China April 2015: The cars of Shanghai

April 25th, 2015 No comments

1. Shanghai Pudong street scene 7Shanghai Pudong street scenes

After going through the highlights of Auto Shanghai 2015 and before I give you my ranking of the most impressive Chinese carmakers at the Show, it’s time to go wandering in the streets of Shanghai so I can share with you what the most popular cars are here. The Shanghai car landscape is surprisingly easy to read with a few main trends to be followed.

2. VW Santana taxi x3 ShanghaiVW Santana taxis in Shanghai French Concession

VW Santana taxi is king

The Shanghai-Volkswagen joint-venture has been spitting out Santanas for 3 decades, so it’s no surprise to see them litter every single street of Shanghai. The surprise is how many of them still roam around. The Santana taxi accounts for up to 50% of the entire traffic in the French concession part of town for example.

3. VW Lavida Taxi ShanghaiVW Lavida and Santana taxi in Pudong

Efforts to replace it with more modern Touran and Lavida, though relatively successful, have done nothing to limit this supremacy however. The Santana Vista 1998 model is everywhere and I did spot two very well preserved first generation private Santanas, but very few new generation Santana, and none as taxi.

4. Buick GL8 ShanghaiBuick GL8 in Shanghai Tianzifang

Too cool for taxi? Buick GL8 it is

If you think you’re way too cool to get moved around town in a vulgar taxi, then you’ll need to opt for the ubiquitous Buick GL8. Already very popular in Beijing, the GL8, most of all the current generation, is the way to get chauffeured around in Shanghai, if you can afford it. Go near the shopping districts of Tianzifang and Xintiandi and you’ll find lines after lines of Buick GL8 parked with their driver sleepily awaiting the end of the Prada and Louis Vuitton shopping spree.

5. Buick LaCrosse VW Santana taxi ShanghaiBuick LaCrosse and VW Santana in Shanghai Tianzifang

In fact, not only the GL8 but the entire Buick lineup is particularly strong in Shanghai, notably at the higher end of the scale: the LaCrosse is very frequent in the streets of the city especially in financial Pudong, and I have spotted a few Envision SUVs already.

6. Shanghai Pudong street scene 3Shanghai Pudong street scene

7. Roewe 550 VW Touran ShanghaiRoewe 550 in Shanghai Tianzifang

Locals? What locals?

Even more acutely than in Beijing where I estimated that Chinese carmakers amounted to around 10-15% of the traffic, Shanghai harbours a stinging self-hate for domestic manufacturers, who account for no more than 5-8% of the overall Shanghai car landscape. The only ones keeping their head out of the water logically belong to Shanghai-based SAIC Group. Roewe is by far the most popular local brand in Shanghai, with the 550 the favourite in the lineup by a large margin.

9. Maxus G10 ShanghaiMaxus G10

Maxus is strong in the commercial area with a dozen M80 as well as a handful of G10 spotted. MG follows, mainly thanks to the MG3. The only other nameplates to pop up more than once (!) are Jinbei and Foton Hiace-inspired vans and JAC light vans. I did spot one Qoros 3 in Pudong, and a couple of BYD Qin hybrids.

8. Shanghai street sceneShanghai street scene

Range Rover Evoque favourite import

A particular favourite in Shanghai is the Range Rover Evoque, imported here therefore highly expensive, but that hasn’t deterred a mini-craze towards this vehicle here. I saw a total of over 20 in just two days spent wandering the streets. I also noticed an inordinate amount of Fiat Viaggio and Ottimo and 3 Tesla Model S in two days: one near People’s Square, one in Pudong and one on the Bund where a Ford F-150 Raptor also caught my attention.

12. BYD Qin ShanghaiBYD Qin

If last year after the Beijing Auto Show I took you all the way to Western China on a trip to Kashgar in Xinjiang Uyghur and on the Karakoram Highway to the Pakistani border, this year we are headed North towards the North Korean and Russian borders. Next stop: Changchun, the “Detroit of China” in the Jilin province. Stay tuned!

11. Venucia Morning Wind Shanghai

10. Shanghai Pudong street scene 5Shanghai Pudong street scenes

The Photo Report (20 pictures) continues below.

Read more…

World 1st quarter 2015: Toyota keeps worldwide crown, just

April 25th, 2015 No comments

Toyota LevinToyota unveiled the Levin HEV at Auto Shanghai this week.

According to Bloomberg and Automotive News, Toyota was still the largest carmaker in the world during the first 3 months of 2015 in spite of sales down 2.5% year-on-year to 2.52 million vehicles. Reversely both VW Group (2.49 million) and General Motors (2.42 million) saw deliveries improve over the period. This means the Top 3 carmakers in the world all fit within a mere 100,000 units at this stage and confirms the race to the top of the sales charts will be intense all the way through 2015. Volkswagen now expects to grow at a slower pace during the remainder of the year however, due to stagnant sales in China where it missed the budget SUV craze. Toyota for its part is counterbalancing declining sales at home in Japan by ending a 3 year-expansion freeze, green lighting new factories in China and Mexico that will add 300,000 annual units of capacity.

