China July 2015: Baojun 560 lands with a splash in market down again

Baojun 560 China July 2015As expected, the Baojun 560 is an instant blockbuster.

* NOW UPDATED with the Top 360 All-local models and Top 65 brands *

According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, after dropping for the first time in 6 years in June, sales of new light vehicles in China decline for the second straight month in July at -7% to just 1.27 million registrations, the lowest monthly score since February 2014. Thanks to a good start of the year, sales are still up 3% so far in 2015 to 11.36 million. Medium/heavy commercial vehicle sales are unavailable for now. The SUV segment is the only one showing gains with sales up a stunning 41% on July 2014 to 403.091 deliveries. Reversely, sedans freefall 19% to 694.069 units, MPVs are down 8% to 107.807 and microvans down 16% to 74.300. The imploding of the sedan market is unheard of in China as we enter unchartered territory where an affordable SUV offering are becoming vital for a brand’s sales performance in the #1 market in the world.

VW Golf China July 2015. Picture courtesy we seeing the end of Volkswagen’s blanket domination of the Chinese market?

The brands ranking is turned upside down with manufacturers displaying completely opposite behaviours. The “big bang” of the month is perennial leader Volkswagen tumbling down 31% to 152,300 sales (imports excluded), pulling its year-to-date total down 10% to 1.52 million units. Heavily reliant on sedans which account for 87% of its total sales in China this month, the German manufacturer pays the price for its weakness in the booming SUV segment, with even its Tiguan down 9% year-on-year. All its star models are falling sharply in July: the Lavida (-16%), Sagitar (-36%), Jetta (-43%), Santana (-42% despite the inclusion of the Gran Santana hatch), Golf (-11%), Bora (-40%), Polo (-50%), Magotan (-44%) and Passat (-49%). In terms of year-on-year sales evolution, Volkswagen has never been in such a fragile position in China, a market it entered 30 years ago.

Honda XR-V China July 2015. Picture courtesy of sales are up 50% year-on-year in China.

Toyota snaps up the 2nd place in the July brands ranking with sales up a splendid 18% to 96.400 units (imports excluded), taking a strong option on retaining the #1 worldwide spot above Volkswagen, while Honda takes off in third place: +86% (without imports) or +50% (incl. imports) thanks to its XR-V and Vezel twin crossovers adding up to 20.289 sales. Nissan is up 3% but down 14% when including imports, Hyundai slips down 32%, Ford is down 19% (-6% incl. imports & Lincoln) and General Motors is down 4% with locally-assembled Chevrolet sales imploding at -44% and Buick at -7%. Notice Peugeot (-27%), Skoda (-27%) and Citroen (-42%) also paying the price for their weakening SUV offerings.

Mercedes GLA China Julyl 2015. Picture courtesy wolfexp.netMercedes bucks the trend and improves its Chinese sales by 42% in July.

Chinese carmakers see varied fortunes: Changan is up 8% to lead the pack at #8 overall, Haval is up 27% to 38.851 units but with its namesake brand down 66%, overall Great Wall sales are down 2%. With the arrival of the 730 MPV and 560 SUV (see further down), Baojun sales are up 11-fold year-on-year (+975%!) to 33.325 whereas Wuling is down 41% to 32.185 not including microvans. Beijing Auto (+125%), JAC (+174%), GAC Trumpchi (+143%) and Brilliance (+39%) are reaping the benefits of model ranges now completely dominated by SUVs. The luxury game is also changing (all figures include imports unlike the raking below the jump): Audi is down 13% to 42.267 deliveries, BMW down 7% to 32.226 but Mercedes surges 42% to 29.540 units thanks partly to the success of the GLA crossover shooting up to #69 and 6.160 sales. This score earns Mercedes the premium pole position worldwide with 149.753 deliveries (+15%), edging past BMW at 147.513 (+6%) with Audi in third place at 146.100 (+1%).

Toyota Corolla China July 2015. Picture courtesy of auto.ifeng.comLike in June, the Toyota Corolla is the third best-selling nameplate in China.

In the models ranking, the Wuling Hongguang (-42%) and VW Lavida (-16%) stay on top but drop sharply, while the Toyota Corolla (+53%) rounds up the podium for the 2nd consecutive month. The Haval H6 is up one spot but down 13%, the Baojun 730 up two to #5, the Toyota Vios up 48% to #14, the BMW 5 Series slices its June ranking in two to jump to a spectacular 15th place overall (#9 among sedans!) and the GAC Trumpchi GS4 leaps 28 spots on June to land at #16 with 12.138 deliveries, meaning it is already the #3 SUV in the country behind just the Haval H6 (23.088) and VW Tiguan (17.466). The JAC Refine S3 is up 9 spots to #18, the Geely EC7 up 107% and 12 ranks to #23, the ChangAn CS75 up 111% to #24, Beijing Auto Huansu S3 up 17 to #26 and the Haval H2 up 12 to #36.

GAC Trumpchi GS4 China July 2015Taking the Chinese market by storm: the GAC Trumpchi GS4

As expected, the Baojun 560 SUV is an instant hit with Chinese customers, landing directly inside the Top 50 for its first month of sales at #42 with 9.158 deliveries in July. Among recent launches, apart from the GAC Trumpchi GS4 already a blockbuster, the Brilliance V3 is up 14 spots on June to #64 with 6.751 sales, already accounting for 53% of the brand’s domestic sales this month, the Changfeng Leopaard CS10 is up 44 ranks to break into the Top 100 for the first time at #91, the BYD Qin is up a further 15 spots to do the same at #85 and a record 4.030 sales, the Geely GC9 is up 31 ranks to #113 and 3.200 units, the Buick Verano up 43 to #122 and the BYD Tang up 41 to #231.

Previous post: China 1st Half 2015: Domestic carmakers regain ground in shy market

Previous month: China June 2015: First monthly year-on-year decline in over 6 years

One year ago: China July 2014: Market up 10% thanks to MPV and SUV sales

Full July 2015 Top 360 All-local models and Top 60 brands below.

The rest of this content is for members only.
Log In Register

China 1st Half 2015: Domestic carmakers regain ground in shy market

Haval H6 China June 2015. Picture courtesy Haval H6 leaps to third place overall so far in 2015.

* See the Top 391 All-local models by clicking on the title *

* NOW UPDATED with the Top 10 best-selling Light Commercials *

Thanks to Automotive News China for helping compile this article.

If over the period the Chinese new light vehicle market is still up by 5% to 10.10 million units while sales of all new vehicles (including buses and commercial trucks) are up 1% to 11.85 million units, the unthinkable happened in June when the market actually declined year-on-year for the first time since December 2008. Imports are hit even harder at -22% over the first 5 months of 2015 to 434.423 units: SUV imports are down 20% to 278.022, sedan imports down 27% to 136.354 and MPV imports down 9% to 20.047, according to the China Automobile Dealer Association.

Wuling Hongguang China June 2015. Picture courtesy of cheshi.com2The Wuling Hongguang is still #1 in China but drops 19%.

However as Automotive News China points out, there is no need to panic. And this for 3 main reasons. First, Chinese sales look weak in 2015 because of an extraordinarily high base at the same time last year when sales where inflated by panic buying induced by rumors some municipalities would restrict car sales in order to ease traffic congestion and pollution. In Nanjing, panic buying pushed sales up 60% over H1 ’14 and that market is now down 19%. Second, the Chinese stock market has had a double negative effect: when it surged, consumers invested in it instead of buying a car, now that it is tumbling down, investors can’t afford to buy the luxury car they were planning.

VW Jetta China June 2015. Picture courtesy of Volkswagen Group, although down 4%, still has the 3 best-selling sedans in China.

Third, the method of Chinese sales reporting has changed this year, switching from wholesale to retail. Given Chinese laws allow automakers to set sales targets without consulting dealers, they have dumped excess car inventories on dealers, making wholesale deliveries higher than retail ones. With most automakers now reporting retail sales – closer to reality – the overall figure looks more disappointing that it really would if compared with retail sales in 2014. These 3 reasons will smooth themselves out over the next year or so and the market should start growing again, lifted by exceptional demand in more rural areas.

Baojun 730 China June 2015. Picture courtesy of Baojun 730 have hit Chinese roads in a year.

