China Full Year 2016: Tax cut boosts market up 14% to 28 million sales

Haval H6 Coupe China 2016. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cnThe Haval H6 soars 56% to 2nd place overall, symbolising the ongoing Chinese SUV boom.

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The Chinese new vehicle market, by far the largest in the world, got a higher-than-expected boost this year from a 50% purchase tax cut on small engine vehicles (1.6L or less) from 10% to 5% taking effect from October 1, 2015 until December 31, 2016. Sales shot up 14% on an already very impressive 2015 score (24.61m) to reach a record 28.03 million units, whereas the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers had tabled on a much more discreet 6% gain at the start of the year (we said 7%). Incredibly, 2016 marks the 26th consecutive annual sales record in China: the last time Chinese sales declined year-on-year was in 1990… Light vehicles surge 15% to just under 24.4 million, with vehicles of 1.6L and less soaring 21% to 17.6 million.

Wuling Hongguang S1 China 2016The Wuling Hongguang is the best-selling vehicle in China for the 4th straight year.

Once again SUV sales do the heavy lifting with a mammoth 45% gain to 9 million sales, crusading the symbolic one million monthly unit-mark for the first time in November, and again in December. In fact, SUV monthly sales records were broken four consecutive times at the end of the year: in September (891.612), October (919.279), November (1.023.633) and December (1.081.014). MPV sales are up 18% to 2.5 million and sedan sales up 3.4% to 12.1 million. Microvans on the other hand continue to tumble at -38% to 683.500. Finally, after a couple of tough years declining, commercial trucks and buses are back in positive in 2016 at +4% to 3.6 million sales. As it was the case in 2015, Chinese brands are gaining market share and taking advantage of the tax cut as well as the SUV boom more effectively than their foreign counterparts. More detail on this further down in this Report.

VW Lavida China  2016. Picture courtesy auto.fengniao.comVolkswagen continues to dominate the Chinese market. The Lavida is #3 overall.

Despite a crackdown on manufacturers inflating volumes, sales of eco-friendly vehicles surge 53% in China this year to break the symbolic half-million mark at 507.000 units thanks to generous government subsidies. Battery-electric vehicles are up 65% to 409.000 units divided into 257.000 passenger cars (+75%) and 152.000 commercial vehicles (+51%) while plug-in hybrids are up 17% to 98.000 with 79.000 passenger cars (+17%) and 19.000 commercial vehicles (+19%). In 2017, the Chinese government has new set standards for EV energy consumption and range, while cutting subsidies by 20% in a bid to “clean-up” a segment rocked by scandals and corruption.

Buick Excelle GT China 2016. Picture courtesy autoifeng.comThe Buick Excelle GT is up 28% to #4 overall in 2016.

From January 1, 2017 the purchase tax on small engine vehicles has been raised to 7.5% which leads the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers to predict a slower 5% growth for 2017 to 25.7 million light vehicles, which, added to 3.7 million commercial trucks (+2%), leads to an overall market up 5% to 29.4 million units. This would mean the symbolic 30 million overall sales will be passed in 2018. We at BSCB table on a 7.5% market increase to 30 million right here in 2017. The CAAM predicts – and we at BSCB agree – that the Chinese vehicle market will continue to expand over the next five years thanks to strong demand in Tier-3 and smaller cities. Our numerous Photo Series through various countryside regions of China have confirmed the untapped sales potential of these regions which are taking the relay of the eastern seaboard as the country’s engine of growth.

Baojun 730 China 2016. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cnThe Baojun 730 gains another 15% to remain #5.

