China First Half 2017: Market slows down growth from 9.2% to 1.6%

Baojun has a new blockbuster in its hands: the 510, but it killed the 560. 

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One year ago, the Chinese passenger car market was up a robust 9.2% and improved further over the second half of the year. This time, the rise of the purchase tax for vehicles of 1.6L and under has stopped the market in its tracks. With a significant amount of sales pulled forward to the end of 2016, the perspectives for this start of 2017 weren’t bright. Still, the market is up – granted, by a meagre 1.6% – when we could have expected a drop. It did decline in February, April and May. According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, Chinese passenger car sales total 11.253.000 units vs. 11.042.000 a year ago, and still beats a record. Sales of passenger cars of 1.6L and below are down 2.6% to 7.697.000, representing 68.4% of the passenger car market which is a 3 percentage point-drop. Commercial vehicles fare a lot better with a 17.4% year-on-year gain to 2.101.000 units. As a result, the total Chinese market is up 3.8% to a record 13.354.000 units.

The new Tiguan helped Volkswagen stay in positive in China so far in 2017.

Looking at segments in detail, SUVs continue to be the engine of the Chinese market growth but significantly reduce their gain from 42% a year ago to 17.7% this time at 4.530.200 units. All other segments are in decline, with sedans down 3% to 5.401.000 and MPVs down 16% to 1.010.600. New energy vehicles are up 14.4% to 195.000 sales with pure electric vehicles up 26.2% to 160.000 and plug-in hybrids up 19.7% to 35.000. A very interesting fact is that the market share of Chinese brands increases in the two largest passenger car segments. Overall, sales of Chinese-branded passenger cars are up 4.3% year-on-year to 4.940.000, accounting for 43.9% of the market, up 1.1 percentage point (pp). Chinese-branded sedans are up 0.8% to 1.064.000 or 19.7% of the market, up 0.8pp. The most impressive result is in the booming SUV segment where Chinese brands are up 24.4% to reach a best-ever 59.6% market share, up 3.6pp thanks to 2.700.000 units. Finally Chinese-branded MPVs are down 20.8% to 859.000 units or 85% share, down 5.4pp.

It’s a nightmarish First Half of 2017 for Korean carmakers Hyundai and Kia.

We have access to limited manufacturers retail data over the period (this data differs from our data tables that are wholesales excluding imports). The Volkswagen Group confirms it is the #1 in China despite seeing its deliveries slip 1.9% to 1.826.000 units. General Motors also declines at -2.5% to 1.765.828 vehicles. Ford Motor is faring a lot worse at -7% to 537.522 units. Among Japanese carmakers, Nissan Motor keeps the crown with a 6.7% increase to 650.525 but is now threatened by Honda Motor surging 19% to 644.167 while Toyota Motor is up 5.4% to 624.000. The victims of this First Half of 2017 are without a doubt the two Korean carmakers impacted by China’s diplomatic feud with South Korea triggered by U.S. anti-missile defense deployed in the country. Both Hyundai Motor and Kia Motor tumble 47% year-on-year over the period.

BMW bypasses Audi to become the #1 premium carmaker in China, but Mercedes lurks just behind. 

The main event in the premium race is the paltry performance of Audi, #1 for decades up until this year, handicapped by a boycott of its dealers unhappy about plans for a second distribution channel for the brand. These plans have since been postponed and Audi reclaimed the #1 premium spot in June but over the First Half of the year the picture is very different: BMW manages to take a slim advantage thanks to deliveries up 18% to 293.280 units, but Mercedes is aggressively catching up at a flamboyant +35% to 292.679 units. Audi lags far behind at 254.785 sales, down 12%. It will be very difficult for the brand to reclaim the #1 spot by year end. Note that locally-made wholesales still show Audi (-9%) above Mercedes (+50%) and BMW (+30%) as the latter two significantly rely on imports. Meanwhile Volvo, owned by local manufacturer Geely, is up a fantastic 28% to 51.914 units.

The Boyue helps Geely up 87% and Chinese SUVs reach 59.6% market share. 

Now a look at the China-made wholesales brands ranking (our data table). Volkswagen continues to be ultra-dominant, following the market at +2% to 1.47m units. That’s still well over double the sales of any other brand in the country. Honda surges 26% to 650.730 units to rank #2 overall, bypassing Hyundai (-43%), Toyota (+9%), Buick (-3%) and ChangAn (-6%). In 6th place we have the performance of the year so far: Geely up 87% and 9 spots to tease Changan for the title of most popular Chinese passenger car brand, a title it should hold by year end. Geely is reaping the fruits of a completely renewed range and three new best-selling SUVs: the Boyue, Emgrand GS and Vision SUV as well as strong selling sedans such as the Emgrand EC7, Emgrand GL and Vision.

The GS4 and new GS8 (pictured) lift GAC Trumpchi sales up 51% so far in 2017.