The Volkswagen Group is down 4% to 1.74 million units: the first time its First Half sales decline in China since 2005 when they fell 14%. General Motors is up 4% to 1.72 million deliveries, saved by SUV and MPV sales. In the detail: Buick is up 4% to 436.226 units, Chevrolet is up 0.6% to 317.408, Cadillac up 14% to 39.444, Baojun up 4-fold to 159.511 deliveries thanks to the 730 – this trend should continue in H2 with the arrival of the 560 SUV presented at Auto Shanghai, but Wuling is down 5.5% to 764.172 units.

JAC Refine S3 China June 2015. Picture courtesy JAC Refine S3 is the third best-selling SUV in China so far in 2015.

The Wuling Hongguang remains the best-selling vehicle in China by far but sees its volume reduced by 19% to 313.300 units above the VW Lavida at 233.200 (-11%). The top of the models ranking brings to light the return to form of domestic manufacturers in their home market rather spectacularly: the Haval H6 is up 20% to climb onto the podium with 172.000 deliveries while the Baojun 730 confirms its status of most successful nameplate launch in the history of automobile in China, adding up to 158.000 units so far in 2015 and 278.000 since introduction.

Haval H2 China June 2015. Picture courtesy H2

The VW Santana (-6%), Jetta (-2%) and Nissan Sylphy (-2%) follow. Note that if Volkswagen underperforms in China this year, the German carmaker still has the 3 best-selling sedans in the country and places 6 nameplates in the overall 2015 Top 12: Lavida (#2), Santana (#5), Jetta (#6), Sagitar (#9), Tiguan (#11) and Passat (#12). Keeping with sedans, notice also the Toyota Corolla (+156%), Geely EC7 (+56%) and ChangAn Eado (+35%) making sparks.

Top 10 best-selling SUVs in China – H1 2015:

Pos Model 2015 /14 2014 Pos
1 Haval H6 172,006 20% 143,119 1
2 VW Tiguan 131,563 3% 127,549 2
3 JAC Refine S3 91,859 new 0
4 ChangAn CS35 88,754 65% 53,712 8
5 ChangAn CS75 86,909 1356% 5,971 38
6 Haval H2 77,158 new 0
7 Beijing Auto Huansu S3 72,822 new 0
8 Nissan X-Trail 70,253 87% 37,515 17
9 Ford Kuga 68,396 3% 66,225 5
10 Buick Envision 65,851 new 0

The SUV segment is the one where the progress of domestic manufacturers is the most spectacular. As we have studied in the Chinese Q1 2015 update, the pace at which Chinese carmakers have launched successful and affordable SUVs represents an additional pressure towards foreign carmakers and has played a significant role in the struggling of Volkswagen so far this year. Over the period, 6 of the Top 7 best-selling SUVs in the country are Chinese vs. just one at the same time one year ago! The JAC Refine S3, ChangAn CS35, CS75, Haval H2 and Beijing Auto Huansu S3 have all hit the bullseye with Chinese customers, while in the foreign aisle the Nissan X-Trail (+87%) and Buick Envision have seen the most impressive surges.

Ford Escort China June 2015. Picture courtesy of auto.163.comFord Escort

All-in-all, it’s an astounding 76 all-new locally-produced nameplates that have made their entrance in the Chinese sales charts over the past 12 months. If the Baojun 730 evolves at stratospheric heights, Ford must be commended for the launch of the Escort which was a risky move that was bound to cut deep into Focus numbers (-32%). The Escort shines at #18 and just under 107.000 deliveries. Further down the ladder, the Toyota Levin (#45), BYD S7 (#46), Honda Vezel (#59) and its twin the XR-V (#63) as well as the Hyundai ix25 (#68), VW Lamando (#72), Haval H1 (#81), Kia K4 (#86), Citroen C3-XR (#106) and Venucia T70 (#112): all are instant blockbusters and a testimony of the incredible buoyancy the Chinese market is still enjoying.

Wuling Hongguang V China April 2015. Picture courtesy Hongguang V

Zooming in on the Light Commercials market down a harsh 27% to 1.937.497 deliveries, the Foton Light Truck takes the lead thanks to sales down ‘just’ 15% to 135.000 while all microvans, once reigning supreme over the segment, implode: the Wuling Sunshine (#2) is down 29%, the Wuling Rongguang (#4) is down 43% and the Chana Mini Bus (#6) down 41%. The new LCV trend in China is towards micro pickups – with the Wuling Mini Truck up 10% to 109.400 sales and #1 in June – and larger minivans. Perfect illustration: the thunderous arrival of the Wuling Hongguang V, a step up from the Rongguang and in essence the commercial version of the best-seller Hongguang MPV. The V sells a huge 119.538 units in H1 but seems to already have lost some steam by June at 15.999 sales after hitting 30.000 units in March.

Baojun 560 China June 2015. Picture courtesy Baojun 560 could help keep SUV sales growing fast in H2 2015.

What’s next for China? We touched on this in STRATEGY: Where is China headed?. In the coming months, we should see MPV sales flatten further but SUV deliveries continue to rise, especially with the imminent arrival of the Baojun 560.

Previous post: China June 2015: First monthly year-on-year decline in over 6 years

Q1 2015 post: China 1st Quarter 2015: Baojun 730 and Ford Escort superstars

FY 2014 post: China Full Year 2014: Growth cools to 7% to record 23.5 million sales

One year ago: China 6 months 2014: Santana makes it 4 Volkswagens in Top 6

Full H1 2015 Top 391 All-local models and Top 10 LCVs vs. Full H1 2014 figures below.

The rest of this content is for 1 Year members only.
Log In Register

China LCV June 2015: Wuling Mini Truck takes off at +66%

Wuling Mini Truck China June 2015. Picture courtesy Wuling Mini Truck is the best-selling LCV in China in June.

* See the Top 10 best-selling LCV by clicking on the title *

The June LCV rankings in China confirm once again a trend we described in detail in April: the move away from bargain basement microvans towards micro pickups and larger minivans. The perfect illustration of this trend towards micro pickups is the pole position of the Wuling Mini Truck this month with sales up an incredible 66% to 27.026 units in an LCV segment down 16% year-on-year to 305.247 registrations. Its minivan variant the Wuling Rongguang is for its part up 4% to 2nd place at 24.545 units while the Foton Light Truck, #1 in May and year-to-date, is up 41% on June 2014 to #3 and 18.753 deliveries. Sovereign a year ago, the cheap Wuling Sunshine (-40%) and Chana Minibus (-64%) implode. Meanwhile the Wuling Hongguang V is steadily losing steam after an explosive start: down 11% on May to 15.999 sales.

Previous post: China June 2015: First monthly year-on-year decline in over 6 years

Previous month: China LCV May 2015: Foton Light Truck outsells all Wuling models

One year ago: China June 2014: Now updated with Top 10 LCVs

Full June 2015 Top 10 Ranking Table below.

The rest of this content is for members only.
Log In Register

China June 2015: First monthly year-on-year decline in over 6 years

GAC Trumpchi GS4 China June 2015The GAC Trumpchi GS4 sells 10.723 units for its second month in market.

* See the Top 366 All-local models by clicking on eh title *

This is it. I have been correcting numerous analysts describing a “slowing down” of the Chinese market over the first half of 2015, saying that it was instead the growth rate that was slowing down, not the market as a whole. Until this month. In June, sales of new light vehicles in China are down 3% year-on-year to 1.51 million units, the first monthly sales decline since December 2008, while total all-vehicle sales are down 2% to 1.8 million deliveries. In June, only SUVs stayed afloat with sales up a gargantuan 38% on June 2014 to 448.200 units while MPVs are now down 1% to 126.000, sedans down a harsh 15% to 846.200 deliveries and microvans down 22% to 91.000. The year-to-date total is still in positive halfway through 2015 at +5% to 10.10 million light vehicles while sales of all new vehicles (including buses and commercial trucks) are up just 1% to 11.85 million units.

Toyota Corolla China June 2015. Picture courtest of Toyota Corolla is up 3-fold year-on-year to #3 overall with 25.685 sales.