Group-wise, in 2016 the Volkswagen Group reclaims the top spot off General Motors thanks to sales up 12% to 3.98 million units. The Volkswagen brands resumes its galloping ride with deliveries up 14% to approach 3 million units thanks to the majority of its sedan range benefitting from the tax cut and despite a glaring lack of a decent SUV lineup. Audi is up 3.6% to 591.600 sales, Skoda up 13% to 317.100 and Porsche up 13% to 65.200. In contrast General Motors sales are up just 7.1% to 3.87 million units, handicapped by a 14% drop at Chevrolet to 525.300 units and a 7% decline at Wuling to 1.4m as microvans implode. On the other hand Baojun retail sales surge 49% to 688.300 (760.200 wholesales), Buick is up 19% to 1.18m (1.23m wholesales) and Cadillac is up 46% to 116.406. China remains GM’s largest market in the world for the fifth straight year, accounting for more than one-third of its global sales.

Nissan Sylphy China 2016. Picture courtesy xgo.com.cnThe Nissan Sylphy is up 10% but down two spots to #6. 

Hyundai-Kia improves just 6.7% – half the speed of the market – to 1.79m units but remains the third best-selling group in China, ahead of all the Japanese. The Hyundai brand falls from #2 in the 2015 passenger cars ranking to #5 this year (see further down). Nissan Motor remains the most popular among them despite trailing the market also at +8.4% to 1.35m units but the big news is Honda Motor leaping up 24% to 1.25m sales, overtaking Toyota Motor up just 8.2% to 1.2m units. Ford Motor for its part gains 14% to 1.27m units, with cars produced by the Changan-Ford joint-venture up 14% to 957.495, models under the JMC partnership up 7% to 265.056, Ford-branded imports down 31% to 17.599 and Lincoln-branded imports triple the 2015 result to 32.558.

VW Jetta China 2016. Picture courtesy nanrenwo.netThe VW Jetta is up 27% to 7th place and receives a facelift for 2017. 

If you paid close attention to the last two paragraphs, you would have noticed that among the Top 7 best-selling foreign groups, only Honda outpaces the overall Chinese market in 2016. Where does all the growth come from? The answer is simple: Chinese carmakers. If Changan, China’s largest domestic manufacturer, also trails the market at +9% to 1.420.399 light vehicles, it overtakes Wuling to become the #1 light vehicle Chinese brand in 2016. Great Wall Motor on the other hand surges 26% to cross the one million annual sales milestone for the first time at 1.074m units. Of these, 938.018 (+34%) are Haval-branded crossovers and SUVs, 105.621 (+6%) are Great Wall-branded pickups and 30.831 (-43%) are Great Wall-branded sedans, an endangered species. Great Wall will attempt to build on this tremendous success with a new premium brand Wey, whose first production model is scheduled to launch at the Shanghai Auto Show in April.

VW Sagitar China 2016. Picture courtesy che.comAlthough up 22%, the VW Sagitar is down one spot to #8 in 2016.

The other stellar Chinese performer of 2016 is Geely, with sales up 50% to 765.851 or 767.331 wholesales (+45%), making it into the Top 10 passenger car brands at #10 (#14) thanks to four very successful launches this year (the Boyue, Emgrand GS, Emgrand GL and Vision SUV). Geely even crossed the 100.000 monthly sales benchmark in December and could be aiming at one million deliveries in 2017. In the passenger car brands ranking, a plethora of Chinese manufacturers also display explosive gains, such as – in sales order – Beijing Auto (+36%), Dongfeng (+26%), GAC Trumpchi (+95%), Zotye (+45%), Roewe (+142%), Soueast (+59%), Leopaard (+110%), Landwind (+86%), Jinvei (+121%) and Changhe (+152%) all within the Top 50. We also welcome Cowin (38.345 sales), Borgward (30.015), SWM (25.688), Hanteng (16.117), FQT Motor (2.918) and Bisu (2.917) in the brands ranking for 2016.

