SHANGHAI: As if European car companies didn't have enough on their plates, buoyant Chinese car companies are eyeing what they see as a bountiful export market. Chinese carmakers enjoyed record domestic sales in April and are planning to use their financial strength to develop smaller, fuel-efficient cars for export markets.

First out of the blocks is the Brilliance Jinbei company whose BS 4 model has been undertaking a series of crash tests to show that the new generation of Chinese cars match European standards. Testing authorities in Austria, the Netherlands and Switzerland have given the car three out of five stars although Germany, home to Europe's biggest car industry, failed to award it any.

But some big names are taking the threat seriously. Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche acknowledges that China “unlike the rest of the world is in growth mode” and German car expert Ferdinand Dudenhoffer from the University of Duisburg-Essen says “in five years the Chinese carmakers can become what the Koreans are today.”

The European car market is led by VW/Audi with around three million units and a market share of 18.8%. Second is PSA (Peugeot and Citroen) with 13.5% then Ford with 10%.

Data sourced from China Daily; additional content by WARC staff