China April 2017: Market marks a pause at -3.7%

The 510 is now Baojun’s best-seller and the country’s third best-selling SUV. 

* See the Top 74 brands and Top 413 models by clicking on the title *

The increase of the purchase tax on small cars initiated at the start of the year has finally caught up with the Chinese light vehicle market, down 3.7% year-on-year in April to 1.72 million units according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). The purchase tax on vehicles of 1.6L or less was raised from 5% to 7.5% on January 1 and will be back to 10% in 2018. Sales of such vehicles are down 10% to 1.14 million this month. The year-to-date tally remains in positive territory however at +2.5% to 7.67 million light vehicles. As it has become the routine over the past couple of years, SUV sales go against the grain at +12% to 691.497 units whereas MPVs are down a harsh 19% to 139.685 and passenger cars are down 8% to 836.683. This month the market is the theatre of some unusually harsh year-on-year drops for some brands and models as we will detail below, indicating a strong readjustment of the market.

The Tiguan L helps the Volkswagen Group to #1 in China this month.

Group-wise, according to figures released by manufacturers themselves (retail figures including imports), the Volkswagen Group remains the largest carmaker in the country with sales up 1.5% to 299.700 units. The Volkswagen brand is up 4.3% but Audi is down 6.9% and Skoda down 12%. Note wholesales of locally-made vehicles show a different picture with VW down 5%. Year-to-date sales for the Group are in negative at -4.8% to 1.19 million units. Its archenemy General Motors is down 1.9% to 272.770 units, with Buick down 15%, Chevrolet down 10%, Wuling down 16% but Cadillac up 98% and Baojun up 58%. Here too wholesales of locally-made vehicles show different evolutions, with Buick in positive notably.

BMW is the best-selling luxury carmaker in China for the first time.

One of the main events of the month is the leadership of the BMW Group among luxury carmakers for the first time in Chinese history. Retail sales including imports of BMW and Mini vehicles are up 39% to 48.869 units, edging past Mercedes up 35% to 47.627 and Audi down 6.9% to 46.166. This occurrence wouldn’t have been possible without the troubles Audi is currently encountering in China. The brand is now pulling out of an agreement with its Chinese dealers that it would not open a second distribution network with its partner SAIC until it sells 900.000 annual units in China. This means Audi resumes its standoff with Chinese dealers that have refused ordering new cars as a protest against the SAIC network plans, and sales of the brand will be affected for a few more months at least. Note looking at wholesales of locally-made vehicles, Audi is still ahead this month with BMW 2nd and Mercedes 3rd as detailed in the ranking table below the jump.

Honda sales are up 29% year-on-year this month. 

Japanese carmakers show a stark contrast with surrounding market conditions this month. Honda Motor is the April hero, posting a 29% year-on-year surge to 109.518 units, just as the XR-V crossover is up 23%, the Accord up 24% and the Civic up 184%. Toyota Motor is up 7.2% to 108.300 and Nissan Motor up 9.5% to 105.324, helped by Infiniti deliveries up 105% to 3.415. All three carmakers may have taken advantage of a sales transfer from Hyundai Motor still suffering from a diplomatic row between China and South Korea over the North Korean missile crisis. Hyundai is down 64% this month and Kia down 69%. Year-to-date, Nissan Motor remains in a tight lead with 419.671 sales (+6.3%) ahead of Honda Motor at 414.814 (+20%) and Toyota Motor at 404.400 (+3.1%). Keep in mind these totals include Infiniti, Acura and Lexus. On a separate note, after a painful first quarter, Ford Motor Co. rebounds in April at +11% to 93.967 sales.

The Boyue helps Geely sales up 88% in April. 

Among Chinese carmakers, Geely is the standout performer of the month with deliveries surging 88% thanks to the exceptional performance of its four most recent launches: the Geely Boyue beating its monthly volume record again at 21.263 and now the country 5th best-selling SUV – 11th overall, the Vision SUV (9.634), Emgrand GS (9.119) and Emgrand GL (9.073). After years of record-beating months, SUV carmaker Haval is down 7% this month just as its best-seller the H6 marks a pause at -17% and despite the H2 bouncing up 57% thanks to the new H2S model. But the most surprising evolution comes from Changan losing half its sales year-on-year and dropping from #2 to #10 in the brands ranking. GAC Trumpchi (+49%), Roewe (+155%), MG (+109%) and Leopaard (+51%) go forward, but two manufacturers that have built their recent success on shameless copycats now hit a wall: Zotye is down 58% this month and Landwind down 80%.

The ZS is already MG’s best-seller in China for its second month in market. 

Over in the models ranking, the top three best-sellers fit within 400 sales and all post double-digit declines: the VW Lavida/Gran Lavida is down 12% ahead of the Haval H6 (-17%) and Wuling Hongguang (-10%). The Hongguang remains the year-to-date leader ahead of the Lavida and H6. This trio is followed this month by the Buick Excelle up an excellent 39% to 32.962 sales and distancing the Nissan Sylphy (+1%) and GAC Trumpchi GS4. But once again the performance of the month goes to the new Baojun 510, beating its volume record to 21.987 and earning a 9th place overall and 3rd place in the SUV ranking. The 510 is now Baojun’s best-seller above the 730, 560 and 310 but it confirms this comes at a cannibalising price as the brand’s other SUV, the 560, is down another 60% this month. Let’s single out three additional high performing SUVs: the VW Tiguan up 14% to #10, the GAC Trumpchi GS8 remaining above 10.000 units for the second straight month and the MG ZS surging to 9.768 units for its second month in market, by far the brand’s best-seller already.

Previous month: China March 2017: Baojun wins 510 bet in market up 1.7%

One year ago: China April 2016: Haval H6 first SUV to lead the overall ranking

Full April 2017 Top 74 brands and Top 413 models below. (imports excluded)

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