Select manufacturer results show very different evolutions. General Motors saw its sales go up just 0.4% to 246.066 units despite price cuts of up to 20%, whereas for the Volkswagen Group it is a nightmarish month: sales are down 17% year-on-year to 250.000 sales with the VW brand down an abysmal 22% and Skoda down 15%. Ford sales are down 3% this month to 83.506 deliveries. The luxury market sees Audi drop 6% to 47.831 units, BMW up just 0.2% to 40.200 and Mercedes surge 38% to 32.507 sales. Japanese manufacturers are holding the right end of the stick: Toyota announced sales up 42% for June at 100.600 units, its largest year-on-year gain since February 2014, Honda is up 26% to 73.381 sales on the back of blockbuster results for the XR-V/Vezel twin baby SUVs, Mazda is up 14% while Nissan’s gains were a much more modest 0.1% at 93.600 deliveries.

Ford Kuga China June 2015. Picture courtesy Ford Kuga sells a record 16.068 units this month.

In the models ranking, the Wuling Hongguang reclaims the lead off the VW Lavida despite losing more ground year-on-year at -29% vs. -17%. The Toyota Corolla is up a meteoric 216% due to a transition month between two generations a year ago to land directly in third place with 25.685 registrations, its strongest monthly result so far in 2015. Note that with the Levin (12.382) and Corolla EX (3.623), total Corolla sales add up to a stunning 41.690 units which would earn it the overall pole position by far (Hongguang: 36.310).

Nissan X-Trail China June 2015. Picture courtesy auto.qq.comAll-time record 15.558 sales and 19th place for the Nissan X-Trail.

The Nissan Sylphy is solid in 4th place, the Haval H6 and Baojun 730 both recede two spots to #5 and #7 respectively and the Buick Excelle GT is boosted by its facelift to #9. If the VW Tiguan is up 11% to a splendid 6th position, the Polo up 39% to #15 and the Passat up a timid 1% to #20, all other 6 VW nameplates placed in the Top 40 display double-digit year-on-year drops: Lavida (-17%), Jetta (-22%), Santana (-30%), Sagitar (-39%), Golf (-16%) and Bora (-41%). Ford compensates the freefalling of the Focus (-42%) by a very strong #14 spot for the Escort at 17.513 sales, while the Kuga is up 47% on June 2014 to a record 16.068 sales in 16th place and the Edge is already above the bar for success we fixed at #70 and 8.000 units last month at launch: up a spectacular 63 spots to #56 with 8.416 deliveries.

Ford Edge China June 2015Ford Edge

As described above, the SUV segment is the only one left to display year-on-year gains in June, and it shows in the models ranking. Belo the Haval H6, VW Tiguan and Ford Kuga, the ChangAn CS75 breaks its ranking record at #18 thanks to sales up 4-fold on June 2014 to 15.680, the Nissan X-Trail breaks into the monthly Top 20 for the first time at #19 with an all-time high 15.558 units (previous best: 14.121 last November), the Buick Envision remains solid at #23 as do the JAC Refine S3 (#27) and ChangAn CS35 (#28).

Honda XR-V China June 2015. Picture courtesy Honda XR-V and Vezel twins add up to 21.000 deliveries in June.

The Honda XR-V (record 10.956 sales), BYD S7 (10.865) and Beijing Auto Huansu S3 (10.816) all stay at stratospheric heights, but the most impressive performance this month is arguably delivered by the GAC Trumpchi GS4: for its 2nd month in market it is up 66% and 36 ranks to a splendid 44th spot… Notice also the Honda Vezel at #46 (total HR-V/Vezel twins: 21.000 sales – equivalent to a combined 8th spot), Haval H2 at 10.010 units, the Zotye T600 up 102% year-on-year to #60 and the Brilliance V3 – the third SUV launched in May to improve drastically on an already very satisfying first month: up 36 ranks to #78.

Further down, the BYD Qin continues its unstoppable climb: up 16 spots on May and 281% year-on-year to a record #110 and 4.015 sales, the Mercedes GLA is up 69 ranks to #111, the Changfeng Leopaard CS10 up 80 to #135, Geely GC9 up 31 to #144 and VW Gran Santana up 119 to #188.

Buick Verano China June 2015. Picture courtesy Verano

There are only two new nameplates making their entrance in the Chinese ranking in June, and they are all rather shy for now compared to the SUV launches from last month: the Buick Verano, introduced at this year’s Auto Shanghai, lands at #165 with 1.973 sales while the BYD Tang – the hybrid variant of the S7 – arrives at #272 with 412 units over one year after premiering at the 2014 Beijing Auto Show.

BYD Tang China June 2015BYD Tang

If the Verano should fine its way to the Top 50 very quickly, an arrival inside the Top 20 will mean some cannibalisation either from the Excelle and/or the Excelle GT. Much harder to predict the Tang’s career as this is an exclusively hybrid model. Beating the Qin sedan at its own game would open up a new trend towards energy efficient SUVs.

Previous post: China May 2015: Focus on the all-new models

Previous month: China April 2015: Wuling Hongguang, VW Group tumble in slow market

One year ago: China June 2014: Audi breaks record in market up 11%

Full June 2015 Top 366 All-local model Ranking Table below.

The rest of this content is for members only.
Log In Register

China LCV May 2015: Foton Light Truck outsells all Wuling models

Foton Forland China May 2015Foton Forland is the best-selling commercial in China in May.

* See the Top 10 best-selling models by clicking on the title *

According to data published by LMC Automotive, 319.089 new light commercials found a buyer in China in May, adding up to 1.632.250 year-to-date. The Foton Light Truck outsells all Wuling models to take the lead of the ranking both this month with 23.064 deliveries (-1%) and year-to-date at 116.288 units. It distances no less than four Wuling: the Sunshine (-39%), Mini Truck (+14%), Hongguang V (new) and Rongguang (-41%).

Wuling Hongguang V China May 2015Wuling Hongguang V

Model Cat May sales vs. Apr 2015 vs. May 2014
Wuling Hongguang MPV 34,508 -35% -31%
Wuling Sunshine Micro 20,655 -2% -39%
Wuling Mini Truck Mini PU 18,067 2% 14%
Wuling Hongguang V Micro 18,018 -29% new
Wuling Rongguang Micro 17,966 3% -41%
Wuling Journey MPV 3,509 -13% new

Where are all the Wuling buyers going?

The evolution of each Wuling commercial confirms the trend we described last month: Chinese buyers are abandoning traditional low-end microvans to migrate towards mini pickups and larger microvans such as the Hongguang V. However, the May picture is particularly gloomy and indicates that the honeymoon period is over for both the Journey (-13% on April) and Hongguang V (-29%). On top of it, the Wuling Hongguang, traditionally evolving at stratospheric heights, takes the hardest year-on-year hit of its 4 year-career at -31% this month. With no other brand or model benefitting from this trend, this may mean Chinese buyers could have run out of commercials to purchase for now…

Previous month: China LCV April 2015: Wuling Hongguang V takes control

One year ago: China May 2014 – Now updated with Top 10 LCV

Full May 2015 Top 10 models Ranking Table below.

The rest of this content is for members only.
Log In Register

China May 2015: Focus on the all-new models

GAC Trumpchi GS4 China May 2015The GAC Trumpchi GS4 starts with a bang at #80 in China.

It’s now time to go into the detail of the all-new models landing into the largest new vehicle market in the world: China. As always this only concerns the models that have kick-started local production as imports data is still very patchy for China. After welcoming 6 new entrants both in March and April, we have 5 new nameplates in May, however 3 of them are already either inside or within throwing distance of the Top 100. No surprise here: they are all SUVs.

1. GAC Trumpchi GS4 (#80 with 6.451 sales)

GAC and particularly its Trumpchi sub-brand (brand?) is one of the most dynamic Chinese manufacturers of the moment, achieving rather satisfying designs of late. The GS4, unveiled at Detroit in January, is a prime example and has even been singled out by GAC as the company’s first nameplate to be introduced in the U.S. market, with a launched date aimed at 2017. For now it has hit its domestic market with a bang, landing directly at #80 with 6.451 sales in May. That’s already 60% of all Trumpchi sales in China this month! In comparison, the only other Trumpchi SUV, the GS5, landed at #200 for its fist month of sales in April 2012 and reached all-time bests of 9.406 sales in December 2014 and #56 in Dec 2013 – scores within reach for the GS4. It is now down 69% with the arrival of the smaller, cheaper and more modern GS4, sharply priced between 99.800 and 146.800 yuan (US$16.100-23.600). The GS4 could be the nameplate to take the Trumpchi brand to the next level, with the only other model to reach similar sales levels so far being the GA3S at a personal best of #73 and 8.585 sales last December. If the GS4 had started lower, I would have placed its bar for success around the level it has achieved this month, so let’s give it a stretch target.