Categories: World

Auto Shanghai 2015: The highlights

April 25th, 2015 No comments

0. Audi still the sweetheartAudi hasn’t lost any of its charm in China.

If in 2014 Beijing brought me back to what Auto Shows should have remained: enthusiastic, exciting and plain and simply fun, Auto Shanghai 2015 is more about business, fending off the competition and graduating to the world stage. Has the Chinese auto industry lost its spontaneity? Perhaps it is because no scantily-clad models were allowed next to the cars this year? It certainly did give Auto Shanghai a more grey-looking, suit-and-tie, professional vibe. But not only.

0. ChangAn drives the worldIt’s a tough world out there…

Allen Huang is Commercial Manager for ChangAn, he graduated less than a year ago from Chongqing where the manufacturer is based. Speaking an almost perfect English and eager to engage in a friendly yet professional manner with the only representant of any foreign media to have ventured onto his stand (me), his face still bears the weight of what I can imagine would be numerous pre-Show briefings explaining that this is his chance to shine or he’ll have to wait two more years. After hearing my positive feedback on the ChangAn CS75 SUV’s interior, he looked into a far, scary horizon saying “competition is very tough”… Don’t get disheartened, Allan. Auto Shanghai is by far the most impressive display of potential I have seen from Chinese manufacturers.

BYD TangBYD Tang: a sporty Chinese hybrid SUV for the youth. Couldn’t be more on-trend(s)…

3 trends were clearly at play at Auto Shanghai 2015:

The first one is consumer-driven: China’s new and seemingly insatiable hunger for SUVs, a trend that Chinese carmakers have captured better than anyone else, seeing their SUV sales more than doubled year-on-year over the First Quarter of 2015.

The second one is purely governmental: this year, Chinese law dictates that automakers’ fleets must average less than 7L/100km, down to 5L/100km by 2020. The only way to achieve this is by introducing plug-in hybrid vehicles and almost all manufacturers present at the show had at least one new ‘green’ vehicle to display. Problem: focus too much on plug-in hybrids and you lose track of what really does volume in China. Let’s keep thing into perspective: even though they tripled year-on-year to 26,581 units during Q1 2015, sales of EVs and plug-in hybrids still only represent 0.4% of the overall Chinese market.

The last trend is overarching the entire market: millenials (consumers that started driving from 2000 onwards so born after 1980) are now front and centre of the Chinese market, due to their increasing purchase power. What millenials want, carmakers must provide in China.

If you only have time to read one article, here is what to remember about Auto Shanghai 2015.

1. NECC 1

1. NECCThe stupendously gigantic National Exhibition and Convention Centre. Up: North entrance.

1. Shanghai does big best

Researching about the shining new National Exhibition and Convention Centre located a 45 min-metro ride to the West of Shanghai city centre near Hongqiao Airport, I incredulously read it was ‘the largest building of its kind in the world’. Another exaggerated claim to entice me to attend the Show? Nope. Coming out of the metro station and having to walk just one quarter of the way around the venue in order to get my media accreditation took a good 20 minutes… There were 10 main exhibition halls, 8 on ground level and 2 on level one (meaning 6 remaining halls were left unused) for a total of 1.47 million square meters, 300,000 of which being exhibition floor. Auto Shanghai is at least 3 times larger than any other Auto Show I visited, with the largest ones previously being Frankfurt and Paris. Two full media days starting at 8:30am and finishing at 7pm were just enough to visit all stands. This makes the Beijing Auto Show I visited last year look like two toddlers playing in an inflatable pool.

2. SUVLocal manufacturer Haval dominates the booming SUV market in China.

2. SUV’s Republic of China

In less than a year, SUV has clearly become the segment where fortunes are made in China. Every single sizeable Chinese manufacturer introduced at least one new SUV at the Show, some 2 or 3 including the concepts (Haval and BYD are among them). A very tough rhythm to follow for foreign carmakers… Indeed, as the overall Chinese market’s growth is slowing down to 4% overall so far in 2015, more profitable SUV sales are increasing at lightning speed: up 40% over the First Quarter of 2015. Chinese manufacturers have rushed to reclaim domination in this category, claiming 56% of their home SUV market over the period thanks to sales more than doubling compared to 2014.

This is a big deal as most analysts (including myself I have to admit) thought the market share local manufacturers had progressively lost to foreign carmakers was lost forever. The SUV segment shows that the Chinese, with improved design, microscopic price tags and efficient marketing, can still woo back their home crowd. We should look to the SUV craze to explain many of the big manufacturers fortunes or misfortunes in 2015 so far: If Hyundai (ix25), Kia (KX3) and PSA Peugeot-Citroen (C3-XR) have hit the ground running with China-exclusive offers developed in record times, the Volkswagen (-0.6%) and Toyota (-0.1%) brands have frankly underperformed so far, and this is mainly due to their weakness in the small SUV segment, where the explosive sales growth resides.

