China May 2016: Price cuts lift market up 11%, Hongguang back to #1

Wuling Hongguang S1 China May 2016A new crossover-looking variant helps lift the Wuling Hongguang back to #1 in May.

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The Chinese light vehicle market manages a double-digit year-on-year gain for the second time in three months in May, up 11% to 1.793 million units, pushing the year-to-date total up 7.8% to 9.258 million deliveries, according the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Note these figures exclude medium and heavy commercial vehicles. Once again the SUV segment is the engine of growth in China with volumes up 38% in May to 637.256 and up 45% year-to-date to 3.218 million. That’s over one million additional SUVs Chinese consumers bought this year compared to the same period last year… MPV sales are up 19% to 170.332 and up 11% year-to-date to 1.017 million. Even sedans are back in positive at +0.8% to 922.125 sales but remain down 6.5% so far this year at 4.652 million units. Microvans on the contrary continue their freefall at -37% to 64.300 units now that they are being ditched by rural buyers for MPVs and crossovers.

VW Bora China May 2016. Picture courtesy gouchezj.comThe facelifted Bora (+46%) helps Volkswagen China sales up 6% in May. 

General Motors posts a 17% increase to 295.282 sales, with Buick the most dynamic Top 10 brand at +36% but Chevrolet disappointing again at -26%. Volkswagen remains by far the most popular marque in China despite growing slower than the market at +6% to 232.400 deliveries. The majority of VW sedans display outstanding gains this month: the Lavida is up 19% in 2nd place overall, the Jetta up 31%, the Sagitar up 25%, Polo up 17% and refreshed Bora up 46%. The Tiguan (-11%) is waiting for the new generation to kick start production in China. Toyota Motor Corp. follows the overall trend with sales up 12% to 102.900, but Hyundai at 100.328 (+25%) and Honda Motor Co. at 99.456 (+24%) are gaining twice as much ground as the market and catching up fast. Honda places 3 nameplates among the Top 10 SUVs in the country this month: the XR-V (14.959), Vezel (14.398) and CR-V (14.194).

Honda XR-V China May 2016. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cnHonda is up 24% mainly thanks to the XR-V and Vezel twins adding up to 29.357 sales.

The Nissan Group is struggling to keep pace: up just 3% to 106.100 deliveries including Infiniti and low-cost brand Venucia. Year-to-date, Nissan is up 1.3% to 500.900 sales whereas Toyota is up 20% to 495.000 and Honda up 15% to 445.800. At this rate, Toyota could overtake Nissan as the most popular Japanese carmaker in China by the end of 2016. Meanwhile Ford drops 2.5% to 88.248, handicapped by declining light commercial vehicle sales through its joint-venture with Jiangling Motors Corp. (JMC), down 4% and imports down 45% to just 1.501 units. Ford’s year-to-date volumes are up 5% to 479.542.

Chery Arrizo 5 China May 2016. Picture courtesy cheshi.comThe Chery Arrizo 5 hits five-digit sales figures for its third month in market. 

In the luxury aisle, Audi keeps its crown with deliveries up 5.5% to 50.002 units in May, adding up to 239.600 (+6%) so far this year. BMW is up 7% to 40.123 sales and up 6% over five months to 202.300 while Mercedes continues on its stellar run: up 39% in May to 38.271 units and up 36% so far in 2016 to 180.537. The Audi A6L at 11.227 units is the best-selling luxury nameplate in China in May, distancing the Audi Q5 (10.708), Audi A4L (9.774), Mercedes C-Class L (up 179% to 9.582), BMW 3 Series L (8.285) and Audi Q3 up 78% to 8.269.

Changan CX70 China May 2016. Picture courtesy xcar.com.cnInstant blockbuster status for the Changan CX70.

Among Chinese carmakers, Great Wall Motors is up 9.5% to 71.636 units including 61.793 (+20%) for its SUV brand Haval. The H6, the first SUV to ever top the overall Chinese sales charts last month, is back down to #3 overall but still up 25% year-on-year to 37.435 units and has had to see its starting price cut by 16% in one year to 88.800 yuan (US$13.500) to achieve these figures. Geely is up 18% to 46.134 units, lifted b  impressive scores by its two best-selling sedans, the Emgrand EC7 up 17% and the Vision up 24%, as well as a great start by the Boyue SUV, already inside the Top 100 thanks to 6.049 units sold in May. Wuling (+24%) gets a boost from a rejuvenated Hongguang, up 31% to reclaim the pole position it holds year-to-date thanks to the arrival of a crossover-looking S1 variant.

Geely Boyue China May 2016. Picture courtesy che.comThe Geely Boyue is already inside the Top 100. 

On the other hand, Baojun significantly slows down its growth at +14% to 34.459 units: the 560 crossover is down a further 3 spots on April to #12 vs. #4 year-to-date while the 730 MPV is down 46% year-on-year to #28 vs. #8 so far in 2016. In other model news, the Buick Excelle GT continues to post stunning scores (+59%), the GAC Trumpchi GS4 remains in the overall Top 10 and ranks #2 SUV, the Ford Escort breaks into it for the second time ever, the Buick Envision is up 40% to a best-ever #11, the Hyundai Tucson is up 25 ranks on last month to #23 and the Changan Oushang is up 9 spots to break is volume record at 12.928.

Changhe Q25 China May 2016. Picture autohome.com.cnThe Q25 single-handedly puts back the Changhe brand on the map. 

Among recent launches, the Chery Arrizo 5 is the biggest surprise of the month, gaining a further 35% on April to reach 10.986 sales for its third month in market and becoming the 2nd best-selling Chinese sedan at home below just the Geely Emgrand EC7 and above the Changan Eado. The Changan CX70 is up 127% on last month to land at #62 with 9.723 units, the Geely Boyue is up 51% to #94 and 6.049 deliveries, the BYD Yuan is up 69% to #114 and 5.248, the BAIC Weiwang S50 up 94% to #133 and the Cadillac XT5 up 53% to #165.

Haval H7 China May 2016. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cnEarly signs are good for the Haval H7. 

But the most significant new launches variations in May are posted by the Changhe Q25, literally taking off from just 829 sales in April to 5.259 in May and giving the brand a presence again in the market. Secondly, the Haval H7 is up 146% on its inaugural month to 3.175 sales. A momentous launch for the successful SUV brand, the H7 is already above the monthly bests for both the H8 (1.373) and H9 (3.066). If the H7’s upwards trend continues, it could demonstrate that Chinese buyers are now prepared to spend more on a Chinese SUV than the best-seller H6.

Previous month: China April 2016: Haval H6 first SUV to lead the overall ranking

One year ago: China May 2015: Wuling Hongguang, VW Group tumble in slow market

Full May 2016 Top 70 All-China made brands and Top 396 All-models below.

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