China December 2016: Focus on the All-new models

Soueast DX3 China December 2016. Picture courtesy mmia.comSoueast DX3

* See the December 2016 Top 75 China-made brands and Top 422 models here *

As is the tradition each month, BSCB puts a laser focus on the new China-made nameplates that make their appearance in market so you are on the bleeding edge of knowledge as far as the largest car market in the world is concerned. New car sales in China ended 2016 on a high note with December up to a record 2.6 million units. The December class of all-new nameplates is in line with this stunning figure: no less than 13 all-new nameplates point their bonnet in the sales charts, a new record.

1. Soueast DX3 (#100 with 8.535 sales)

The DX3 is Soueast’s second SUV after the DX7, it was launched at the Chengdu Auto Show last November and was also designed jointly with Pininfarina. At 4.35m long, it is powered by a choice of two Mitsubishi-sourced engines: a 120hp 1.5 and a 150hp 1.5T. Priced between 72.900 and 99.900 yuan (US$10.600-14.500), the DX3 enters the most crowded segment in China: small Chinese SUVs. It will compete with the likes of the JAC Refine S3, Changan CS35, Brilliance V3, BAIC Senova X35, Geely Vision SUV, Emgrand GS and Haval H2s among a plethora of others. The DX7, launched in August 2015, peaked at 9.531 sales last October so in this context the first month of the DX3, instantly making it the brand’s best-seller, is simply stunning. Regular stints at or above 10.000 units would delight Soueast.

Bar for success: 10.000 monthly sales

BAIC EC-Series China December 2016. Picture courtesy auto.sina.com.cn

2. BAIC EC-Series (#174 with 4.128 sales)

Beijing Auto unveiled the EC180 at the Guangzhou Auto Show last November and although it is only due to go on sale in China on January 18, it already appears in the December charts with a sturdy 4.128 sales – probably to allow BAIC to meet its electric car sales quota for 2016. A small 3.67m-long hatch disguised as a crossover with black arches and bi-colour paint on some variants, the EC180 is powered by a 41hp electric motor with a 180km range (giving the car its name). Some nice touches include blue lines around the headlights but the interior is disappointing. The EC180 is manufactured by BAIC BJEV, a subsidiary of BAIC that it owns at 60%, the other 40% including LeEco, self-proclaimed competitor to Tesla. The EC180 joins an already extensive electric lineup by BAIC including the EV200, EX200 and EU260, and its December figure seems a tad inflated. A long-term career at this level would be very satisfying for BAIC indeed.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly sales

Bisu M3 China December 2016

3. Bisu M3 (#211 with 2.597 sales)

This month we welcome a new brand in the Chinese sales charts: Bisu Auto, its full name being Chonqing Bisu Automotive Corporation. Part of the Beijing Auto (BAIC) empire, this new brand has close links with Beiqi-Yinxiang which sells the Huansu brand. In fact, the Bisu M3 is only a disguised Huansu H3 targetting younger buyers after a cheap, spacious MPVs where the Huansu brand is for all ages. A large 4.76m seven-seater, the Bisu M3 is priced between 61.900 and 83.900 yuan (US$9.000-12.200), a premium over the Huansu H3 (55.800-62.800) and its first month is honest, above 2.500 sales. It will need to reach double that to truly establish itself in the hyper-competitive (and shrinking) MPV market.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly sales

Venucia T90 China December 2016

4.  Venucia T90 (#217 with 2.481 sales)

If you thought Venucia, a low-cost brand fruit of the Dongfeng-Nissan joint-venture, was destined to recycle unloved Nissan mechanics and designs to slowly disappear into oblivion, think again. At the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2015, the brand unveiled the Vow concept, which I thought was a little far-flung. Not so. Only one year later at the Beijing Auto Show 2016, the Venucia T90 was born. A very impressive coupe SUV that only has an equivalent in the now-defunct Honda Crosstour, the T90 stands at 4.79 long and 1.59 high, with a ground clearance of 194mm. It is based on the current generation Nissan Murano (2015) and priced from 109.800 to 154.800 yuan (US$15.900-22.400).