3. and EV but Toyota off trendI <3 Hybrid. That won’t get you to 2 million annual sales Toyota…

3. Toyota blinded by its hybrid love

The Japanese manufacturer, #1 in the world but clearly struggling in China with first quarter sales down 0.1%, focused all its energy at the Show on plug-in hybrid variants of its hot-selling Corolla and Levin sedans, also unveiling the Mirai to Chinese audience but without a clear launch date for this market. Plug-in hybrids and EVs are a mandate to be able to achieve the required average 5L/100km by 2020, and introducing plug-in hybrids of its popular compact sedans is the manufacturer’s first step towards that goal, aiming at a 30% share of hybrid in its overall 2020 sales. At the moment only Lexus achieves this within the Toyota Group in China, with the only other nameplate racking up significant hybrid sales being the Camry (5%). Yes but that’s not going to help with a daring mid-term goal of 2 million annual units in China.

Toyota is studying an EV collaboration with its Chinese partners FAW and GAC but openly admits this is purely motivated by government restrictions, as the manufacturer does not focus on EV anywhere else in the world but China. So Toyota is working hard to meet the Chinese government’s 2020 plan. Very well, but where are the SUVs? A round table with Toyota China CEO Hiroshi Onishi and Managing Officer Tetsuo Ogawa didn’t give me any more confidence that Toyota would be reaping the benefits of its worldwide SUV expertise in China any time soon. The #1 SUV manufacturer in the world with legendary models such as the Land Cruiser, Prado, RAV4 and Highlander, has inexplicably been caught by surprise in China. When I asked Testuo Ogawa about any plans to launch a B-segment SUV exclusive to China to compete with the likes of the Hyundai ix25, Kia KX3, Peugeot 2008 or Buick Encore he said “no plans, but it should definitely be considered”. You betcha!

4. Nissan YoungNew NISSAN is Young NISSAN

4. Nissan young at heart

Nissan manages to tick the 3 trends’ boxes in one go by unveiling the all-new Murano hybrid SUV (two ticks) and a compact sedan designed by young Chinese for young Chinese: the Lannia (one tick). Nissan targets 1.3 million sales in 2015 (up from 900,000 in 2014) via 4 new launches including 2 SUVs. China is now completely front and centre in Nissan’s worldwide plans: out of the 5 Nissan plants operating in China, two of them are #1 and #2 Nissan plants worldwide in terms of quality output. Carlos Ghosn has its eyes firmly set on the #1 market in the world despite the slowing down of growth witnessed here: “China is still one of the markets with the highest growth in the world so we’re not disappointed in this. We are investing in China and will continue investing in China.” Can’t be any clearer Mr. Ghosn.

As he introduced the Lannia to the media, Carlos Ghosn described how the new Nissan was targeted at the core of the Chinese market: consumers born in the 80s and 90s, I thought it was a sick joke and he was pretending to be 20 years into the future. But no, fellow humans born in the 70s or earlier, this is 2015 when someone born in 1999 can drive a car legally. We are past our prime already, and manufacturers in China don’t really care what we want anymore. Good to know! But it makes total sense and thumbs up to Nissan for embracing this market shift openly and wholeheartedly.

5. Mercedes on trendGive it to me now. Mercedes GLC Coupé Concept.

5. Mercedes gets it. The only premium German to do so?

March sales of the Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands are up a whopping 21% year-on-year in China to 30,124 units whereas premium leader Audi was up only 1.5% to 48,356 deliveries. Year-to-date, Mercedes is up 17% and Audi is up 7% in a passenger car market up 9%. Mercedes is catching up fast, and it only took one look at their Auto Shanghai stand to be convinced that Audi and BMW should be worried, very worried. Mercedes kicked off media day on Monday with the first press conference of the entire Auto Shanghai, and their stand is a spectacular display of 46 vehicles, a testimony of the manufacturer’s growing confidence in and strong commitment to China. Mercedes is aiming at significantly more than 300,000 units in China in 2015 and Hubertus Troska, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, Greater China, said “we are confident China will become the biggest market for Mercedes-Benz, perhaps this year, but definitely by next year” as reported by China Daily.

If Audi and BMW succumbed to the government-led plug-in hybrid trend (Q7 e-tron, A6L e-tron and X5 hybrid), Mercedes rightly chose the hot hot SUV segment to bump its chest, and it looked great doing it. Just as the GLA kick started local production and is bound to be an instant blockbuster in the category (judging by the amount of imported GLAs already in Shanghai streets), the all-new GLE Coupé was first shown to a Chinese audience after its introduction at Geneva, and already a pet fave of mine: the GLC Coupé Concept had its World Premiere in Shanghai in a bright yellow robe. I want one today please. China cannot get enough sexy-looking luxury SUVs? Mercedes gets it and gives them. Where are you Audi and BMW?

11. Peugeot ChinesePeugeot CEO Maxime Picat casually delivering its entire speech in fluent Mandarin.

6. Peugeot is Chinese

Despite showing not much new apart from a very enticing 500hp 308 hybrid, Peugeot gets a massive thumb up from me, as it demonstrated in the space of a few minutes that all the marketing fluff about being committed to the Chinese market and wanting to understand the consumer the best it can actually comes down to one thing: the language. With English as my second language and having studied Mandarin Chinese for a bit, I can relate to how hard it is to become fluent at a foreign language, let alone Chinese as there are no Western references to rely on when speaking it, listening to it, reading it or writing it. Peugeot brand CEO Maxime Picat spoke its entire 20 minute-speech in fluent Mandarin. No other foreign manufacturer at the Show came even close. Not only that, but I checked his prompter and there were no English references on it whatsoever. He was reading off Chinese characters and pinyin with tonal marks. Very impressed. Peugeot showed me their first market in the world is China.

