China’s Green Drivers

BEIJING – Earlier this month, China’s government announced another bold move to ease traffic congestion and reduce carbon emissions: the authorities want 60% of all motor-vehicle use in towns and cities to be public transportation, and the government in Beijing is urging regional governments to use more zero-emission and alternative-energy vehicles.

China continues to be the top market for gas-powered vehicles, but it is increasingly clear that its government intends to lead the world in clean-energy vehicles. The Renault-Nissan Alliance will support China’s ambition.

Nissan entered China in 2003, when Chinese consumers bought 4.5 million cars. Skeptics said that Nissan was “late to the game” in China: the Chinese car market was supposedly fully saturated. Back then, the world’s top automotive market was the United States, with Americans buying more than 16 million cars and trucks.

What a difference a decade makes: In 2012, Chinese consumers purchased an estimated 18 million new cars, a 300% increase. Growth in the Chinese auto sector has silenced the skeptics and exceeded even the most bullish expectations of third-party observers.