China November 2017: Focus on the All-new models

As is the tradition on BSCB, after covering November sales in detail, we now focus on the all-new locally produced launches so you can stay up-to-date on the fastest-evolving automobile market in the world. The November 2017 class has seven new entrants and for once all of them are Chinese-branded, including three SUVs, two electric cars, one MPV and one sedan and reflecting the trends we have seen this year in terms of most dynamic segments.

1. Venucia D60  (#106 – 7.821 sales)

Landing at a very impressive level, the Venucia D60 was introduced at last November’s Guangzhou Auto Show (like a lot of this month’s newcomers). Venucia is a low-cost brand manufactured by the joint-venture between Nissan and Dongfeng. Although there is nothing low cost about the D60 exterior design (the interior disappoints), its price is cut-throat like all nameplates under the Venucia brand: from 69.800 to 111.800 yuan (US$10.600-17.000). At 4.76m long, the D60 is based on the Nissan Sylphy/Sentra, a blockbuster in China (361.000 sales so far this year). It is powered by  a 1.6L engine offering 126 hp mated with a 6-speed manual or CVT transmission. The D60 is Venucia’s largest sedan to date, slotting above the D50/R50 tandem that is a thinly veiled previous generation Nissan Tiida.

Venucia D60 interior

Chinese sedans are rarely successful nation-wise but remain extremely popular in the countryside which is where Venucia is aiming at. In this context, the 7.820 sales reached this month already make it a success, and it will only need to remain at this level to be deemed a popular vehicle. For reference, the last time the D50/R50 hit a higher monthly figure was three years ago in January 2015 (10.426) with their personal best at 13.751 (Dec 2013). SUV-wise, the Venucia T70 peaked at 9.764 in December 2016 and the T90 at 6.119 last October. Very interestingly, local outlet autohome.com.cn pits it exclusively against foreign models – something Venucia should be very proud of – such as the Toyota Corolla (107.800-175.800 yuan), Chevrolet Cavalier (79.900-109.900), Buick Excelle (109.900-150.900) and VW Jetta (79.900-134.900) as well as the Nissan Sylphy (99.800-159.000).

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly sales

2. Hanteng X5 (#205 – 3.059 sales)

Hanteng is a new brand owned by Tech-New like Zotye, founded in 2013 but active since mid-2016. Unveiled at the Guangzhou Auto Show in November 2016, the X5 has taken a full year to hit the market and is the second offering of the brand after the larger X7, also an SUV. Even though the Chinese market would appear to already be overflowing with local brands, Hanteng has somehow managed to carve itself a place under the sun with over 70.000 X7 sold in a little more than a year, a very fine achievement indeed.

Hanteng X5 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn 

So far, the X7 has peaked at 6.031 units in December 2016 and the X5 is destined to an even more successful path given its incredible starting price of 59.800 yuan (US$9.100) with the top-end finish at 106.800 yuan (US$16.200)… As such, its prime competitors are the Zotye T300 (56.800-93.800), Soueast DX3 (67.900-105.900) and the über-blockbuster Baojun 510 (54.800-75.800). The X5 is good-looking and spacious, with an interior equally impressive as I noted in my review of the Guangzhou Auto Show 2017. Hanteng would want it at least past 5.000 monthly units recurrently.

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly sales

3. Geely Vision S1 (#261 – 1.716 sales)

Accumulating monthly volume all-time records for the past three months in a row and with no less than six nameplates breaking their own volume record last month, you would think Geely has used all its ammunitions for 2017. Not so. Presented at the last Guangzhou Auto Show, the Vision S1 is the fourth iteration of the Vision sub-brand after the SUV, X1 and X3. It is a hatchback – a rare proposition in China – with a hint of crossover, enough to qualify it as an SUV in Chinese standards. It uses the recipe for success we have seen is all Geely launches of the past two years: sleek exterior, sophisticated interior for a very tight price: from 69.900 to 102.900 yuan (US$10.600-15.600). Logically but somewhat inadequately, autohome.com.cn sees it competes with other small SUVs such as the Changan CS55 (83.900-132.900), Geely’s own Emgrand GS (77.800-111.800), the Baojun 510 (54.800-75.800) and Geely’s Vision SUV (74.900-101.900), all slightly mismatched. That’s because there isn’t any Chinese hatchback crossover competing straight on with the Vision S1, except perhaps the Chery Tiggo 3x, absent from autohome.com.cn’s comparison set. The fact it fills an empty niche in the market means that even more so than the last 24 months’ worth of Geely launches, it has a shot at stardom. Although we don’t see it stop at 10.000 or even 15.000 monthly sales, Geely should be content with a 8.000 monthly average..

Bar for success: 8.000 monthly sales

4. Brilliance V6 (#360 – 525 sales)

Brilliance is having a terrible year with overall sales imploding 44% over the first 11 months of 2017 to just 83.015 units, so this new V6, also unveiled at last month’s Guangzhou Auto Show, plays the role of messiah for the brand. Especially as the carmaker has been overly reliant on a handful of SUVs to keep its sales coming: 64% of its 2016 volume was delivered by the lonely V3, down an abysmal 75% so far this year. Thankfully, this new V6 looks the part and takes Brilliance design towards more modern times.

Brilliance V6 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

It’s the marque’s largest SUV to-date and does have a strong sales potential indeed, but its success is far from guaranteed, and will be a good test of Brilliance’s survival skills: it is certainly not healthy to be that reliant on its latest launches as sedan sales don’t seem to be able to truly take off. Slated for a December launch, there is no detailed pricing info yet for the V6. The V3 peaked at a smashing 21.117 units in December 2015 but the V6 cannot aim that high, with 7.500 monthly sales a more reasonable target.

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly sales

5. Dongfeng Junfeng E17 (#378 – 300 sales)

Another new entry in the burgeoning electric car segment, the Dongfeng Junfeng E17 announces a 320 km range in normal driving conditions (490 km at constant 60 km/h speed) and could aim at reaching 1.000 monthly units, just as its sister the ER30 topped 5.000 sales since its launch last June. Not much information trickling down for now.

Bar for success: 1.000 monthly sales

6. Yema Spica (#419 – 60 sales)

Yema is down 8% this year, just under 28.000 sales with its best-seller the T70 down 32% and the new T80 struggling  under 7.000 units in ten months. On paper then, the Spica, the brand’s very first foray in the MPV segment, is a good idea, but it’s a tough ask to rely on this vehicle to revive the brand’s fortunes.

The Yema Spica interior betrays its price. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn 

MPVs are not in Yema’s DNA, but you can snap this sleek looking wagon from an incredibly low 59.800 to 69.800 yuan (US$ 9.100-10.600), that’s significantly less than the starting prices of both the T70 (69.800 yuan) and T80 (89.800 yuan). Armed with this cut-throat pricing, the Spica could aim at stealing a few customers from the Huansong 7, BYD Song MAX, Baojun 730 or Chana Oushang A800.

Bar for success: 2.000 monthly sales

7. Zhi Dou D3 (#428 – 33 sales)

In the space of just over a year, Zhi Dou, a partnership between Geely and Xindayang Group, has imposed itself as one of the main actors in the electric car segment, with its D2, one of the stars of local car-sharing schemes, having already convinced 50.000 buyers, including over 4.000 in November.

This D3 is similar in terms of size but more modern looking, and priced between 89.800 and 109.800 yuan (US$13.600-16.700). It will compete with Zhi Dou’s own D2, the Chery eQ1 and Zotye Z100 EV, and could take Zhi Dou to the next sales level in China.

Bar for success: 2.000 monthly sales

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