Bar for success: #50 or 10.000 monthly sales

Brilliance V3 China May 2015. Picture courtesy

2. Brilliance V3 (#114 with 4.297 units)

The Brilliance V3 is the second all-new model for May that is completely reshaping its brand’s sales landscape in China. Making its entrance directly at #114 with 4.297 sales, it is not only Brilliance’s best-seller as early as for its first month in market, but it also manages to already represent 43% of the manufacturer’s total sales at home, lifting the SUV share in Brilliance sales to a whopping 73% (7.312 out of 10.055). This trend is set to accelerate with the V3 reaching cruising sales levels. As I described in my coverage of Auto Shanghai, Lifan, another domestic manufacturer struggling in the sedan segment, is taking a leaf out of Brilliance’s book by launching 3 SUVs in the space of a few months. Interestingly, the launch of the V3 has not affected sales of the larger and older V5 in any way: it is up 92% year-on-year in May to 3.015 deliveries. The V3 is very competitively priced from 65.700 to 102.700 yuan (US$10.600-16.500) and is aiming as such blockbusters as the Haval H1, JAC Refine S3 and ChangAn CS35. First signs are these other affordable small domestic SUVs  are pulling the Brilliance V3 up in their wake rather than obliterating it. The SUV segment still has very long legs in China.

Bar for success: #75 or 8.000 monthly sales

Ford Edge China May 2015. Picture courtesy

3. Ford Edge (#119 with 3.848 deliveries)

One of only two foreign new entrants this month in China, the Ford Edge is the first rocket launched by Ford this year in its plan to ramp up its SUV presence in China in order to benefit as much as possible from the current SUV craze affecting Chinese car buyers. Priced between 249.800 and 429.800 yuan (US$40.200 – 69.200), the seven seat Edge will be followed by an all-new Everest produced in Nanchang, Jiangxi from this July onwards and on sale in October. And the Edge’s first month of sales is great news for Ford: despite being priced markedly higher than both the 94.800-127.800 yuan Ecosport and the 193.800-275.800 yuan Kuga, it manages to land just below the former (#117, -45%) and at around 40% of the sales of the latter (#54, -15%), however both the Ecosport and the Kiga lose ground year-on-year this month, hinting at a possible partial cannibalisation.

Bar for success: #70 or 8.000 monthly sales

BAIC Senova CC China May 2015. Picture courtesy

4. Beijing Auto Senova CC (#253 with 657 sales)

The aggressive-looking Beijing Auto Senova CC is the performance variant of the Senova D60, with the underpinnings of the Saab 9-3 Aero. Aggressively priced between 99.800 and 149.800 yuan (US$16.100-24.100), the Senova CC is powered by either a turbo 1.8L or turbo 2.0L engine. Although launched last September, the Senova D60 bizarrely still hasn’t appeared in the Chinese ranking. In any case, sales pretensions are rather modest for this model. The best-seller in the Senova range is currently the D50 which peaked at an astounding #54 in March but is down to #177 in May, #98 year-to-date. The D20 sedan ranks at #159 in 2014, the X65 SUV is #202 and the D70 sedan is #328.

Bar for success: #175 or 2.000 monthly sales

VW Gran Santana China May 2015. Picture courtesy

5. VW Gran Santana (#307 with 155 units)

Following the tremendous success of the Gran Lavida, Shanghai-Volkswagen is taking the plunge into the hatchback world with the Gran Santana, priced between 96.900 and 138.900 yuan (US$15.600-22.400), a 14% premium on the sedan. So far this year, the Gran Lavida accounts for 22% of Lavida sales, with a peak at 25% this month – effectively enabling the Lavida into the overall pole position. Potentially in anticipation of the Gran Santana launch, Santana sales are down a harsh 33% in May to 19.146 units with year-to-date sales stable at 133.625. Applying roughly the same market share the Gran Lavida has reached vs. the Lavida gives us an average of just under 5.000 monthly sales for the Gran Santana. Anything bigger will prompt Volkswagen to rethink the prority they give to sedans in China and will trigger the launch of a Gran Jetta and Gran Bora, equivalents of the Gran Santana and Gran Lavida but this time through the 2nd Volkswagen joint venture in China: with FAW.

Bar for success: #100 or 5.000 monthly sales

Previous month: China April 2015: Focus on the all-new models

One year ago: China May 2014: Focus on the all-new models

Overall May 2015 post: China April 2015: Wuling Hongguang, VW Group tumble in slow market

China May 2015: Wuling Hongguang, VW Group tumble in slow market

VW Lavida China May 2015. Picture courtesy VW Lavida outsells the Wuling Hongguang to #1 for the first time in two years.

* See the Top 368 All-local models by clicking on the title *

Light vehicles sales are up just 1.2% year-on-year in May in China, with passenger cars up 3.8% to 1.57 million units despite a price war that has accelerated across both local manufacturers and foreign carmakers. The latest factor to hit the Chinese car market is the exceptional strength of the local stock market: the Shanghai Composite has more than doubled in the past year. According to Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the Passenger Car Association interviewed by Bloomberg, “the stock market is like a pump that sucked up all the money. People are not buying cars, no matter how big the incentives. People want their money in the stock market.” Add this to a cooling growth of the economy in general and the license plate restriction imposed by an increasing number of cities to curb pollution, and we are close to getting to a standstill in China – a situation that no one has experienced earlier, at least in the past two decades.

Haval H6 Coupe China May 2015. Picture courtesy Coupe variant could soon boost the Haval H6 to the overall Chinese pole position.

Foreign manufacturers are paying the price of not listening closely enough to the changing tastes of Chinese consumers, namely an appetite for affordable SUVs and MPVs that is as sudden as it is insatiable. As we will detail shortly and as it has been the case for almost a year now, the two most successful new entrants in the sales charts this month are both Chinese branded SUVs. Volkswagen Group May deliveries are down 6% year-on-year while at General Motors the drop is 4%, the latter despite cutting prices on 40 models across its Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac brands. Reversely, Great Wall posted a 26% gain in May thanks to extremely strong sales of its Haval brand, the #1 SUV brand in China, while Geely is up 25% on May 2014 thanks to a slew of drastically improved models including the new flagship GC9 that sold 2.000 units in May.

Toyota Corolla VW Lavida China December 2014. Picture courtesy of iweeklyauto.comToyota Corolla

The VW Lavida manages a coup in the models ranking: despite sales down just 4%, it outsells the Wuling Hongguang for the first time since June 2013 to become the best-selling vehicle in China (LCV data pending) at 36.105 units vs. 34.508 (down a harsh 31%) for the Hongguang. The Haval H6 is unfazed: up another 23% year-on-year to lodge its third consecutive month above 30.000 sales at 30.032. With its facelift and the addition of the Coupe variant unveiled at Auto Shanghai, the H6 can now seriously pretend at the overall Chinese pole position soon. It would be a first for an SUV. Excellent performance of the Nissan Sylphy in 4th place with sales up 18% to 27,685, followed by the Baojun 730 at 26.006 deliveries and now #4 year-to-date, the VW Jetta down 14% to 23.234 units and the Toyota Corolla reborn thanks to the new generation at 22.965 sales, the nameplate’s 2nd best month ever below the 29.019 units sold last December.

ChangAn CS75 China May 2015The ChangAn CS75 breaks into the overall Top 20 for the first time in May.

Chinese models continue to enjoy their revival, with 14 reps in the Top 50 this month. Below the Wuling Hongguang, Haval H6 and Baojun 730 all inside the May Top 5, the ChangAn Eado is the best-selling domestic sedan this month thanks to sales up 24% to 16.106 (#16), outselling the Geely EC7 up 47% to 13.929 (#22) while the BYD F3 is third at 10.293 (#50). All other Chinese nameplates present in the May Top 50 are either SUVs or MPVs: the ChangAn CS75 continues its formidable career, breaking inside the Top 20 for the first time with 15.113 units, the ChangAn CS35 follows closely at #24 (+50%), ahead of the JAC Refine S3 (#29), Beijing Auto Huansu S3 (#33), Chana Honor (#37), Haval H2 (#39), BYD S7 (#44) and Beijing Auto Weiwang M20 (#48).