The T90 interior is almost as impressive as its exterior design with a 12.3 inch touch screen larger than anything in the Nissan lineup, let alone other Venucia offerings. However the T90’s weakness is its engine: an antediluvian Nissan 144hp 2.0l 4-cyl petrol mated to a 6-speed manual or a ‘Xtronic’ CVT, only able to get you from 0 to 100km/h in 12.4 seconds. Yet the Chinese consumer may never push it that hard and most probably won’t leave the bitumen roads of the city it was bought in. In this context, Local outlet AutoHome.com.cn doesn’t hesitate to pit the T90 against such blockbusters as the Geely Boyue, Roewe RX5 and Nissan Qashqai, all able to sell over 20.000 monthly units. The other SUV in the Venucia lineup, the T70, isn’t affected in the least by the arrival of the larger T90 as it broke its month volume record just this month at 9.764. Let’s not put that much pressure on the T90 just yet, and we may well be happily surprised.

Bar for success: 8.000 monthly sales

Dongfeng Fengshen AX5 China December 2016. Picture courtesy autoifeng.com

5. Dongfeng Fengshen AX5 (#232 with 2.246 sales)

Slotting in-between the AX3 and AX7, the Dongfeng Fengshen AX5 enters the most competitive and crowded segment in the entire Chinese market: compact SUVs. Priced between 89.700 and 128.700 yuan and at 4.50m long, it will rival the likes of the Haval H6 and GAC Trumpchi GS4, an arduous task to say the least. The AX5 is powered by a new 1.4 turbo engine delivering 140hp mated to a 6-speed DCT or a 6-speed manual. Its interior is a little morose with a small 8 inch touch screen giving permanent 4G internet connection. The AX7 has a personal best of 9.531 sales (last October) while the AX5 peaked at 4.177 (last September), but the AX5 fits the current size and price trends better, so it could reach higher ground. Plus Dongfeng’s most recent SUV launches have been runaway hits (the Fengguang 580 and Fengxing SX6)…

Bar for success: 8.500 monthly sales

Volvo S90 China December 2016. Picture courtesy auto.sina.com

6. Volvo S90L (#294 with 968 sales)

The Chinese version of the Volvo S90 has been named S90L because it is a long-wheelbase iteration of the S90 that launched earlier this year in Europe and North America. It has been extended by 12cm to allow more space to the rear passengers. The S90L is priced between 399.800 and 579.800 yuan (US$58.000-84.100) but an ultra-luxurious 3-seat variant, the S90L Excellence is scheduled for 2017: it has no front passenger seat to allow full space for the rear passenger, this type of cars being traditionally driven by a valet in China, with the owner sitting in the back.

Property of Geely since 2010, Volvo manufactures the S90L in Daqing and will later export this China-made sedan to Europe and North America. The S90L competes with the traditional leaders in the segments: the Audi A6L, BMW 5Li and Mercedes E-Class L, as well as a new entrant, the Jaguar XFL. Predicting its sales career is a little tricky as this is clearly the most luxurious and expensive offer by Volvo in China so far. The XC60 SUV peaked at 4.154 sales this month, while the S60L has a personal best of 3.190 deliveries in November. Before them, the S80L only managed four-digit sales figures three times, peaking at 1.291 sales in December 2011. Matching the S60L best should be a stretch target, but the S90 could go higher an may hit 5.000 sales on a freak month.

Bar for success: 2.500 monthly sales

JMEV E200 China December 2016

JMEV E100 China December 2016

7. JMC (JMEV) E200 (#295 with 951 sales)

8. Kandi K10 (#318 with 703 sales)

9. JMC (JMEV) E100 (#320 with 676 sales)

December is traditionally the month when Chinese manufacturers rush various electric models to market in order to meet sales target for this segment and qualify for government subsidies. This year is no exception, with a total of five electric or eco-friendly entrants, including these three. The Kandi K10 adds to an expanding lineup by the Geely-owned brand, along with the existing K11, K12 and K17. As for the two JMC nameplates, these are an odder appearance. Seemingly in market for at least a year, they only appear now to get inserted in the annual rankings, and their sales figure for December could actually reflect the whole of 2016 instead of just one month.  Priced from 179.800 to 182.800 yuan (US$26.100-26.600), the E200 is the most popular of the three and appears to be a clone of the previous generation Changan Benben.

