After detailing Chinese July wholesales, it is now time for our monthly review of the new locally-produced launches. This way you can stay up-to-the-minute on the latest in the world’s largest car market. After two months with an avalanche of novelties, July marks a pause with just 3 new launches. But looking at the list of new vehicles unveiled at the Chengdu Motor Show a few weeks back, we are in for yet another wave in the coming months. For the first time all new models launched in China this month are EVs: one sedan, one hatch and one crossover. To thoroughly understand the dynamics at play on the Chinese market, make sure you regularly consult our Exclusive Guide to all 170 active Chinese Brands, updated live. Most recent developments have been the addition of Voyah, the update of Hengchi and the deletion of Lifan and Zotye.
1. BYD Han (#242 – 1.205 sales)
After the Yuan, Song and Tang, BYD continues on its new nomenclature of Chinese dynasties with this Han sedan available in three EV variants and one PHEV version. Ten years in the making, this is BYD’s new flagship sedan and some analysts are already saying it could be the vehicle that finally allows BYD to breakthrough in Europe and the U.S. It is also BYD’s first vehicle to sport its new lithium iron phosphate battery pack, called Blade, which the carmaker is aiming to sell to others. Although the expression “Tesla-killer” has been overused, it is appropriate here. The Han is priced from ¥219.800-279.500 (26.700-33.980€ or US$31.700-40.300) which entirely undercuts the Tesla Model 3 (¥291.800-419.800). Not only that, but at 4.98m long, the Han is much bigger than the 4.69m-long Model 3 and exactly the same length as the 4.98m-long Tesla Model S which priced from ¥756.900 to ¥856.900 (92.000-104.200€ or US$109.200-123.600)…
BYD Han interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Two months ago we covered the arrival of the Xpeng P7 on the Chinese market and this is the only serious Tesla competitor, priced a little higher than the Han at ¥229.900-349.000 yuan (27.950-42.400€ or US$33.200-50.300). Like the Model 3 and P7, the Han could also steal some sales from such combustion superstars as the BMW 3 Series (¥293.900-409.900), Audi A4L (¥305.800-396.800) and Mercedes C-Class (¥307.800-474.800) even though this is not its main objective. The P7 sold 1.725 units in July and the Tesla Model 3 sold 11.014, adding up to almost 55.000 in 6 months. Demand for cool EV sedan is clearly there in China, and given BYD’s long history of blockbuster success in the segment it is fair to assume that the Han is the first Model 3/S competitor that packs true volume potential. How high is the big question though. We’d want regular stints around 5.000 monthly units to call the Han a success.
Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units
2. Buick Velite 7 (#315 – 439 sales)
Coming after the Velite 5, a rebadged Chevrolet Volt, and the Velite 6, a station wagon available in EV and PHEV variants and renewed this month, the Velite 7 is a small, 4.26m-long EV crossover sliding below the Encore (4.29m) and Encore GX (4.46m). It is priced between ¥179.800 and ¥199.800 (21.850-24.300€ or US$25.900-28.800) which seems counterintuitive as it is dearer than the larger Velite 6 priced from ¥159.800 to ¥199.800. The Velite 7 will compete in price with the likes of the GAC Aion V (¥159.600-239.600), Ciimo XN-V (¥169.800-179.800), Hyundai Encino EV (¥172.800-198.800), BYD Song Pro EV (¥179.800-219.800) and Toyota C-HR EV (¥225.800-249.800).
Buick Velite 7 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
On paper the small EV crossover segment seems loaded with potential in China as it is one of the most popular ICE segments and should naturally lead to strong EV sales, but so far this hasn’t really been the case, the BYD Song Pro EV being much larger at 4.65m long. EV sales remain in majority a fleet phenomenon in China, and these favour mini city cars and sedans while the cool kids have splurged on larger SUVs such as the NIO ES6 or LI One. Previous lack of success of the Velite series in China isn’t encouraging either, with the Velite 5 peaking at a measly 646 wholesales in October 2018 and the Velite 6 reaching 3.526 units last May but only scoring four 1.000+ sales months since its launch in April 2019. On the plus side Buick is experiencing a strong resurgence lately with a 36.6% uptick in July, so the timing could be right for the Velite 7 to break the spell.
Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units
3. Ora White Cat (#337 – 277 sales)
Ora is a brand by Great Wall dedicated to affordable (read low-cost) EVs. It has seesawed its way into the Chinese charts ever since its September 2018 launch, peaking at 7.031 wholesales in March 2019 but stuck below 3.000 monthly units for a full year before this July (3.064), which coincides with a revamp of the brand. Ora is seemingly ditching the confronting IQ coupe SUV and has renamed the R1 city hatch “Black Cat”. It turns out Great Wall marketers do have a sense of humour! Enter the White Cat, a second city-sized hatch with a boxy shape that is reminiscent of the Scion xB.
Ora White Cat interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The White Cat is priced from ¥75.800 to ¥88.800 (9.200-10.800€ or US$10.900-12..800), meaning it overlaps greatly with the Black Cat (¥69.800-84.800) which may be a mistake for Ora. The White Cat enters an overcrowded city EV segment that also includes the Chery eQ1 (¥59,800-78.800), BYD e1 (¥59.900-79.900), Baojun E300 (¥64.800-84.800), Leap Motor T03 (¥65.800-75.800) and Changan E-Star (¥69.800-74.800). The Ora IQ peaked at 3.029 units in March 2019 but hasn’t sold more than 35 monthly units this year while the Black Cat, ex-R1, hit a high of 4.002 wholesales also in March 2019 but has been both more successful and more regular, keeping over 1.200 monthly units for all but three months in its 19-month career. We’d want the White Cat to hit similar targets to take Ora to the next level.
Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units