China February 2017: Market back on track at +22% to 1.9 million units

The arrival of the H2S lifts Haval H2 nameplate sales up 127% to #2 SUV below the Haval H6.

* See the Top 72 brands and Top 385 models by clicking on the title *

We’re catching up on lost time for the largest car market in the world now with February updates.

1. Overall sales figures

Traditionally carmakers combine January and February figures as a more reliable way to read the market as the end January-early February period is always biased by the Lunar New Year holidays, varying between the two months depending on the year. By this logic, the Chinese market is up a strong 8.8% year-on-year over the first two months of the year. Light vehicles are up 6.3%. After a 1.1% dip in January, this means a 22% surge in February to 1.9 million units according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. And this despite the tax on small-engine vehicles having been raised from 5% to 7.5% in January, with a plan to bring it back up to 10% in January 2018. According to Automotive News, sales of electric cars jumped 30% year-on-yearin February, following a 74% plunge in January when subsidies were reduced 20%.

The Wuling Hongguang is back atop the Chinese sales charts. But the MPV segment is struggling.

MPVs getting out of fashion?

Looking into sales by segment, once again SUVs are the engine of growth in the Chinese market: they surge 39% year-on-year to 673.448 units all the while sedans gain 15% to 769.575. After Chinese consumers transitioned from microvans onto MPVs over the past couple of years, would MPV now have gone out of fashion? They are down a dismal 13% year-on-year in February to 145.991 units, their lowest monthly score since August 2015 (133.814). The next few months will decide whether this is a longer-term trend or just a wholesale blip. An encouraging sign is the continuing good health of the Wuling Hongguang, the segment and overall market leader, stable in February at 41.261 sales or 28.2% share of the segment and returning to the YTD top spot with 101.393 units (-9%) after the VW Lavida won January. The rest of the crop is struggling though: the Baojun 730 is down 22% to #9, the Chana Honor is down 24% to #29 but the Chana Oushang is up 46% to #42.

General Motors is back above Volkswagen AG thanks to strong Buick and Baojun sales. 

2. Selected retail results

This section details retail results reported by manufacturers themselves – they include imports and therefore vary slightly from the figures we report in the tables at the end of the articles, the latter being wholesales of vehicles produced locally. Once again the two main automotive groups are in a tight fist-fight this month: General Motors takes the lead year-to-date despite a 15% plunge to 567.994 deliveries in two months. In February, GM is up 0.4% to 246.730 units vs. -24% in January. Volkswagen AG for its part is down 9.6% year-to-date to 567.000 units, slipping back below GM. Volkswagen, Skoda and Audi all post year-on-year drops so far in 2017: VW is down 7.6% to 441.300, Audi is down 24% to 67.336 and Skoda is down 9% to 45.000. Porsche data is not available. Further down the ranking, Nissan Motor is up 3.1% to 194.241, Honda Motor is up 18% to 194.169 units year-to-date but Toyota Motor is down 3.6% to 183.600.

Mercedes is the new premium king of China, dislodging Audi for the third month running.

In the luxury aisle, Daimler-Mercedes cements its newfound premium king status with sales surging 40% to 95.076 vehicles in two months vs. 67.336 to Audi (-24%) while BMW official retail data isn’t available. February Mercedes sales are up 42% to 36.277. Audi’s troubles stem from angry dealers that have stopped ordering new vehicles in January in response to the brand’s plans to set up a second joint-venture and distribution network with Volkswagen’s other partner, SAIC (more detail in our January update here). Finally, local carmaker Geely announced retail sales up 105% year-to-date to 191.629 units with a 167% improvement in February following a 71% surge in January.

Geely is up 166% year-on-year to break into the Chinese passenger car brands podium for the first time.

3. Brands wholesale results

Looking into wholesale February data for passenger car brands produced locally (Top 70), we find Volkswagen in the lead despite a 2% dip to just under 190.000 sales, that’s exactly double the #2, Changan up 10% to 95.675 deliveries. Geely is up 166% year-on-year to 88.931 sales, up one spot on January and seven on its FY16 ranking to break into its home podium for the very first time at #3.  Toyota (+44%) and Honda (+51%) round up the Top 5, followed by Baojun up 13% on February 2016 and four spots on last month to 70.201 sales. Haval (+34%), Nissan (+84%), Mercedes (+91%) and GAC Trumpchi (+102%) post the other largest year-on-year increases in the Top 20, with BMW up 108% at #21.

The new Outlander lifts Chinese Mitsubishi sales up 470% in February.

