European headquarters in Germany. Bosses have spoken in recent months about launching in the UK in 2023, with the U5 SUV (pictured) likely to be sold first
Chinese firm Aiways said last year that it intends to enter the UK market in 2023, having already established itself in Germany, which is the location for its European headquarters.
Backed by technology companies Foxconn and Tencent, its factory in Shangrao, China, has the capacity to produce around 300,000 vehicles per year and the firm already has its own R&D centre and battery plant.
The first model that is likely to be seen on UK roads is its U5.
The SUV has been one of its best-selling cars in China since 2018, with a 63kWh battery and range of around 250 miles.
Coming to Britain: Arrived this year
The Atto 3 is the first model from BYD to go on sale in Britain earlier this year – and first deliveries began arriving in March
The newest kid on the EV block in Britain is China’s BYD.
It is among the biggest global car companies that has entered the UK market this year with the impressive Atto 3 family SUV.
Deliveries to UK customers started last month, with the ‘face’ of the new car – and others in the range set to follow – deliberately modelled on that of a Chinese dragon.
The initials BYD stand, rather unselfconsciously, for ‘Build Your Dreams’, which is emblazoned across the rear hatchback.
But BYD is not just a car company. It is a huge industrial conglomerate, set up in 1995, which now builds everything from buses to trains, has a turnover of more than £51billion and employs more than 600,000 people.
Coming to Britain: 2024
The Omoda 5 SUV is expected to be the first Chery model sold in the UK, and it could be coming as early as next year
Another EV newcomer newcomer expected to emerge on the UK scene in the next few months is Chery.
The Chinese car giant is expected to launch the Omoda 5 crossover in Britain from early 2024, which will be the first in a line of style-focused EV models it has planned for our roads.
However, it will not exclusively be an electric car, with expectations that it will also be sold with a petrol engine.
While you have likely not heard of it, Chery is a serious global player. It sells around half a million cars to markets including Asia, Australia, Africa, Latin American and the Middle East.
British car maker, Jaguar Land Rover, partners with Chery currently, with the Chinese manufacturer responsible for making a range of its cars for its domestic market. That includes the Evoque and Discovery Sport SUVs.
Coming to Britain: This year
Lucid is set to start shipping the new Air luxury electric saloon to the European market, with Germany getting cars ahead of us Britons
The Lucid Air made its UK debut last year and set plenty of tongues wagging in the process.
The sleek all-electric luxury saloon car – the first model from the American brand – was driven on the hill course at the 2022 Goodwood Festival of Speed. Piloted by Top Gear’s former Stig, Ben Collins, it whooshed up the course in 50.78 seconds and was beaten only by racing machines rather than family motors you can buy for the road.
First examples for the European market are on sale in Germany, with right-hand drive examples expected for UK customers sometime this year.
It will be priced from around £60,000 and go into direct competition with the Tesla Model S and Mercedes EQS and offer plenty of performance incentives to make motorists consider it.
That includes a range of up to 520 miles and cars packing up to 1,100bhp that will be able to sprint to 60mph in around 2.5 seconds.
Lynk & Co
Coming to Britain: 2024
The first model available from Chinese-owned Lynk & Co is the 01 SUV pictured. It is already available in some European countries with 95% of customers using the brand’s monthly subscription services rather than purchasing outright
Lynk & Co is a Swedish-founded brand under the Chinese Geely’s banner, which is the parent group of Volvo, Polestar and the rejuvenated Lotus marque.
Its first car likely to go on sale will not be fully electric though. The 01 SUV is a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid that’s already on sale in seven European countries, including Germany, Spain and Sweden. The firm says it should enter the UK market next year.
What makes the business different is not its cars but how you own them – or not, as the case is. While you can buy its vehicles outright, around 95 per cent of its cars are on subscription, costing around €500 (£402) a month. This includes insurance, tax and maintenance and covers the driver for up to 1,250 kilometres (776 miles) each month.
It is flexible too, with customers able to cancel the subscription on a monthly basis. It is also unlikely to have any dealership either, with an online-only service.
Coming to Britain: This year
NIO is a Chinese electric car maker that’s already selling vehicles in Norway – and has recently broken into the top 25 most popular brands there
Another Chinese car brand that is likely to arrive on the UK scene very shortly is NIO.
The exclusively-electric vehicle manufacturer already has a line-up of premium models, including the ET5 and EL7 saloons and ET7 and ES8 SUV – some of which have already gone on sale in Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
In fact, NIO has recently broken into the top 25 best-selling brands in Norway.
It has said it will have three Tesla-rivalling models available in the UK in 2023, all of them available on subscription.