7a. US ready Ford on trend lined up launchesAll-new Ford Edge and Taurus

7. US manufacturers ready to pounce

How did US manufacturers fare this year in Shanghai? Better than expected.

Ford, emboldened by the terrific success of the Escort, now its best-seller in China, started the Show all guns blazing, Western-style: it had it entire SUV lineup position at the very front of its stand, and it’s not looking bad: the Ecosport, Kuga, Edge and Explorer are all less than two years old, with the latter two showing their new face for the first time in China. And there was a surprise: an all-new Taurus specific to China now tops up the range above the Mondeo. Very distinct products and laser-sharp target markets for each is a winning recipe that Ford is using for China, and it works.

Ford also symbolises a new trend in China where the largest manufacturers are hoovering up idle capacity from smaller domestic firms. Indeed according to IHS Automotive, domestic manufacturers’ plants stand at around 60% capacity and international joint-ventures at 80-85%. Ford took advantage of this by acquiring a factory from Harbin Hafei Automobile Industry Group that will add 200,000 vehicles per year in capacity when upgrades are finished in 2016, at a much lesser cost than building a factory from scratch. All the more reason for Chinese manufacturers to keep spitting out SUVs in the hope it will bring their capacity figures back up.

7b. Buick dynamicAll-new Buick Verano

In the same direction, General Motors is aiming at hitting a production capacity of 5 million vehicles per year by 2018 and its delivery at Auto Shanghai was also very strong. Buick is mixing tradition with modernity in its displays and introduced the all-new Verano only weeks after unveiling the new Excelle GT and well ahead of its US start. The Verano will slot in-between the Excelle GT and Regal (aka Opel Insignia). Chevrolet also satisfied with an aggressive facelift of its Malibu, here too well ahead of any US unveiling in the same way the new Cruze on sale in China has not much to do with the overseas model anymore, and this since the Beijing Auto Show last year.

7c. Chevrolet alsoAll-new Chevrolet Malibu

One negative note though: Ford Motor’s Lincoln taking itself way too seriously, and whose overzealous assistants barred the entry to the stand to ‘Media only’. Hint: if I am here on a media day, that’s because I am media. Apart from this, Lincoln is making tremendous progress in China only one year after announcing its launch there. Lincoln unveiled 3 all-new models (MKX, new Navigator and Continental Concept standing for a vision of a full-sized sedan) added to the MKC and MKZ. Currently at 11 stores nationwide, Lincoln is opening 14 more this year (I saw one in construction in Pudong) with the objective to reach 60 dealers in 50 cities by 2016. But are they selling? Given all Lincoln models are imported they don’t appear in BSCB’s monthly rankings. Well, it looks like they are. According to the automaker, 3 of its Top 10 dealers globally by sales are now in China! Lincoln China’s President Robert Parker says “the interest of consumers in our current products has exceeded expectations”. To be continued…

8. Volkswagen still the king of Chinese heartsLining up for Volkswagen brochures… Yessir.

8. Volkswagen still the people’s car

Volkswagen is still and by far the favourite in China’s heart. Proof: media were happy to wait in a long line just to get the manufacturer’s brochures! I actually don’t think I ever saw such a thing at any Auto Show before… Volkswagen models were displayed at two large separate locations at the Show: within the enormous SAIC Motor exhibition hall for the Shanghai-Volkswagen joint-venture and one very large stand where both the FAW-VW and Shanghai-VW joint-ventures’ cars were on display. Yes Volkswagen is losing market share with deliveries for its namesake VW brand down 0.6% in the first quarter, but that’s mainly because they don’t have a compact SUV and it remains the top selling brand in China by a country mile. Just after the start of the Show, Volkswagen actually announced they were mulling budget SUVs in partnership with Haval… Now that’s a good idea.

8. Volkswagen plunges into hatchbacksVW Gran Santana

So no SUV and a plug-in hybrid expertise already shown off, what did Volkswagen have for us to bite on? A very interesting move in my view: the brand is definitely taking the hatchback plunge. Building on the success of the Gran Lavida (10,000+ monthly sales since launch), the German manufacturer unveiled the Gran Santana – still under the Shanghai-VW joint-venture. To make things more confusing the Gran Santana and the Santata don’t have the same front. Sneaky.

9. Hyundai on trendAll-new Hyundai Tucson

9. Hyundai-Kia solid as ever

It’s always very refreshing to observe the Hyundai and Kia brands evolving in China. Why? Because being only a decade old in the country, none ever had to shed the poor quality perception that plagued them in other areas in the world during the nineties. As a result, China is a market where these two brands don’t have any inferiority complex and behave as premium brands would, with a slightly younger vibe for Kia, who was showing off it extremely well finished KX3 small SUV and a facelifted Sportage. Hyundai for its part had the new Tucson on centre stage, including a hybrid variant as well as the new Sonata. A very solid delivery from both Korean brands, once again. They never disappoint those two.