BYD Qin China May 2015. Picture courtesy auto.china.comThe BYD Qin is getting closer to entering the Chinese Top 100.

Notice also the Ford Escort solid at #19 and 15.257 sales however impacting Focus sales greatly (#15 and -47%), the Buick Envision shooting up to a best-ever #23 and a record 13.691 sales, the Nissan X-Trail up 15% to #26, the twins Honda Vezel (#55) and XR-V (#65) holding up extremely well, the Venucia T70 back up 17 spots on April to #82 and the all-electric BYD Qin flying from record to record, up 31 ranks on last month to #126 and 3.518 sales. Among recent launches, notice the MG GS up 15 spots to #104 and 4.848 sales, the Karry K50 up to #113 and a record 4.316 units, the Haima M6 up 66 ranks to #172, the Geely GC9 up 51 to #175, the Mercedes GLA up 98 to #180, the Changfeng Leopaard CS10 up 55 to #215 and the Haval H8 up 59 to #228.

Previous post: STRATEGY: Where is China headed?

Previous month: China April 2015: Growth cool down and SUV surge accentuate

One year ago: China May 2014: VW Santana breaks record in market up 8%

Full May 2015 Top 368 All-local models below.

The rest of this content is for members only.
Log In Register

STRATEGY: Where is the Chinese market headed?

Prepare for bloodPrepare for blood…

Discover the Top 8 trends currently affecting the Chinese market below.

China’s new vehicle market growth is smoothing out. The perception out there is that the entire market is slowing down, whereas only its growth is for now – a big difference. Some analysts say this is the beginning of the end, I say the Chinese new vehicle market remains the most dynamic and the fastest evolving in the world and will continue to be so for many years to come. Even if its growth did stop forever, we would still be left with a 25 million annual units Chinese market in our hands vs. 17 million for the U.S. and 15 million for Europe currently – including commercials.

But the growth hasn’t stopped and Chinese sales trends are evolving faster than ever, with segments like microvans rapidly losing ground while others like MPVs and SUVs outperforming the market 6-fold… A record 75 new nameplates have kick-started local production in the past year and new factories are opening on a monthly basis. General Motors for example is investing $14 billion to add 5 million annual units of production capacity by 2018 through five additional assembly plants here. A more timid growth with ever more competitors in the market: prepare for blood and aggressive price wars. Where is China headed in the next 15 years? We will explore the Top 8 trends currently at play in the Chinese new vehicle market in order to decipher its mid-term evolution.

Kashgari farmer Jonway UFO A380Kashgar, Western China: the region has the greatest sales potential.

1. All eyes on the lower Tier cities prize

China grew 14% in 2013 to 22 million units, becoming the first ever new vehicle market above 20m annual units, another 7% in 2014 to 23.5 million and should improve by 5% in 2015 to just under 25 million deliveries. Analysts diverge in their view of the mid-term future for China. I remain highly optimistic, and it would appear Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn agrees: “From time to time we have slowdowns, but fundamentally I’m still very optimistic on the fact that the long-term trend in China is up and carmakers should be prepared for that,” he said recently, pointing to the country’s low car ownership level compared with other major markets. If the big eastern cities along the coast like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are starting to peak out due to saturated ownership and stringent new registration restrictions put in place to curb pollution, there is still an enormous reservoir of growth lying in lower Tier cities.

Total vehicle sales – Big 3:

2000 2015 (p) 2030 (e)
China 1.8m 24.7m 40.2m
U.S. 17.8m 16.9m 18.5m
Europe 18.5m 15.8m 16.8m

(p): projection (e): BSCB estimate

Before we go into any further regional detail, it’s worth establishing where the long term potential for Chinese sales stands. Last year, American car buyers bought 52 new vehicles per 1.000 residents in a saturated market. It seems difficult for any mature market to significantly outpace that rate in the short to mid-term. China stood at 17 new vehicles per thousand in 2014, and were it to reach the same buying rate as the U.S., it would push its total new vehicle market to a mind-blowing 70 million annual units. A level it will probably never hit, but progressively lifting the buying rate to 30 new vehicles per thousand in the next 15 years is a totally reasonable if a little conservative prospect. That would place China just over 40 million annual new vehicle sales by 2030, way above the U.S. and European markets combined – themselves for the most part stagnating over the period.

Geely Vision China 2015. Picture courtesy 91aiche.comThe Geely Vision is a hit in lower Tier cities.

As I detailed in my article STRATEGY: China light-vehicle market to reach 30 million units by 2020, a large part of China’s future growth will come from both the less developed regions of the country located in the hinterland and lower Tier cities that are now starting to benefit from denser dealership networks. By 2020, Western China’s share of total sales is expected to rise to 26%, up from 18% in 2011. In the meantime, the coastal region’s market share will drop from 60% to 43%, according to predictions from IHS Automotive. Up until now, the bulk of the Chinese car market has resided up until now in Tier 1 and 2 cities – the largest and most developed ones. As a result, there are now 128 vehicles per 1,000 residents in Tier 1 cities. This ratio falls to 54 in Tier 3 cities and 28 in Tier 4 cities, and these cities are now starting to have a significant impact on national auto sales as we will detail in the SUV section of this article. Note these Tier 3 and 4 cities are not all located in the hinterland, they are sometimes very close to Tier 1 and 2 cities, so the growth regions are not completely geographical but mostly demographic.

In less populated areas, car buyers tastes are skewed more strongly towards Chinese manufacturers. If last year the prospects for domestic carmakers seemed cloudy, they have managed a complete turnaround thanks to a flurry of new affordable SUVs, and whereas it seemed like hinterland Chinese buyers would inexorably follow their eastern counterparts’ taste shift towards foreign brands, this is now less certain. The race for the lower-Tier cities first time car buyers is now wide open and competition will gradually intensify over the next two decades to woo rural populations getting a new access to car ownership. There are an estimated 100+ Chinese vehicle brands in activity today, when including truck and new energy manufacturers serving only limited parts of the country. This number will plunge rapidly to reach about 25 to 30 by 2030, and we will witness numerous price wars that will progressively shed the industry of the less-efficient manufacturers.

In this context, who will trigger and benefit from future Chinese growth?

24. Brilliance V3Brilliance V3 at Auto Shanghai 2015

2. Domestic brands on the brink of breakthrough

After a tough five years that saw their share market at home recede to roughly one-third of overall sales, Chinese manufacturers have seen their importance in their domestic market take a turn for the better in the past 12 months, rising to 43.1% of Chinese sales over the first 3 months of 2015, up 4.2 percentage points from a year earlier. As evidenced by my coverage of domestic carmakers at Auto Shanghai 2015, Chinese carmakers are constantly reinventing themselves with various degrees of dynamism, making the Chinese market the fastest-evolving in the world. However their progress is taking a different route than the one the government was hoping for two decades ago.

Starting in the eighties with Volkswagen, the barrier to entry for foreign carmakers in the Chinese market is a requirement to form joint-ventures with local partners in order to gain the right to manufacture locally, in essence the right to ‘unlock China’. By doing this, the Chinese government was hoping for a technology transfer towards local brands. It didn’t happen. In fact, the domestic brands faring the best at the moment are ones that are for the most part privately owned and not embroiled in partnerships with foreign carmakers.

Geely GC9 China April 2015Geely GC9

Thanks to a new focus on strong branding and streamlined lineups, a few domestic actors are now enjoying surging sales at home. Great Wall spun off the Haval SUV brand to tremendous success in July 2013 and has seen its SUV lineup sales soar 71% year-on-year in April to 63.921 units. The Haval H6 is now among the three overall best-selling vehicles in the country. In January 2014 Geely got rid of the Emgrand, Gleagle and Englon brands to market its vehicles exclusively under its namesake brand and, going hand-in-hand with an extremely impressive quality overhaul that is finally showing the benefits of its 2010 purchase of Swedish manufacturer Volvo, has managed to push domestic sales 45% in April to 38.648. The EC7 sedan remains the best-seller of its kind among domestic nameplates with 75.189 deliveries so far in 2015.

