The president of a leading UK motoring organisation claims Chinese-made electric cars are a “trojan horse” that could be shut down remotely – potentially causing havoc across Great Britain and Europe.
Electric cars made in China could be controlled remotely – “paralysing a country” – a British car-industry expert has claimed.
Professor Jim Saker, the president of the Institute of the Motor Industry in the UK, alleges there are “major security issues” with Chinese-made electric cars, according to a report in The Telegraph newspaper.
Despite there being no evidence shared by Prof Saker to substantiate his claims – and other experts dismissing them as scaremongering – the comments come ahead of a report set to be shared with the automotive industry and UK regulators.
“The car manufacturer may be in Shanghai and could stop 100,000 to 300,000 cars across Europe thus paralysing a country,” he told The Telegraph.
Prof Saker said there was “no way” of preventing these vehicles being disabled remotely by car companies in China – many of which are state-owned.
“The threat of connected electric vehicles flooding the country could be the most effective Trojan horse that the Chinese establishment has,” he said in a statement to The Epoch Times.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, former leader of the British Conservative Party and co-chairman of the UK’s Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, echoed the warning.
“Anything to do with China is a security threat,” he told The Daily Mail.
China is doing its level best to break us. We have to get rid of devices inside the technology in their cars that report back things like locations. They could even lock into the systems of the car and hear what you say.”
While there has been no accusations of impropriety or wrongdoing on their part, traditionally-British car brands such as MG, Lotus, and the London Taxi Company now come under Chinese ownership, while Aston Martin’s third-largest shareholder is Geely – one of China’s automotive giants.
However, Andy Mayer, chief operating officer and energy analyst at the UK’s Institute of Economic Affairs, disagreed with the threat of malicious Chinese Trojan horse software being anything other than scaremongering.
“While possible – and worth war-gaming – these threats are easily identified, and the reputational damage of being caught so extreme that the cost isn’t worth whatever nefarious benefit is intended,” he told The Epoch Times.
“Such an attack would be a one-shot event, with limited capacity for anything more than short-term disruption. Followed by a trillion-dollar trade war,” he said.
Carlos Tavares, the CEO of Stellantis – the parent company of brands including Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Jeep, Peugeot and Ram, among others – last week called the influx of Chinese car-makers an “invasion”, news outlet Reuters reports.
Mr Tavares said European manufacturers were under pressure from low-priced cars from China, as they have struggled to cut costs while also developing new battery-electric vehicles increasingly mandated by governments.
China overtook Japan to become the world’s largest exporter of new cars in the first three months of 2023 – with Russia its top customer, and Belgium, Australia, and Thailand being the biggest buyers of Chinese electric vehicles.