Based on the price in Norway, Britons would expect to have to fork out between £50,000 and £60,000 for the two models already on sale there.
The company is extensively exploring battery-swap network, with plans for dedicated battery stations where owners can drive up and switch their depleted packs for one that is fully charged. By 2025, it wants to have 4,000 of these stations worldwide.
GWM Ora (Great Wall Motor)
Coming to Britain: Arrived last year
The Ora Funky Cat is a compact electric hatchback is already available to order in the UK. Ora is the first brand under the Chinese Great Wall group sold in Britain
Great Wall Motor is one of the expanding automotive groups from China that is already selling cars in the UK – and its first model has a pretty special name.
It is from its Ora brand and is called the Funky Cat. The compact electric hatchback costs from £31,995 and has already signed a dealership network deal with major players including Lookers and Peter Vardy.
By the end of March, official figures show it has shifted just 214 examples so far this year.
Only ‘First Edition’ models are currently on sale with a 48kWh battery offering an official range up to 193 miles. They are compatible with 80kW charging devices meaning they can be replenished to 80 per cent capacity in around 50 minutes. A 63kWh battery model with a range of up to 261 miles is expected to follow.
The UK side of the business is said to be trying to establish a nationwide network of retailers that will scale up as the brand grows. In the meantime, customers can order via its website – a feature that will remain even when it has a dealer network.
Coming to Britain: Arrived in 2019
Polestar – Volvo’s EV spin-off brand – first entered the UK market in 2019 with the high-performance Polestar1. But it is the Polestar2 saloon (pictured) that has seen it become a growing success in Britain in the last two years
Polestar was originally the performance arm of Volvo, but the name has been rebranded into the Swedish firm’s EV subsidiary.
Under the watchful eye of parent group Geely, it has hit the UK market running with the Polestar 2 – its compact executive saloon to rival the Tesla Model 3.
It first entered Britain’s market in 2019 with the Polestar 1 – and ultra-exclusive (just 1,500 available) sporty plug-in hybrid with a premium price tag of £139,000.
The ‘2’ was the UK’s seventh most-bought EV in 2022 with just over 7,300 registrations, which is some achievement for a relative newcomer.
So far this year, another 3,522 have been bought, which is putting the brand on course for a record year of sales.
The addition of the Polestar 3 SUV and just-unveiled Polestar 4 crossover should help cement the company’s name in the UK.
Coming to Britain: TBC
Rivian has spoken openly about bringing its all-electric off-roaders to the UK market. It currently sells the R1T pick-up and R1S SUV (pictured) in the US and will soon break into the European market
Rivian is an all-electric brand that has just started a serious assault on its home market in the US.
It sells an all-electric pick-up called the R1T and a passenger SUV version called the R1S. Both have a claimed range of around 315 miles. They are not cheap, with prices starting around $67,500 for the R1T, which at current exchange rates is around £54,500.
With trucks big business in America, the relative newcomer has gazumped the Tesla Cybertruck and joins the Ford F150 Lightning as a battery-only workhorse. However, there might not be the same level of demand in the UK, where pick-ups remain relatively niche.
Plan are to sell in Europe soon and bosses previously said they intend to come to the UK with right-hand-drive cars in 2022, though those intentions appear to have been delayed, for the meantime at least.
Coming to Britain: This year
The Fisker Ocean is an American-designed electric SUV due to hit the UK market shortly. It will be a cut-price alternative to a Tesla Model Y and is packed with tech and smart features
Californian-based car maker Fisker wants to take the UK by storm in 2023 when it introduces its first fully-electric family model to our shores with a pretty reasonable price tag.
The Fisker Ocean SUV will go into direct competition with the Tesla Model Y when it arrives here early in 2023, offering a starting price just under £35,000 – around £10,000 less than Elon Musk’s compact crossover.
Like Lynk & Co, the Ocean will be available for outright purchase via Fisker, or ran on a subscription basis through Onto, which is already available in the UK and offers a pay-monthly service covering charging, insurance, servicing and other running costs.
The cheapest Ocean with a claimed range of 275 miles will cost £34,990, though there are two other specifications likely available to UK customers with prices up to £60,000 and boosting range to 390 miles.
Standing it apart from rivals is the option of two different battery materials – lithium-ion for the entry model and nickel-manganese-cobalt cells for the longer-range all-wheel drive examples. It is also the first car to be sold in Britain with a ‘Doggie Window’ – a rear windscreen panel that can be dropped down like a side window to give pooches in the boot some fresh air.
Models produced for our market are being built at Magna’s factory in Graz, Austria.