Another example is Chery, deleting the Rely and Riich brands in September 2012 to concentrate on its namesake brand for passenger cars and Karry for commercial vehicles. However they have disappointingly spawned two sub-brands – Tiggo and Arrizo – since. Baby steps, as habits die hard in China. Even though it is evolving at dangerously breakneck speed, ChangAn is another success story, placing three models among the 10 best-selling domestic vehicles so far this year: the Eado sedan (70.231), CS35 SUV (62.110) and CS75 SUV (56.116). Led by Great Wall’s Haval, Geely and BYD, all relatively unscathed by joint-ventures with foreign actors and – most significantly – all privately owned, Chinese manufacturers have never been as close to world standards as now. And their improvements are set to continue at the same rate, shaping into a true threat for carmakers the world around by 2020.

4. VW Santana Karakul LakeVW Santana on the Karakoram Highway, Western China.

3. Foreign manufacturers caught in a race to luxury

In a context where some domestic carmakers are finally finding their way to profitable sales volumes, clearer brand identities and ever-improving quality coupled with aggressive pricing, foreign manufacturers may see their time under the sun reduce drastically over the next decade. Their capacity to compete with domestic actors relies on almost instant reactivity to fast-moving trends, as demonstrated in their sales behaviour in 2015. The SUV explosion has caught both Volkswagen and Toyota by surprise, resulting in significant market share loss this year. Hyundai and Kia are safe with their ix25 and KX3 tapping right into the small SUV craze and becoming instant blockbusters. Nissan is following at a distance.

If this article had been published 6 months ago, Volkswagen would have been best positioned to benefit from the future growth expected in China’s less developed areas. However their failure to launch a small SUV lineup is worrying, at a time where Tier 3 and 4 cities are lapping up bargain-priced JAC, ChangAn and Zotye fares. Granted, Volkswagen is still and by far the most popular/aspirational brand in China. During the first half of 2014 when sedan sales growth was still around 15%, the market share lost by Chinese manufacturers in the compact segment was almost exactly matched by market share gains at Volkswagen while Japanese, U.S. and Korean makers were flat. So Volkswagen is the best armed to compete with domestic brands in the sedan segment, but also the most vulnerable when and if Chinese carmakers reclaim lost ground in that area.

Hyundai Mistra China 2014. Picture courtesy of Mistra

Two years ago, Volkswagen launched its New Santana with a starting price of 84.900 yuan ($13.700), only slightly more than the Geely EC7’s 69.800 yuan. Automotive News China quotes Zhang Lei, a 35-year-old office worker in Beijing who bought a New Santana last year: “People say German cars are of good quality, so why not buy a German car if it’s not expensive?” However since then Geely launched the new Vision at 52.900 yuan ($8.500), cutting the Santana by almost 40% and displaying some interior elements of a higher quality than a Santana. As a result, Volkswagen has launched a price war in recent months to keep its lower-end lineup competitive in the face of vastly improved domestic entries, at the risk of significantly eroding its profits in the region. Volkswagen is now caught between lowering their prices to better compete with domestic carmakers and maintaining its premium reputation.

Brand loyalty is low in China and more than 90 million car owners will replace their first vehicle in the next few years. Cut-throat competition is a new element in the market and Korean Hyundai and Kia could see a much larger increase of their Chinese sales than Toyota and Volkswagen over the next decade. Not just because of a better reactivity to changing trends: Toyota and Volkswagen with undoubtedly launch affordable small SUVs to keep a foot in the market – albeit a couple of years late. Two more political and attitudinal elements may come into play. Firstly, Nippon manufacturers aren’t immune to future bursts of anti-Japanese sentiment, like the one that severely handicapped them a couple of years ago. 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of WW2 and the rest of the year will be another sensitive period for them. Secondly, having launched in China less than a decade ago, Korean carmakers Hyundai and Kia are free of any poor quality perceptions dating from the nineties that are still plaguing them in some other countries and can grow unabated in the next decade.

Mercedes GLA China April 2015. Picture courtesy wolfexp.netMercedes started local GLA production and is best placed for explosive growth in China.

The Chinese luxury segment has already become the largest in the world and its influence will further increase over the next two decades, lifting Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz to a likely continuous string of worldwide sales records. The Top 3 German luxury carmakers, already ultra-dominant in the Chinese luxury aisle, are poised to continue improving their Chinese sales drastically, with Mercedes displaying the highest potential for explosive growth. In 2014, Audi sold 579.000 cars in China (+18%), with BMW at 456.000 (+17%) and Mercedes at 282.000 (+29%). Growth was cut in 2015 but should resume in the coming years. It is a realistic prospect to see Mercedes leapfrog both Audi and BMW to become China’s #1 luxury brand by 2025, simply because the Stuttgart manufacturer has completely refocused its attention onto the Chinese market, now front and centre in its worldwide operations as its impressive display at Auto Shanghai hinted at. Our forecast for 2015: Audi at 606.000 sales (+5%), BMW at 478.000 (+5%) and Mercedes at 335.000 (+18%).

Audi started manufacturing cars in China as early as 1991 while both BMW and Mercedes have been doing so for just a decade, earning the 3 German carmakers a credibility in the luxury segment that will be near-impossible to erode in the next decade or so. At this stage only Infiniti, Volvo and Cadillac are also manufacturing locally to avoid China’s 25% import tariff, but their sales remain modest: Volvo sold under 80.000 vehicles in 2014 (47% locally produced) while Cadillac delivered under 70.000 (57%) and Infiniti just 30.000 (8%). Acura recently announced it will start building locally soon, leaving the odd one out, Lexus, with no plans for local manufacturing despite a decade-long presence in the country and 75.000 sales in 2014. Lincoln for its part is enjoying a fast and furious all-imported start with 3 of its Top 10 dealers globally by sales now located in China only 12 months after landing in the country.

Haval-H1-China-November-2014.-Picture-courtesy-of-auto.qq_.com_The Haval H1 is one of dozens of new Chinese SUVs launched in the past 12 months.

4. The entire market is now ditching sedans for SUVs…

Disposable income is on a steep rise for the majority of Chinese and their car purchase patterns are changing accordingly, with urban and rural buyers each displaying widely different tastes than they were just two years ago. Last October, sedan sales dropped 1% from a year earlier for the first time in 7 years, marking the start of a shaky period for this once-thriving segment in China. In urban areas, more than one-third of buyers now opt for an SUV when the time comes to replace their first vehicle vs. 25% for China overall. After soaring by 36% in 2014 to 4.1 million units, SUV sales are accelerating further this year with a 49% year-on-year surge over the first 4 months of 2015 to 1.79 million units, hinting at an annual rate of over 6 million sales…

China – Top 10 SUVs and sedans 2015 year-to-date:

Pos SUV model 2015 /14 Sedan model 2015 /14
1 Haval H6 118,516 26% VW Lavida 170,168 -12%
2 VW Tiguan 88,609 1% VW Santana 114,479 7%
3 JAC Refine S3 66,295 new VW Jetta 107,680 7%
4 ChangAn CS35 62,110 71% Ford Focus 99,675 -26%
5 ChangAn CS75 56,116 new Hyundai Elantra 96,713 30%
6 Haval H2 56,074 new VW Sagitar 96,173 -6%
7 BAIC Huansu S3 49,738 new Nissan Sylphy 89,995 -8%
8 Ford Kuga 42,593 -3% Hyundai Verna 84,821 14%
9 Nissan X-Trail 41,942 182% VW Passat 84,275 -15%
10 Zotye T600 39,307 302% Chevrolet Cruze 80,170 -6%

Seven of the Top 10 best-selling SUVs in China so far in 2015 are Chinese, four are all-new and only one (the Ford Kuga) sees its sales decline year-on-year. Reversely, the Top 10 best-selling sedans in the country are all foreign but 6 out of 10 are in decline, including the #1 seller – the VW Lavida (-12%) – with the Ford Focus losing the most ground at -26%. In what may be the most interesting reversal of fortunes in the past few years, thanks to a flurry of affordable models all launched in the past 24 months, domestic manufacturers are now dominating the SUV segment with a record 56% share, evolving at double the sales level compared to a year ago.

ChangAn CS75 China July 2014. Picture courtesy of ChangAn CS75 has found 109.000 buyers since launching exactly a year ago.

According to LMC Automotive, SUV buyers are mostly residents of Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities, traditionally more fond of Chinese car brands because of more affordable prices and less dense foreign manufacturers dealer networks. When their sedan sales got bogged down by higher-status Volkswagen, Chevrolet and Kia, domestic carmakers found salvation in designing attractive-looking SUVs with prices contained below 100.000 yuan (US$16.000). These Chinese vehicles only are Sports Utility Vehicles by name, in no way true four-wheel drives capable of stepping out of urban areas, but they are high enough on the road for Chinese customers in Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities. Mission accomplished.

Wuling Hongguang China September 2014. Picture courtesy of cheshi.com2The Wuling Hongguang has transformed the Chinese car market forever.

5. … while rural buyers switch from microvans to MPVs

If urban dwellers are abandoning their entry-level sedans to lap up an increasing variety of Chinese-branded SUVs, their newly prosperous rural counterparts are also moving upwards, ditching microvans for low-cost MPVs. In 2014, the MPV segment was the fastest-growing in the country with sales surging 47% to 1.91 million units just as microvan were losing 17% to 1.33 million deliveries. In 2015, MPVs are up by a further 28% so far and should end the year just under 2.5 million units. The good news for Chinese manufacturers is that 85% of all MPVs sales go to domestic brands, being a segment mostly popular in rural areas.

Price comparison – Wuling MPVs and microvans:

Model Cat April sales Price range (yuan) Price range (US$)
Wuling Journey MPV 4,011 66.000 – 77.000 10.600 – 12.400
Wuling Hongguang MPV 53,086 44.800 – 69.800 7.200 – 11.250
Wuling Hongguang V Micro 25,506 42.800 – 51.800 6.900 – 8.300
Wuling Rongguang Micro 17,475 41.800 – 46.800 6.700 – 7.500
Wuling Sunshine Micro 21,005 29.800 – 46.000 4.800 – 7.400

Wuling Sunshine microvan – Hongguang MPV sales comparison:

Model 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015(e)
Wuling Sunshine 699,037 754,961 731,749 523,841 455,718 308,668 269,000
Wuling Hongguang 0 5,000 177,000 316,217 530,050 750,019 660,000

(e): BSCB estimate

The sole instigator of this momentous sales trend is the Wuling Hongguang, originally introduced in September 2010 and at first classified as a light commercial vehicle – it was then considered as a larger microvan. The Hongguang didn’t appear inside the Top 5 LCV best-sellers until February 2012 (24.694 sales – see China LCV February 2012: Wuling Hongguang’s entrance) but topped the overall Chinese charts for the first time in January 2013 and the following month was selling almost 30.000 more units than any other nameplate in the country. It went on to be the best-selling vehicle in the country in both 2013 and 2014, with its monthly sales record standing at an out-of-this-world 81.153 units in January 2014.

Baojun 730 China September 2014. Picture courtesy of Baojun 730 have hit Chinese roads in just 9 months.

As I detailed in my article China April 2015: Wuling Hongguang V takes control, the leap from microvan to MPV is very significant, representing a 50% price hike even though the rates remain minuscule by Western standards: the Hongguang starts at 42.800 yuan (US$7.200) vs. 29.800 ($4.800) for the Wuling Sunshine, the all-categories best-seller in China until 2012. Who purchases microvans? Traditionally, families, small companies and taxi operators in rural areas and small towns to carry goods and/or passengers. While both the Sunshine and the Hongguang can carry five to eight people, with per capita disposable income in rural China leaping 12% to 8.900 yuan last year, rural buyers are snapping up Hongguangs like hot dumplings simply because they can now afford to.

What the Chinese market is experiencing right now with the Wuling Hongguang is similar to European car buyers suddenly switching from purchasing 600.000 annual VW Golf to as many annual VW Passat in a matter of three years, or American consumers completely ditching the Toyota Camry to replace it with 450.000 annual Toyota 4 Runner.

It took a lot longer for other domestic manufacturers to cotton on to the Hongguang success and what it meant for the microvan category (death) than it did for them to understand the SUV craze. In fact, SAIC-GM-Wuling is reinventing the category once again with the launch of the slightly more upmarket and extraordinarily successful Baojun 730, clocking an incredible 230.000 deliveries in its first 9 months on sale. Sales of Hongguang clones (Chana Honor, Dongfeng Fengguang and BAIC Weiwang M20), although dynamic, are still far below. The future of the MPV segment may be further upmarket: Wuling launched the much larger Journey a few months ago, and Brilliance unveiled the Huasong MPV-exclusive brand at Auto Shanghai 2015 to compete with Buick’s GL8. Expect Wuling to regularly revive the category to maintain its supremacy.

Dongfeng Rich 2015. Picture courtesy chinaautoweb.com2015 Dongfeng Rich

6. Pickup trucks: the largest untapped segment

Now that the SUV and MPV segments are truly taking off, mimicking many light vehicle markets around the world, the last frontier is the pick-up sector, currently plagued by outdated legislations but home of the greatest sales potential of all in China. Pending a legislative adjustment, we foresee Chinese pickup sales will reach 10% of overall sales by 2030 – or 4 million annual vehicles vs. just 1.9% and 200.000 now. Pickups are where Chinese manufacturers perform their best on the world stage, as demonstrated by their relative success in export markets. So what isn’t working at the moment?

In 2003, the Chinese government introduced the Road Traffic Safety Law which was giving free rein to city administrations on allowing pickups to drive on their streets. Most cities chose to classify pickups as commercial vehicles and banned them from entering. Yes you have read that right. Pickup trucks are not allowed within most Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. But it doesn’t stop there: Automotive News China reports that to ease congestion during holidays, Chinese traffic regulators let sedan drivers use highways toll free whereas pickup drivers must pay. This may have made sense a decade ago when pickup trucks were the only vehicles of such size on the road along with medium and heavy trucks. But it is no longer true now that large SUVs have invaded China’s four corners. Besides, under existing regulations, microvans – also used in rural and suburban areas to carry people and goods – are considered passenger vehicles, and therefore allowed into cities…

GAC Gonow GP150GAC Gonow GP 150 at Auto Shanghai 2015

This restrictive legislation has had a devastating effect on the Chinese pickup market. Roughly 435.000 new pickups were sold in China in 2014, or just 1.9% of the total vehicle market and with sales down 4% year-on-year their market share is also decreasing. Yet market leader Great Wall still sells 10,000 pickups each month in China on average. It is still a very dynamic segment despite the restrictions, with at least 16 Chinese manufacturers currently offering a pickup lineup. I spotted the all-new 2015 Dongfeng Rich in Mohe in far north China, while GAC Gonow unveiled a rather good-looking GP150 pickup at Auto Shanghai and Great Wall launched a new variant of its Wingle pickup late last year.

Paradoxically given the gagging they suffer at home, pickups are the one single segment where Chinese manufacturers can already compete with foreign automakers in mature export markets such as Italy, the UK, South Africa and Australia where the Great Wall Wingle ranked among the Top 50 best-selling nameplates in 2012. The same cannot be said yet about sedans, SUVs and MPVs. Understandably given the current restrictions, global automakers haven’t bothered venturing into the Chinese pickup market just yet. Only Isuzu and Nissan currently sell quickly facelifted versions of antediluvian models, but the potential for pickup sales in China is enormous, both for commercial and private uses.

Ford F-150 Raptor Kashgar ChinaFord F-150 Raptor in Kashgar, Western China

With Chinese car buyers progressively americanising their tastes, it is no real surprise to see at least one Ford F-150 Raptor and Toyota Tundra in each northern Chinese city I visited this year, big or small. Despite astronomical prices and driving restrictions, Chinese customers are still privately importing these monsters. The demand for pickup trucks is almost screaming at you when visiting the country. It is apparent in the commercial segment where a recent transfer from microvans to mini pickups can be seen – keep in mind the latter are considered passenger vehicles and therefore are able to grow sales freely. Result: the Wuling Mini Truck has topped the LCV sales charts a couple of times in the past 6 months.

