Foreign talent remains appealing for Chinese automotive brands, as manufacturers like Nio and MG look to expand
As Chinese brands reach outwards into Europe and expand their footprint abroad, back in China the lure of foreign talent remains of great interest across a variety of roles, from engineering right through to marketing and communications.
For the time being, talent for China-based roles must largely be found within the country itself because the approval of business visas has been highly restricted since the start of the pandemic. There are examples of European-based workers, accepted for a role in China, waiting more than a year without being granted a working Z-visa.
This has not stopped companies trying, though, with Angela Tian, a visa consultant at Hired China, confirming that her company has recently been helping car firms hire foreigners for positions in China, “mostly for roles managing production lines that require people with experience”.
This is a view supported by Tu Le, founder of Sino Auto Insights. “What we’re seeing in some instances is Chinese EV start-ups and tech companies entering the space and looking for foreign talent, namely from Germany, to help them build teams and give those teams a bit of credibility with their staff,” he said. “The fact is that in these legacy automakers, promotions and bigger titles are few and far between, so we’re seeing more interest from the candidates as well.”
In the international hub of Shanghai, which recently experienced a lockdown of more than two months, the pinch on international talent is likely to be felt more in the coming months as more and more foreigners working there start to plan for life outside China, keen to avoid future restrictions. This could adversely affect Shanghai- based brands such as Nio, SAIC (owner of MG) and even Tesla.
In China, certain qualifications are valued more than others when it comes to visas, with highly skilled roles such as engineers and doctors heavily prioritised and often able to attract visa sponsorship from cities with a skills shortage. European automotive and media experience is also sought after. As evidenced by your correspondent, those based in China with the requisite skills and experience can expect to be courted for China-based roles with the prospect of deployment in Europe in a couple of years. This could be interpreted as brands ensuring that their European presence has a familiarity both with head office identity and practices and with a European network and mindset.
It’s a practice commonly employed by expanding Chinese EV start-ups that have already built a strong reputation.
“I am frequently contacted now by foreign friends interested in opportunities with Chinese EV companies such as Nio and Xpeng because they’re building a brand image that’s currently fading from legacy automakers,” said Tu.
“If you join those start-ups and are issued equity as part of the compensation package, many now see that as more of an upside for them. It’s an interesting time to be in the space if you’re a talented and skilled candidate, that’s for sure.”