JAC Refine A60 China December 2016

10. JAC Refine A60 (#351 with 376 sales)

Originally unveiled at the Beijing Auto Show in April 2014, the JAC Refine A60 finally landed in market after almost three years of unveiling, launching, tweaking and facelifting. This time the attraction is the new Lexus-inspired grille. JAC made a big deal of this final – promised – version at the Guangzhou Auto Show in November and displayed no less than 8 examples, the only nameplate on show in its stand. To be fair, it is the brand’s new flagship at 5.01m long and priced between 139.500 and 179.500 yuan (US$20.200-26.000), so JAC should be proud about it. It’s a tricky segment for Chinese carmakers though, with only the Geely GC9 having really succeeded so far (personal best at 6.001 sales in January 2016). Other competitors for the A60 include the Dongfeng Aeolus A9 (peak at 505 sales), GAC Trumpchi GA8 (509 sales) and Zotye Z700 (1.983). In this context, reaching a four-digit monthly sales figure would already be a relief for JAC.

Bar for success: 1.000 monthly sales

Bisu T3 China December 2016

11. Bisu T3 (#361 with 320 sales)

The T3 small SUV is the second model by new manufacturer Bisu, also launching the M3 MPV this month (see above). The creation of the T3 is shrouded in controversy: even though it is based on the platform of the Huansu S2 and S3, engineers employed at Changan – also based in Chongqing – moved to Bisu with the design blueprints of the Changan CS55, of which the Bisu T3 is a thinly veiled copy. To add insult to injury, the Bisu T3 has managed to beat the Changan CS55 to market… At 4.35m long and powered by a turbocharged 1.3L engine with 132hp, the T3 adds to a seemingly never-ending list of compact Chinese SUVs and given the market hasn’t quenched its thirst for this type of vehicle yet, it is a good idea indeed. The T3 is reasonably priced at 74.900-86.900 yuan (US$10.900-12.600), its design is cool enough for the youth in the booming countryside and both its mechanics and interior are modern. Bisu has all the cards for a solid success with the T3, and will launch a larger T5 before the end of the year.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly sales

Jeep Compass China December 2016

12. Jeep Compass (#368 with 300 sales)

Even before launching at home in the U.S.A, the new generation Jeep Compass has started production in Brazil (see November 2016 Brazilian sales article here) and now in China where it officially launched on December 28. It is manufactured by Guangzhou-Fiat and is the third China-made Jeep to hit Chinese shores in just above one year after the Cherokee and Renegade. The Compass is priced from 159.800 to 241.800 yuan (US$23.200-35.100), only slightly higher than the Renegade (134.800-202.800) and almost entirely below the Cherokee (229.800-315.800). The Compass is an extremely important nameplate for Jeep in China: the Cherokee and Renegade – although very successful – were merely tiptoeing into Chinese waters for the American legendary brand…

In the world’s thirstiest market about SUVs, the previous generation Compass held the title of best-selling import for the most part of 2015 before the manufacturer started producing locally. The Compass nameplate is therefore well-known to Chinese consumers and its local production has brought its price down significantly. True blockbuster material here, with the potential to lift Jeep to the next level in China. The Cherokee’s personal best was hit this month at 10.109 sales while the Renegade never did better than 4.050 sales on its 2nd month in market last July. A five-digit sales figure will label the Compass a success, but it should be able to hit 15.000 or even 20.000 in cruising mode.

Bar for success: 10.000 monthly sales

Horki 300E China December 2016

13. Horki 300E (#409 with 5 sales)

In the same way Toyota created the Ranz and Leahead brands to sell (dated) electric vehicles and comply with Chinese government directions – their launch in market is still to come, Dongfeng-Yueda Kia launched the Horki brand back in 2013 but is only making its appearance in the Chinese sales charts now. The 300E is a rebadged previous generation Kia Cerato (still in production in China) with an updated front but a decidedly obsolete interior. It is powered by a 108hp electric motor with a 280km range, but is only playing a figurative role in the Chinese market.

Bar for success: 500 sales

Previous month: China November 2016: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago:  China December 2015: Focus on the All-new models

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