9. Kia strong KX3Kia KX3 and All-new Sportage

10. Renault van den AckerRenault’s van den Acker talking about Life.

10. Renault lands: cool or not cool?

It’s official: 2016 is the year Renault will (finally) start manufacturing in China through its joint-venture with Dongfeng, which interestingly enough is also associated with Peugeot and Citroen. By the time the next Shanghai Auto Show comes along in 2017, Renault will have already had one full year of local production of its all-new Kadjar SUV under the belt. So you would think Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn should give a warm welcome to the Chinese media at Auto Shanghai. Nope. This honour was given to Senior Vice President of Renault Corporate Design since 2009 Laurens van den Acker. So instead of showing how well Renault understands the Chinese market, who exactly they are targeting and how good a job they are planning to do to woo Chinese millenials over to what is essentially a mostly unknown brand in this country, we got a mismatch of wanky design-talk telling us all Renaults were designed with Life at the core of them (doh!) that went over the head of the entire audience, Chinese and French included. Really what we wanted to know was what on earth motivated you to wear those ugly red sneakers with your suit. As a Frenchman I am insulted. Being a designer is not an excuse!

10. Renault lands. cool or cheapRenault’s (lack of) seats: cool or cheap?

Also, replicating the concept that has earned them praise in various Auto Shows, Renault brought the moving colour-changing globes to their stand, but made the fatal mistake of peppering the media floor with more globes where some had the luck (?) to uncomfortably sit whereas the majority of the audience was standing. Renault: I’m French so I have a lot of time for you, but you took us for fools in Paris last year, and you are treating the Chinese media with contempt under the guise of trying to be cool. I’m still not impressed. To end on a positive note, at least Renault understands it’s futile to venture too far from SUV land: its current best-seller in China is the Koleos, the Captur will be imported “in the coming months” said van den Acker and the Kadjar will be the first Renault vehicle to be produced in China. To my chagrin there are still no plans to launch the Duster which would be a hugely profitable vehicle for Renault in China. Perhaps not to share too much of the low-cost knowhow with partner Dongfeng?

6. Honda on trendThe Honda Concept D could (should) be the next Crosstour.

11. Honda has its eyes on the SUV prize

While Toyota is getting caught in the plug-in hybrid net and Nissan ticks all boxes with the Murano hybrid and the China-specific Lannia, the third best-selling Japanese manufacturer in China, Honda, is hungry and it shows. Riding the compact SUV wave were the Vezel / XR-V (one for each joint-venture) in their throne right in the middle of the Honda stand, monopolising the brand’s giant LCV screen at the back and supported by an aggressive marketing campaign in the metro on the way to the Show and all through the venue. Good to keep the momentum: combined sales of the small SUV in February (12,019) and March (17,726) made it the brand’s best-seller. No less. But what tickled my fancy on the Honda stand is the very aggressively-designed Concept D, pre-empting another future SUV the brand will launch shortly. To me, it looks like a muscled version of next generation Crosstour, which although living its last months in the US, is alive and kicking in China.

12. Qoros standFinally.

12. The Qoros stand is where the party’s at

I disagree with the product and it seems like Chinese audiences (only 6,967 sales in 2014 vs. an announced production capacity of 150,000) as well as European ones (39 deliveries in Slovakia in the whole of 2014) agree with me. But you have to give it to Qoros: they know how to stage an attractive stand. You could barely find a way through the Qoros stand during the entire first media day so crowded it was: a press conference handled in a very different, debate-style way, complimentary coffee, confortable bar stools and free finger food. That’s why we come to Auto Shows, right? No. But yes. But no.

13. W MotorsW Motors Lykan

13. W Motors bursts onto the scene at 400km/h

No Chinese Auto Show would be complete without the launch of a new exotic supercar brand, preferably coming from some mind-blowingly wealthy Middle-Eastern owners. Here comes the W Motors Lykan, of which only 7 units will be produced worldwide. And the Chinese are lapping up the exclusive stand, aggressive silhouette and petrol dollar-inflated performances: W Motors claims 0-100km/h in 2.8sec, 0-200km/h in 9.4sec and a maximum speed of just under 400km/h…

14. Who is G. PattonWhat the line below says.

14. Who the heck is G. Patton?

We have Dartz from Latvia, now introducing a brand I hadn’t heard of before called G. Patton, seemingly offering armored army-looking souped-up Ford F-150-based extravagant SUVs. The name I’m guessing stands for famous US Army General George Patton. All G. Patton’s documentation is in Chinese including their website, so bear with us as we try and find more information about this vehicle I want in my garage already…

15. BYD Press conferenceBYD Press Conference. Busy.

15. But after all is said and done, it’s all about the Chinese.

Now that you are privy to the highlights of Auto Shanghai 2015 like you actually attended the show, it’s time to get to business. Real business. We are in China, in an international Auto Show that is in fact mainly attended to by the Chinese press, even on media days. 90 to 95% of all attendees during these two days were Chinese journalists and automotive professionals. The press conferences were rarely translated into English, and were duly attended to by a myriad of local media. I even got interviewed by CCTV, the No.1 Chinese TV channel, on whether I thought Chinese carmakers were catching up to their foreign counterparts (I do)…

