BEIJING: Chinese automakers and designers are increasingly tapping into overseas markets as domestic sales begin to slow.

Geely Motor, which owns the Volvo brand, increased its exports by 30% in the first half of the year according to vice president Zhang Lin, who said that sales in overseas markets now accounted for one fifth of the company's total.

"Chinese automakers must prepare themselves properly to compete with their foreign peers if they intend to go international," he told China Daily.

"This might take three to five years or longer," Zhang added.

Japanese carmaker Nissan, meanwhile, is aiming to apply Chinese concepts such as 'daqi' – an indefinable sense of style and road presence – to the design and marketing of its global fleet.

The Nissan Design Center in Beijing is not just for China, said the marque's global design chief Shiro Nakamura, as he outlined the intention to launch a global car, styled in Beijing and sold around the world.

"We want our China studio to expand the bandwidth of design expressions," he told the South China Morning Post.

"If you do all the design in Japan," he explained, "the depth and width of expressions tends to become narrow."

Yale Zhang, head of Shanghai-based consulting firm Automotive Foresight, observed that this development was a natural outcome of the investment in production facilities in China. "More companies are going to style and engineer global cars here," he added. 

Chinese automakers are also expanding production facilities overseas, mostly in emerging markets. Geely, for example, has opened plants in Egypt and Uruguay and has plans for production in Russia, Brazil, India and Iran.

Zhang said these moves into emerging markets would build expertise and were stepping stones on the way to developed markets.

"Chinese automakers will definitely enter the European and American markets. It is simply a question of time," he commented.

His analysis was shared by Gordon Pincott, chairman of market researchers Millward Brown, who told the Economic Times that the company's Chinese clients were looking to go global.

"I see absolutely no reason why there won't be major Chinese and Indian brands that are global in the next 10-15 years" Pincott said.

Data sourced from China Daily, South China Morning Post, Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff