China January 2017: Focus on the All-new models

The Brilliance H3 lands directly at #288 at home in China.

As per the monthly BSCB tradition, we put 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. 2017 is a wobbly start in China with passenger cars down 1.1%. Yet the flow of new locally-produced nameplates popping up each months is far from drying up. After a 13-strong December 2016 class, January 2017 offers us six new entrants, four of them Chinese and four of them SUVs.

1. Changhe Freedom M70 (#216 with 1.415 sales)

Yet another clone from Beijing Auto, the Changhe Freedom M70 is a step-up from the M50 but remains cut-throat priced between 52.900 and 61.900 yuan (US$ 7.700-9.000). This is one more attempt by Beijing Auto at destabilising the MPV supremacy of SAIC’s Wuling Hongguang S1 (53.800-64.800 yuan) at which it is aiming squarely, but also the Baojun 730 (58.800-100.800 yuan). The M70 will also compete with the likes of the Chana Oushang (43.900-69.900 yuan), the Karry K60 (59.000-79.000 yuan) launched last November and the Cowin V3 (60.800-77.800 yuan). Problem is, a significant part of its competition is internal to BAIC with the cheaper Freedom M50 and the Weiwang M50F. Launched in January 2015, the Changhe Freedom M50 peaked at 4.761 sales in July 2015, and in this context the M70 should aim at 3.500 monthly sales on average to be deemed a success.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly sales

2. Brilliance H3 (#288 with 499 sales)

In the past two years, Brilliance has been smartly focusing all its energy on the V3 small crossover, an instant blockbuster that enabled Brilliance to be reborn from close to ashes and accounted for no less than 63.8% of the brand’s sales in China last year at 103.342 units. Brilliance is now begining the long process of replacing is slower-selling sedans, and the H3 comes in to erase all memory of the H330 (27.419 sales in 2016). Its styling is a lot sharper than the previous Brilliance sedans and with an air of Citroen C-Elysée coupled with a Fiat Viaggio. Priced between 63.900 and 88.900 yuan (US$ 9.300-12.900), the H3 enters the most competitive segment in the Chinese market: compact Chinese sedans, but should really be aiming at long-term segment best-sellers the VW Jetta (starting at 82.800 yuan) and Santana (84.900 yuan). The H330 peaked at 7.128 sales in March 2016 but spent most of its career between 4.000 and 6.000 monthly sales. To show it is now a serious competitor in the sedan segment, Brilliance should aim at 7.500 monthly sales for the H3.

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly sales

3. Kia KX7 (#305 with 298 sales)

In effect a current generation Kia Sorento adapted for Chinese tastes with more long on the front end, the KX7 appears in the Chinese ranking two months before its official launch date of March 16, 2017. Produced in partnership with Dongfeng-Yueda, the KX7 is Kia’s new flagship SUV and should climb up the sales charts pretty quickly. Kia used to import the Sorento from South Korea but import taxes lifted its price range to a hefty 205.600-335.60o yuan (US$29.900-48.700). Producing it locally brings the price down to a more palatable 179.800-276.800 yuan ($26.100-40.200). This way, the KX7 competes with some very strong sellers in China, such as the Buick Envision, Honda CR-V, Toyota Highlander and Ford Edge. It could well unlock some untapped potential for the brand in China, or be snubbed altogether.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly sales

4. BAIC Huansu S5 (#336 with 76 sales)

BAIC continues to expand its Huansu lineup in less time than it takes to write these lines: the S5 SUV makes its appearance this month with a definite air of bargain basement Lexus. With a price expected to start around 70.000 yuan (US$10.200), the 4.46m-long S5 uses the same platform as the 4.41m BAIC Senova X55, itself priced from 76.800 to 119.800 yuan (US$11.200-17.400). Beijing Auto is thus building two parallel lineups at lightning speed, with the Huansu series manufactured by a joint venture between Beiqi and Yinxiang Motorcycle Group based in Chongqing and now comprising the H2, H3 and H6 MPVs as well as the S2, S3, S5 and S6 SUVs. The S5 is powered by a 1.3L turbocharged engine that also powers the recently launched Bisu T3. You still with us? The Senova X55 peaked at 6.492 units back in January 2016 which was its 2nd month in market but has all but disappeared since. The Huansu S6 for its part peaked at 5.150 also in January 2016, spending most of its career above 3.000 monthly sales. The Huansu S3 has been in a category of its own, with a personal best of 20.868 in December 2015. Beijing Auto should aim somewhere in between the S3 and S6 scores and its aggressive design will mark bonus points with the youngsters, so the marque should be optimistic.

Bar for success: 8.000 monthly sales

5. Changan CS95 (#343 with 51 sales)

Unveiled as a concept at the 2013 Shanghai Auto Show with the production version launched in April 2016 at the Beijing Auto Show, the very impressive Changan CS95 finally hits Chinese roads, albeit with tiny sales figures for now. Changan openly admits the CS95 is inspired by the Toyota Highlander, and it is powered by a Blue Core turbo 2.0L engine developed jointly by Changan China and its UK R&D Center in Birmingham. The CS95 is expected to be priced between 150.000 and 200.000 yuan (US$ 21.800-29.000) and will fight with the luxury Chinese offerings such as the GAC Trumpchi GS8 or Haval H7. Changan has a spotless track record of success as far as its crossovers/SUVs are concerned: the CS15’s personal best is 10.430 sales (Dec-16), the CS35 is at 22.155 (Jan-15), the CS75 at 27.148 (Jan-16) and the CX70 at 14.506 (Jan-17). The CS95, more expensive, should logically fall a little behind, but Changan could unlock a more premium positioning on the Chinese market if the CS95 consistently breaks the 10.000 monthly unit-barrier.

Bar for success: 9.000 monthly sales

6. VW Teramont (#359 with 45 sales)

Along with the Tiguan L (the Chinese name for the new generation Tiguan), Volkswagen suddenly wakes up to the SUV wave that has been engulfing the Chinese market for the past three years. It’s about time. Problem is: we believe at BSCB that the Teramont is a little too big and too expensive to single-handedly lift Volkswagen up. But we may be wrong. The Teramont is the production of the CrossBlue concert that has already been copied by Zotye. Launched at the Guangzhou Auto Show last November ahead of a commercial launch this March, the Teramont slots in between the Tiguan L and the imported Touareg. It will be called Atlas in North America, its other main market. Expected to be priced between 300k and 450k yuan (US$43.600-65.300), the Teramont will test Volkswagen’s mass market boundaries as it will compete with the likes of the Toyota Highlander (239.700-330.800), Ford Edge (249.700-429.800), Ford Everest (265.800-360.800) but also the Land Rover Discovery (368.000-518.000). The pent-up demand for an “affordable” VW SUV is high though, so the Teramont should be a success. A blockbuster though? Not so sure.

Bar for success: 8.500 monthly sales

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