15. Chinese up 2Geely Emgrand EC9

You know it, the only reason why I am here at Auto Shanghai is not so much to check how Volkswagen, GM, Ford or Toyota are wooing the Chinese consumer, but to evaluate the progress of the numerous Chinese carmakers present at the show. Last year in Beijing I wrote about the 30 most impressive Chinese carmakers, and this year I will establish this ranking once again. One thing is certain: the Chinese have improved, and they did so very fast. Reading what impressed me in the Top 5 carmakers last year was like reading a report from 10 years ago. None of the Top 5 from 2014 would have made it into the Top 10 this year. Get ready for a new ranking and some feathers ruffled…

15. Chinese upA very cool surprise from our friends at Hongqi. More on this one shortly

Europe March 2015: Relief as continent-wide sales jump 11%

April 24th, 2015 No comments

Vauxhall Corsa Europe March 2015. Picture courtesy UK sales push the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa onto the European podium in March.

* See the Top 10 best-selling brands and models by clicking on the title *

It’s official: the recession is over in Europe. Overall new car sales are up 11% year-on-year in March to an imposing 1.644.985 registrations, boosted by a record figure in the UK (accounting for 28% of the continent’s sales) and Spain up a joyful 41%. The 1st Quarter ends on a 9% increase at 3.629.902 deliveries. Volkswagen moves with the market at +11% to 11.1% share, while Ford (+9%) and Opel/Vauxhall (+4%) mechanically move up to #2 and #3 given their strong reliance on UK sales but underperform. The French fall right in the average: Renault and Peugeot rank 4th and 5th and both gain 11%. Audi (+7%) and BMW (+5%) step aside and let Mercedes (+16%) shine bright at 82,980 sales (Audi 87,688 – BMW 81,857) but the hero of the month is Nissan jumping 4 spot to crack the European Top 10 thanks to sales up 21% to #9 and 80,471 deliveries. Fiat also enjoys the success of its very profitable 500 family and the arrival of the 500X just in time for summer escapades: +13% in 10th place.

Nissan Qashqai Europe April 2014. Picture courtesy of automobile-magazine.frNissan is up 21% year-on-year in Europe in March.

Despite sales up just 0.1% to 56,269, the VW Golf manages to clock its 60th consecutive month atop the European sales charts – that’s a full 5 years with the last time the Golf did not rank #1 in Europe being March 2010… The Top 10 models is heavily influenced by the UK market as is the norm in March: the Ford Fiesta jumps two spots to #2 both in March and year-to-date, the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa is up 3 to #3 (+21%), the Ford Focus is up 5 to #6 and the Opel/Vauxhall Astra is up 7 to return inside the Top 10 at #10. While the Renault Clio is solid at +12%, the VW Polo takes a beating and drops two ranks in the 2015 ranking to #4, now only 51 units above the Corsa. Another excellent month for the Nissan Qashqai at #7 (+13%) and Audi A3 at #9 (+15%).

Previous post: Europe February 2015: Now with Top 330 All-models and All-brands

Previous month: Europe February 2015: VW Passat at highest in 3 years

One year ago: Europe March 2014: Fiat 500 inside Top 10 for the first time

Full March 2015 Top 10 brands and models below.

Read more…

Categories: Europe

France March 2015: Renault, Peugeot & Mercedes lift market up 9%

April 24th, 2015 No comments

Renault Mégane France March 2015. Picture by largus.frThe Renault Mégane is back up to #6 overall this month.

* Now updated with the Top 250 best-selling models and Top 40 brands *

French new car sales are finally getting a significant boost this month: up 9.5% year-on-year in March to 196,572 registrations, partly thanks to one more opening day without which the market would be up just 4%. Year-to-date sales are now up 7% to 477,326 deliveries. Caveating this performance is the exceptional strength of tactical sales (+15%), including demo sales (+14%) and short-term rentals (+21%), while private sales are up 2% after -3.5% in February and +0.3% in January. On the plus side, orders taken by dealers in March are up 11%, on the negative side, the surge in short-term rentals seems to be the result of purchases brought forward in anticipation of the summer holiday season rather than a real activity growth and this means short-term rentals in the coming month will suffer, potentially pulling the market down with them.

Mercedes C-Class France March 2015. Picture courtesy of largus,frMercedes overtakes Audi to become the #1 premium brand in France in March.

The 2 main manufacturers in the country, Renault (+13%) and Peugeot (+12%) both outperform the market to 21.4% and 17.2% share respectively while Citroen is up just 5% to 10% and its premium brand DS is down 15% to 1.5%. The rest of the brands ranking confirms trends are turned on their head this year: Dacia, usually displaying staggering year-on-year gains, is down 10%, Ford is up 19%, Toyota up 16%, Kia up 23% and Hyundai up 44%. Mercedes spectacularly takes charge of premium brands thanks to sales up 40% (and private sales up 61%) to 5,705 units at #10 vs. 5,437 (+5%) for Audi and 5,355 (+14%) for BMW. Also impressive is Mini (+61%) thanks to the new 5-door hatch, while Jeep is in a category of its own: multiplying its sales by 10 vs. March 2014 to 845 thanks to the Renegade (#69 with 681 units).

Fiat 500X France March 2015. Picture courtesy autobild.deThe Fiat 500X breaks into the French Top 50 for the first time in March.