A quick snapshot at the luxury race under the local production angle shows Mercedes (33.862) well above Audi (28.694) and BMW (27.210). Among other great performers for the month, let’s single out FAW (+43%), Lifan (+48%), Venucia (+71%), Soueast (+104%), Leopaard (+113%), Jeep (+126%), Cadillac (+166%), Roewe (+174%), Mitsubishi (+470%) and JMC (+1055%). Renault (#43) is the most popular recent local producer launch (<12 months) with 5.781 sales in February and 14.189 in two months. The French carmaker is followed by Cowin (#47), Land Rover (#48), SWM (#50), Hanteng (#51), Borgward (#55), Bisu (#56), Zhi Dou (#57) and Jaguar (#64).

VW Bora sales are up 117% year-on-year thanks to the new model. 

4. Models wholesale results

February volumes being much lower than January, we have “just” 46 nameplates with five-digit sales figures this month vs. 72 in January. As we described above, the Wuling Hongguang is back in charge of the Chinese sales charts with stable sales in February (41.261). It is followed by the Haval H6 up one spot on January to #2 and 33.684 units and the VW Lavida, down 33% to 31.620, completes the podium but ranks #2 year-to-date above the Haval H6 thanks to an outstanding January score. In fact, removing Gran Lavida sales from the Lavida score brings the Buick Excelle (+51%) up to best-selling sedan in the country ahead of the Lavida (30.009), Toyota Corolla (+57%), VW Sagitar (+9%) and VW Bora (+117%).

The Dongfeng Fengguang 580 breaks its volume record this month at 18.634 units. 

The main event inside the February Top 10 is the return of the Haval H2 to a 6th place it had already held back in December, this thanks to the success of the sporty variants H2S picture atop this article. With the GAC Trumpchi GS4 up 61% to #8 and the Baojun 560 down 26% – due to the arrival of the 510, detailed in our upcoming “Focus on All-new models” post – we have four Chiunese SUVs in the February Top 10. In fact, with the Changan CS75 at #12, the Geely Emgrand EC7 at #13 and Geely Boyue at a record 14th place with 20.137 sales, there are 9 Chinese nameplates in the Top 14 vs. 8 in the Top 12 a year ago in February 2016. Notice also the Dongfeng Fengguang 580 up 13 spots to a record #17 and an all-time high 18.634 sales and the  Baojun 310 up 6 spots to a best-ever #21.

The Baojun 310 is knocking at the Chinese Top 20’s door this month.

5. Recent launches

Looking into nameplates launched within the past 12 months, below the Geely Boyue (#14), Dongfeng Fengguang 580 (#17) and Baojun 310 (#21) mentioned above, the Chevrolet Cavalier follows at #25 (+18 spots on January), ahead of the Roewe RX5 (-14), Chery Arrizo 5 (-4), Geely Vision SUV (+24) posting a 6th consecutive month above 10,000 sales and breaking into the Top 50 for the first time at #45, the Baojun 510 (more on this in our upcoming Focus on the All-0new models post), Geely Emgrand GS (#58) and Geely Emgrand GL (#61). Notice also the FAW Jilin Xenia R7 at a record #64, the GAC Trumpchi GS8 up a further 8 spots on January to a best-ever #70, the Soueast DX3 back up 38 ranks to a record #76 for its this r pmonth in market and the VW C-Trek breaking into the Top 100 for the very first time thanks to 5.563 sales, up 43 spots on January. All in all, there are 18 new nameplates inside the Chinese Top 100 in February and 84 in the overall ranking, or an astounding 21.8% of all nameplates selling at least one unit this month.

The Brilliance H3 is the best-performing January launch in February.

6. Results of January launches

Finally we take a look at how January launches have fared. Ranking-wise, the Brilliance H3 is the best-performing with a 123 rank gain to land at #165 with 2.541 sales, up 409% on its inaugural month. The Kia KX7 also shows significant progress at +50 spots and 206% to land at #255. The Changhe Freedom M70 on the other hand is showing the wrong sings: already down 26% on last month to #239 and 1.046 deliveries. The remaining three nameplate had made their appearance ahead of their March official public launch and therefore remain at very discreet levels: the Changan CS95 at #323 (+20), the BAIC Huansu S5 at #326 (+10) and the VW Teramont at #366 (-7).

7. February launches will be covered in a specific update

Previous month: China January 2017: Audi tumbles down 35% in market down 1.1%

One year ago: China February 2016: VW Lavida #1 but 8 in Top 12 are Chinese

Full February 2017 Top 72 brands and Top XXX models below.

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