The Nissan brand follows at #7, up 15% ahead of Baojun up two spots and 22%, compensating for the falls of the 730 MPV and 560 SUV with the arrivals of the 310 hatch and 510 SUV. Haval drastically slows its galloping progress with a timid 4% gain as its range is starting to age. Its parent company, Great Wall Motors, is up 2.3% to 460.743. Rounding out the Top 10, Ford is down 10% and 3 spots to #10. Beyond, Wuling suffers at -12% (excluding LCVs), GAC Trumpchi shoots up 51% and 6 spots to #15 thanks to the continued success of the GS4 and the thunderous arrival of the GS8. In order of ranking, Roewe (+141%), Jeep (+106%), Cadillac (+98%), Soueast (+44%), MG (+61%), Leopaard (+36%), Mitsubishi (+166%), Renault (+357%), JMC (+486%) and Zhi Dou (+445%) post some of the largest year-on-year gains in market.

Renault has already reached 63% of its annual sales target for 2017. 

But not all Chinese brands register strong improvements over the period, and some should start to seriously worry, such as Beijing Auto (BAIC, BAW) down 26%, BYD down 15%, JAC down a harsh 40%, Zotye down 25%, Haima down 29% and Brilliance down 53%. For a handful of foreigners, 2017 is shaping up as the year to forget: wholesales put Hyundai at -43% and Kia at -56%, Peugeot is down 37%, Suzuki down 34% and Citroen down an abysmal 68%, ending H1 only 2.678 sales above newcomer and fellow countryman Renault, itself already hitting 63% of its annual sales target for 2017 (59.000).

SWM is the most popular of the nine new brands that entered the Chinese market since last year. 

A testimony of the dynamism of the Chinese market, we welcome no less than nine all-new brands in the H1 2017 ranking. They are led by SWM punching above 30.000 sales just as a second model hit dealerships, followed by Cowin just under 29.000 sales with three nameplates, Hanteng at roughly 27.500 with just one model, Borgward just under 22.000 with two, Bisu above 16.000 with three, Jaguar with 8.500 XFL, Acura with 4.500 CDX, Horki at 3.700 and Great Wall’s new “premium” brand WEY just under 3.200 units – all sold in June.

The Roewe RX5 is the 2nd best-selling new nameplate over the period with over 100.000 sales.

Now onto the models ranking, where the three best-sellers all lose volume, accelerating the fragmentation of the market. Both the Wuling Hongguang and the VW Lavida drop a heavy 11% and are only separated by 5.000 sales – the Hongguang ranked #1 only in February while the Lavida ranked 1st four times – with the Haval H6 falling a more restrained – but still surprising – 6%. The heroes of the period are below: the Buick Excelle rallies up 19% to #4 and ranked #1 in June, while the GAC Trumpchi GS4, now in its third year, shows no sign of running out of puff with a 20% surge and could soon go tease the Haval H6 for the title of #1 SUV in China.

The Haval H2S helps the brand stay in positive territory so far in 2017. 

The Nissan Sylphy also shows great strength in 6th place at +23%, overtaking the Toyota Corolla (+8%). The VW Tiguan, finally helped by the new generation, has been instrumental in keeping Volkswagen in positive over the period with a 43% surge lifting it to #8 overall and #2 VW model above the perennial strong sellers Jetta (-14%), Sagitar (-17%) and Santana (-15%). At #11, the Baojun 730 is now the brand’s best-seller despite a 9% drip, as we see a complete reshuffle of its sales order: hero of H1 2016, the Baojun 560 has been completely cannibalised (-48% and down from #5 to #23) by the brand’s new, edgier SUV, the 510. The 510 is the most popular newcomer over the period, landing directly at #21 with just under 103.000 sales.

The Fengguang 580 is now Dongfeng’s best-seller at home. 

The booming SUV segment has seen a lot of changes atop its sales charts: below the H6, GS4 and Tiguan, we now find the Geely Boyue up 548% on its launch period last year to rank #13 overall. The Boyue is now the brand’s best-seller at home, surpassing the Emgrand EC7 (+9%). The Buick Envision has reached its peak at #5 SUV and #15 overall (+4%), distancing the Haval H2 (+61% thanks to the H2S variant), Changan CS75 (+10%), Baojun 510 and Roewe RX5 (100.091 sales), the 2nd best-selling newcomer over the period. Notice also the Dongfeng Fengguang 580 becoming the brand’s best-seller, the Honda Civc rallying up 269% thanks to the new model, the Baojun 310 landing at #31, the Chevrolet Cavalier at #33 and the Chery Arrizo 5 up 91% to #43 and #3 Chinese sedan below the Geely Emgrand EC7 (#16) and Geely Vision (#38).

Previous post: China June 2017: Buick Excelle in the lead, market back up

One year ago: China First Half 2016: Tax cut, SUV wave spur 8% gain to record 12.8m

Full H1 2017 Top 82 All-brands and Top 531 All-models vs. Full H1 2016 figures below.

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