GAC Trumpchi GS4 China 2016Astounding first full year of sales for the GAC Trumpchi GS4 at #9… 

In the luxury aisle, Audi maintains its lead but gains just 3.6% to 591.554 sales while BMW AG is up 11% to 516.355. Mercedes-Benz on the other hand oars 27% to 472.844 and was even the #1 China-made luxury brand in December, historically outselling Audi. In fourth place, Jaguar Land Rover is up 31% to 119.000 sales thanks to the local production kick start of the Land Rover Discovery Sport (26.557), Range Rover Evoque (12.759) and Jaguar XFL (5.644). Cadillac is up 46% to 116.000, overtaking Lexus (+26%), Volvo is ip 11% to 90.930 and Lincoln, two years after its launch in the country, triples its sales vs. 2015 to 32.558. According to the company, five of Lincoln’s top 10 and 11 of its top 20 dealerships worldwide, ranked by sales in 2016, are based in China.

Baojun 560 China 2016b. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn…as well as for the Baojun 560 at #10.

A veteran to the Chinese market, PSA Peugeot Citroen had missed the SUV boat until the launch of the 4008 late last year and as a result sees its sales freefall 16% to 618.123 units, its joint-venture with Dongfeng seeing a 15% drop to 602.000 and its partnership with Changan for the DS brand imploding 34% to just 16.123 vehicles. A recent entrant to the local production arena, Jeep shows a 16-fold increase in its China-made sales to a splendid 129.516 units, while Renault, local producer since June in partnership with Dongfeng, is up 82% to 36.525 deliveries including 30.026 China-made. With Acura poised to kick start local production in 2017, Subaru and Lexus are the only main manufacturer not having a foot in the Chinese market so far. Fiat, back to local production in 2012, hasn’t launched any new nameplate since the original introduction of the Viaggio and Ottimo, consequently seeing its deliveries come to an almost full stop at -60%.

2016 Best-selling China-made brands by segment (wholesale data – source CAAM):

Pos Brand Sedan sales
1 Volkswagen 2,717,352
2 Toyota 811,743
3 Buick 802,876
4 Hyundai 753,583
5 Nissan 665,011
6 Ford 660,108
7 Honda 601,064
8 Geely 502,368
9 Chevrolet 479,069
10 Kia 430,204
Pos Brand SUV sales
1 Haval 938,019
2 Changan 540,644
3 Honda 515,562
4 Hyundai 384,542
5 Buick 347,328
6 GAC Trumpchi 343,438
7 Nissan 342,050
8 Baojun 321,555
9 Ford 288,573
10 JAC 272,780
Pos Brand MPV sales
1 Wuling 667,629
2 Baojun 370,169
3 Changan 277,973
4 Dongfeng Fengxing 156,922
5 Weiwang 134,306
6 Huansu 120,689
7 Dongfeng Fengguang 112,359
8 Buick 79,600
9 Jinbei 71,399
10 Honda 71,041

In the China-made passenger car brands ranking (wholesale data), Volkswagen (+13%) crosses the symbolic 3 million unit-mark ahead of Buick (+19%), Honda (+22%) and Changan (+24%) while Hyundai (+7%) tumbles down from #2 last year to #5 and Toyota (+5%) drops two ranks to #6. Looking at sedans only, Volkswagen’s domination is glaring with 2.7m units vs. just 811.700 for the 2nd best-seller – Toyota – with Buick, Hyundai and Nissan in tow. Among Chinese manufacturers, only Geely manages a Top 10 sedan ranking thanks to the Emgrand EC7. Yet Volkswagen doesn’t make it to the Top 10 SUV nor MPV brands, both rankings dominated by Chinese fares. In the SUV aisle, Haval and Changan dominate ahead of Honda, Hyundai and Buick while in the MPV segment Wuling, Baojun, Changan, Dongfeng Fengxing and Weiwang are tops. Buick and Honda are the only foreign brands to appear in all three rankings.