In the models ranking, all Top 7 nameplates gain more ground than the market, resulting in a trend-bucking de-fragmentation. The Peugeot 308 at #4 (+63%), Renault Captur at #3 (+41%) and Renault Clio IV at #1 (+27%) are the biggest gainers, with the Renault Mégane at #6 (+18%) also back in shape. The Peugeot 2008 (#5) is up 15% while the Peugeot 208 (#2) is up 11% and the Citroen C3 (#7) up 10%. The Renault Twingo III is down 4 spots on February to #9 and the Top 10 is 100% French for the 2nd straight month with the VW Polo at #12, VW Golf at #14 (both down a harsh 17%) and Ford Fiesta at #15 (+10%) the most popular foreigners.

Audi TT France March 2015. Picture courtesy largus.frThe new model lifts Audi TT sales 4-fold on a year ago in France.

Further down, the Peugeot 508 is up 49% at #19, the Citroen C4 Cactus maintains itself above the C4 at #21, the Opel Mokka is up 41% to #25, the VW Passat up a spectacular 86% to #37, the Toyota Aygo II (#42) and Fiat 500X (#43) both break into the monthly French Top 50 for the first time, the Nissan X-Trail is up 9 ranks on February to #58 and the Ford Ecosport up 24 to #65. Outside the Top 100, notice the Ford Mondeo up 123% year-on-year, the Nissan Leaf up 120%, Mazda6 up 135%, Audi TT up 331%, the Land Rover Discovery up 1144% thanks to the new Sport model, the BMW X6 up 245% and the Kia Sorento up 326%.

Previous post: France 1-16 March 2015: Renault Mégane back in shape

Previous month: France February 2015: Renault Twingo III breaks into Top 5

One year ago: France March 2014: Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008 both in Top 4 for the first time

Full March 2015 Top 250 models and Top 40 brands below.

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Categories: France

Kazakhstan March 2015: Lada Largus now #3 year-to-date

April 24th, 2015 No comments

UAZ Patriot Kazakhstan March 2015bUAZ now holds 5.1% of the Kazakh market vs. 2.8% in FY2014.

* See the Top 40 All-brands and Top 188 All-models by clicking on the title *

A year ago one of the fastest-growing new vehicle markets in the world, Kazkahstan is stuck in negative territory this year with March sales down a worrying 34% on a year ago to 8,369 deliveries and 1st quarter registrations down 26% to 25,390. Bizarrely, Lada holds double the market share here than it does at home in Russia at 36.8% thanks to 3,080 sales in March above Hyundai (12%), Kia (8%) and Renault (7%) while Toyota drops to 5th place at 5.7%. Thanks to solid performances of the Bukhanka (#13), Patriot (#16), Patriot Pickup (#21) and Hunter (#27), Russian manufacturer UAZ is up to #6 overall with 5.1% share (#11 and 2.8% in FY14). The Chinese presence in Kazakhstan is restricted to the Geely brand ranking at a very satisfying 12th place with 127 sales and 1.5% share in March vs. #14 over FY2014.

Lada Largus Kazakhstan April 2014. Picture courtesy of zr.ruFirst Top 5 ranking for the Lada Largus in Kazakhstan and worldwide.

The models ranking is exceptionally stable this month in Kazakhstan: the entire Top 7 best-sellers are identical to February and to the year-to-date charts as well now that the Lada Largus has overtaken the FY2014 winner the Lada Priora for #3 at 2,255 sales and 8.9% so far in 2015 vs. 2,199 and 8.7%. The Lada Granta is gearing towards snapping the overall annual pole position in a 2nd country in the world after Russia, holding 10.4% of the market in March and 11.8% year-to-date. Notice also the Lada 4×4 up 6 spots to #8 making it 5 Ladas in the Top 8, the Renault Sandero up 8 to #12, Geely Emgrand X7 at #23 and the Nissan Teana and Geely Emgrand EC7 both up 19 ranks on February to #33 and #46 respectively.

Previous month: Kazakhstan February 2015: Lada Granta and Hyundai Accent on top

One year ago: Kazakhstan March 2014: Kia Rio and Nissan Qashqai in Top 5

Full March 2015 Top 40 All-brands and Top 188 All-models below.

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Categories: Kazakhstan

Portugal March 2015: Nissan Qashqai and Opel Corsa push up.

April 23rd, 2015 No comments

Nissan Qashqai Portugal March 2015. Picture courtesy of autobild.deThe Nissan Qashqai is up to #2 in Portugal this month.

* See the Top 208 All-models and Top 33 All-brands by clicking on the title *

Portuguese new car sales continue their recovery with sales up a splendid 42% year-on-year in March to 20,082 registrations, bringing the first quarter total to 46,229 units, up an equally reassuring 36% on 2014. Despite underperforming in March (+29%), Renault keeps the lead of the brands ranking by far at 12.1% share above Volkswagen (+57%), Peugeot (+42%) and Nissan doubling its sales year-on-year to 1,613 units and a shiny 8% market share. Notice also Fiat up 80% to #8, Ford up 87% to #10, Toyota up 81% to #11, Mitsubishi up 98% to #15 and Kia up 113% to #17. The Renault Clio remains the most popular nameplate in Portugal and the only one to sell more than 1,000 units this month at 1,065 and 5.3% share, but the Nissan Qashqai (789) and Opel Corsa (696) also shine up, followed by the Renault Megane (678) and Peugeot 208 (650).