Chery Arrizo 5 China 2016. Picture courtesy auto.sina.com.cnThe Chery Arrizo 5 is the most popular all-new nameplate for 2016…

Model-wise, the Wuling Hongguang is the best-selling vehicle in the country for the fourth straight year and has stabilised around 650.000 annual units. It ranked #1 seven times and peaked at an all-time record 82.543 units in December. But the most impressive performer is the Haval H6 surging 56% to an astounding 580.683 units – including the H6, H6 Sport and H6 Coupe. To give perspective to this figure, here are three other: firstly that’s almost 100.000 units more than the VW Golf in the whole of Europe, secondly the Nissan Qashqai, #1 SUV in Europe 31 countries (incl. Turkey and Russia), sold less than half that amount over the entire continent last year (271.428) and thirdly the Honda CR-V, #1 SUV in the USA, sold a mere 357.335 units there last year… The H6 broke its monthly sales record no less than five time in 2016, lifting it to 46.075 (March), 53.268 (September), 56.667 (October), 70.292 (November) and finally 80.495 in December, the third largest-ever monthly volume for any nameplate in China.

Geely Boyue China 2016. Picture courtesy che.com…followed by the Geely Boyue...

In third place overall, the VW Lavida follows the market at +16% and remains the best-selling foreigner in China. At a fair distance, the Buick Excelle GT gains 28% to land in 4th place just above the Baojun 730 up another 15% and crossing the symbolic 50.000 monthly sales milestone in December. The GAC Trumpchi GS4 ends its first full year of sales at a flamboyant 9th place, lightyears ahead of any previous nameplate the brand had launched in the past. The Baojun 560 also breaks into the annual Chinese Top 10 for its first full year, becoming in January the fastest nameplate to reach 40.000 monthly sales (7 months). Its second half of 2016 was a lot more subdued though. Other great performers this year include the Ford Escort (+38%) and the Buick Envision, now China’s best-selling foreign SUV ahead of the VW Tiguan. Confirming their newfound stranglehold on the booming segment, 6 of the Top 10 best-selling SUVs in 2016 are Chinese (see table below).

2016 Best-selling SUVs in China:

Pos Model /15
1 Haval H6 56%
2 GAC Trumpchi GS4 150%
3 Baojun 560 122%
4 Buick Envision 69%
5 VW Tiguan -5%
6 ChangAn CS75 12%
7 JAC Refine S3 1%
8 Haval H2 17%
9 Honda CR-V 15%
10 Nissan X-Trail 8%

As a result of out monthly series “Focus on the all-new models” it’s only natural to dedicate a section to the most popular all-new models of 2016. The #1 isn’t in fact a true new nameplate (the Hyundai Elantra Lingdong), which makes the “true” king of all-new models the Chery Arrizo 5 at #54 with almost 130.000 units. A surprise success given the paltry performances of the previous Arrizo launches, the 5 puts Chery back on the Chinese sedan map, even ranking #2 in its segment over the last quarter of 2016. Next is the Geely Boyue (109.000), symbolising the – late – arrival of Geely in the booming SUV segment, 2017 will see the Boyue tease the best-sellers in the segment. Something the Roewe RX5 (90.000), #6 SUV in China in December, is already doing, in the meantime resuscitating the Roewe brand. No surprise: the next five most popular newcomers are all SUVs: the Dongfeng Fengguang 580, Changan CX70, BAIC Senova X35, Kia KX5 and Geely Emgrand GS…

roewe-rx5-china-2016…and the Roewe RX5.

Note: Main article data is retail sales unless indicated otherwise, data tables below are wholesales. Overall market = Light vehicles + Commercial trucks and buses. Light vehicles = passenger cars + microvans. Passenger cars = sedans+SUV+MPV.

Previous post: China December 2016: Haval up 73%, Geely up 101% in final tax rush

Previous year posts:

China Full Year 2015: Market up 4.7% to record 24.61 million despite sluggish summer

China Full Year 2015: Discover the Top 137 All-brands (BSCB Exclusive)

China LCV Full Year 2015: Sales transfer to mini pickups boosts Wuling Mini Truck to #1

Two years ago: China Full Year 2014: Growth cools to 7% to record 23.5 million units

Full Year 2016 Top 83 All China-made brands and Top 520 All models vs. Full Year 2015 figures below.

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