Previous month: Portugal February 2015: Renault Clio reclaims pole position

One year ago: Portugal March 2014: Renault Mégane takes off to pole position

Full March 2015 Top 208 All-models and Top 33 All-brands below.

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Categories: Portugal

China LCV March 2015: Wuling Hongguang V cracks 30,000 sales

April 23rd, 2015 No comments

Wuling Hongguang V China March 2015. Picture courtesy

* See the Top 10 best-selling LCVs by clicking on the title *

213,053 new Light Commercial Vehicles found a buyer in March in China, adding up to 514,922 over the 1st quarter of 2015. This segment is in freefall since small businesses have started to trade up to MPVs such as the Wuling Hongguang or Baojun 730. However Wuling has managed to reverse the trend by launching the Hongguang V, still a tradeup from the once best-selling Sunshine (-38% in March) and Rongguang (-47%) but more affordable than the Hongguang. It’s a full house for now: the Hongguang V crosses the 30,000 monthly sales milestone for its third month in market at 30,003, following the same sales progression as the Baojun 730 MPV a few months back. A very promising start indeed. Note the Foton Light Truck taking the lead of the LCV ranking this month above all Wulings.

Previous post: China LCVs January 2015: Wuling Hongguang V appears

One year ago: China March 2014: Now updated with LCV data!

Full March 2015 Top 10 LCVs Ranking Table below.

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Categories: China

Romania March 2015: Ford Fiesta on podium, Fiat 500L in Top 10

April 23rd, 2015 No comments

Fiat 500L Romania March 2015. Picture courtesy of largus.frThe Fiat 500L is among the 10 best-sellers in Romania for the first time.

* See the Top 32 All-brands and Top 100 models by clicking on the title *

New car sales in Romania are up a very satisfying 17% year-on-year in March to 5,339 registrations, bringing the first quarter total to 14,433 units, up 8% on 2014. Dacia logically keeps the pole position despite sales down 2% to 28.1% share (30.2% year-to-date), followed by Ford up a gigantic 104% on a year ago to 698 units and 13.1% and Skoda up 15% to 606 deliveries and 11.4%. Volkswagen (+29%), Mercedes (+16%), Renault (+19%), Hyundai (+15%) and Fiat (+50%) follow and all outperform the market this month. Notice also Peugeot up 118%, Kia up 142%, Citroen up 95% and Volvo up 4-fold year-on-year.

Ford Fiesta Romania March 2015The Ford Fiesta lands on the Romanian podium in March.

The Dacia Logan (15.5%) and Duster (9%) dominate the models ranking head and shoulders and stay very close to their year-to-date levels of 15.3% and 9.1% respectively. #12 last month, the Ford Fiesta shoots back up to third place thanks to 349 sales and 6.5%, becoming the most popular foreign nameplate in the country in March. It is followed by the Skoda Octavia (4.9%), Ford Focus (4.6%) and Skoda Rapid (3.8%) and all other nameplate are below 2% market share. The Fiat 500L is up 15 spots on February to crack the Romanian Top 10 for the first time at #9, the VW Up is up to #27 and the Peugeot 301 up 58 spots on last month to #31.

Previous month: Romania February 2015: Dacia and Skoda monopolise Top 4

One year ago: Romania March 2014: Dacia Dokker back up to 4th place

Full March 2015 Top 32 All-brands and Top 100 models below.

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Categories: Romania

South Korea March 2015: Hyundai Porter and Sonata on top

April 23rd, 2015 No comments

Hyundai Sonata South Korea March 2015. Picture courtesy places the Porter at #1 and the Sonata at #2 this month at home.

* See the Top 53 All-local models and Top 4 brands by clicking on the title *

Sales of local models are up 5% year-on-year in March in South Korea to 127,216 registrations, bringing the year-to-date total to 342,038 units, up 2% on 2014. The Hyundai Porter is back in charge despite sales down 4% on a year ago to 9,117 deliveries, adding up to a market-leading 24,850 over the 1st Quarter. The Hyundai Sonata benefits fully from the new models with deliveries up 82% on March 2014 to 8,556 in 2nd place, however the Kia Morning doesn’t fare as well: down 13% to 7,936 sales to round up the podium. Further down, the Hyundai Avante (-4%) and Grandeur (-12%) lose ground, the Kia Sorento (+302%) and Carnival (+250%) step up thanks to their new generation, the Hyundai Tucson ix is back up to #12 – now in runout mode before the new generation comes in, the Hyundai Genesis is very solid again at #15 and 3,535 deliveries and the SsangYong Tivoli remains the brand’s best-seller for its third month in market at #17 and 2,827 units.

Previous post: South Korea February 2015: Now with All-models and All-brands

Previous month: South Korea February 2015: SsangYong Tivoli up to #13

One year ago: South Korea March 2014: Hyundai Porter now #1 year-to-date

Full March 2015 Top 53 All-local models and Top 4 brands below.

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Categories: South Korea