But part of the SUVsation of the world car market also means a large part of pickup trucks are now purchased and used in the same way as SUVs, not just for commercial hauling. As Automotive News China points out, if municipal restrictions on pickups are abolished, farmers could drive their pickups to go shopping in cities, a much more chest-beating experience than in a microvan or low-cost MPV. Likewise, well-off inhabitants of coastal cities could tow boats or stow surfboards with their pickups. We believe it’s a matter of when rather than if, and once pickups can be driven freely across the country, expect a gold rush in the same vein as the one we are currently witnessing for SUVs and MPVs. Pickup sales are bound to grow exponentially from that moment on.

Used car market in China. Picture courtesy of 51auto.comThe notion of used car is a new concept in China.

7. Prepare for a used car explosion

Last March, China’s largest search engine Baidu – dominating a market where Google is banned – joined a U.S. private equity firm and hedge fund to invest $170 million in China’s largest used car auction website Uxin. It is the latest round of funding raised by Uxin to expand a new trading platform designed to allow auto retailers to sell used cars directly to individuals. Last year, China’s used car market generated $58 billion, a 26% growth from a year earlier while volumes are up 16% at 6.05 million units vs. +7% for the new vehicle market. Up until very recently, the very concept of a used car was a rather alien notion in China given how recent the uptake of cars in the country is. Moreover, in China there is a strong cultural preference for new items, rather than those tarnished by previous ownership. Without regulations, skepticism over the quality of used vehicles could be justified, reports Autotalk NZ. But this is all changing as the Chinese used car market matures.

China – New and used vehicle sales evolution:

2000 2015 2030 (e)
New vehicles 1.8m 24.7m 40.2m
Used vehicles 0.2m 7.0m 41.5m

(e): BSCB estimate

At the moment, one used vehicle is sold for every four new ones in China, a diametrically opposite situation as the one observed in mature markets such as the U.S. and Europe (three to four used cars for every new one). But at the current rate, the number of used cars changing hands annually in China will even up with new ones by 2030. Sedans still account for the majority of used cars currently sold in the country (57%) above buses (16%), trucks (14%), light commercials (9%) and SUV (3%), reflecting the dominant structure of the market during the past decade. This too will change, when SUVs and MPVs currently sold as new will start hitting the used car market in five years time.

Nowadays, used car sales are still a largely unregulated area, with a whopping 95% of used car transactions made privately and escaping sales taxes. Large manufacturers are however slowly looking to enter the used market by reselling their own products second-hand complete with quality guarantees: Peugeot already has 700 certification centres around the country while Nissan, Audi and Volvo are following. Stringent new anti-pollution laws limiting the number of new registrations in the main big cities have also helped fuel increasing used car sales: they already are licensed and therefore unrestricted – a clear oversight by governments as these used cars typically pollute more than new ones and should instead be replaced, the way Europe has done with numerous scrappage schemes.

DENZA wird in einem deutsch-chinesischen Gemeinschaftsunternehmen von Daimler und BYD in Shenzhen gefertigt. / DENZA is manufactured by a Sino-German joint venture of Daimler and BYD in Shenzhen.Denza EV

8. The electric vehicle question mark

I have said it and will say it again, the current success – or lack thereof – of new energy vehicles has nothing to do with consumers’ increased environmental consciousness and everything to do with government policies. Cue Japan, California and Norway, offering the most generous incentives for new energy vehicles and consequently displaying the highest hybrid and EV sales ratios in the world. China has a well-documented tradition of imposing stringent government mandates onto the car market (joint-ventures with local partners, pollution-curbing new registration limitations…) and could lead the world in terms of electric vehicle adoption, if it decides to. With significant air pollution problems plaguing most large cities and limited oil resources, the Chinese government considers the uptake of electric cars a priority. But is it doing enough to encourage new energy vehicle sales? Carlos Ghosn said “not really” at this year’s Shanghai Auto Show.

Chinese EV sales are quadrupling so far in 2015 compared to last year but at 26.581 units in 3 months they still only represent a minuscule 0.4% of the overall market. The BYD Qin hybrid sedan has been the best-selling new energy vehicle in China ever since its launch in December 2013, totalling 2.625 sales in April. This is to be compared with an estimated 200-300 monthly sales average for the Tesla Model S in China and roughly 1.500 in the U.S. Still, the question mark remains as to whether EVs will truly have an impact on the overall Chinese market in the short to mid-term. It all depends on the Chinese government. Chinese punters will buy electric if they are mandated to: a recent visit to Kashgar in Western China showed all scooters in circulation in town to be electric.

Tesla Model S ChinaTesla has been struggling in China so far.

Among the various Chinese government mandates in place to encourage sales of new energy vehicles:

– All EVs are excluded from the new registration plate quota applied in China’s eight largest cities.

– Subsidies of up to 55,000 yuan (about $9,000) per EV vehicle, elimination of a 10% sales tax on some EVs.

– Subsidies for the construction of battery charging stations in various cities proportioned to the EV and plug-in hybrid sales in these cities. The aim is to install 140.000 charging stations this year vs. just 20.000 in place last year. The government’s plan calls for covering 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) of highways with fast-charger stations every 50 kilometers (31 miles) by 2020.

– All manufacturers selling in China need to display a fleetwide average consumption of 5L/100km (47 mpg) by 2020.

– Foreign automakers are required to develop EVs with their Chinese joint venture partners. This has prompted Toyota, traditionally EV-weary, to launch one EV vehicle with each Chinese partner later this year. Toyota however conceded to Automotive News that these are purely compliance vehicles and their focus will remain on hybrid technology.

Most manufacturers had at least one EV model to show at Auto Shanghai, but these looked more like compliance vehicles than genuine best-sellers. Elmar Degenhart, CEO of supplier giant Continental AG told Automotive News China “We are convinced that China will turn into the biggest market for electrification technologies. With the support of the government and regulation, the speed in that direction is developing quite rapidly.” The ball is in your camp President Xi Jinping.

– – –

China LCV April 2015: Wuling Hongguang V takes control

Wuling Hongguang V China April 2015. Picture courtesy Wuling Hongguang V is the best-selling LCV in China this month.

* See the Top 10 best-selling LCV by clicking on the title *

A change in classification has LMC Automotive publish 346.867 LCV sales in China in April and a total of 1.313.161 for the first 4 months of 2015. Regardless, this segment is not going well with many small businesses, self-employed tradesmen and rural taxi companies choosing to ditch their flimsy microvans and upgrade to MPVs such as the Wuling Hongguang, Baojun 730 or Beijing Auto Weiwang M20. As a consequence Wuling, über-dominant in the Chinese microvan segment, has had to scramble to get new models ready and adapt to the fast-evolving market. Two main things to remember.

1. Wuling Hongguang V launch

At the start of 2015 Wuling launched the Hongguang V (pictured above) as an alternative to a trade up to the MPV segment. The Hongguang is priced slightly higher than the Rongguang and a notch above the Sunshine but still below the Hongguang MPV as the table below indicates. Before you ask, yes these prices are real and ridiculously low. Now you understand why no foreign manufacturer has ventured into this segment so far, it’s near impossible to compete with these prices. Wuling’s strategy with the Hongguang V worked. After breaking the 30.000 sales barrier last month and ranking #2 LCV, in April the Hongguang V is the best-selling Light Commercial Vehicle in the country and most importantly now leads all Wuling models on sale in China bar the Hongguang itself. A string of Wuling dealerships on the way to the Harbin airport confirmed the manufacturer is aggressively pushing the Hongguang V to entice the commercial buyers that can’t afford a Hongguang into replacing their ageing microvan with it instead.

Model April sales Price range (yuan) Price range (US$)
Wuling Journey 4,011 66.000 – 77.000 10.600 – 12.400
Wuling Hongguang 53,086 44.800 – 69.800 7.200 – 11.250
Wuling Hongguang V 25,506 42.800 – 51.800 6.900 – 8.300
Wuling Rongguang 17,475 41.800 – 46.800 6.700 – 7.500
Wuling Sunshine 21,005 29.800 – 46.000 4.800 – 7.400

And for those of you that got confused by the avalanche of Wuling models I have prepared the below picture to summarise it all. You’re welcome.

Wuling lineup China April 2015From left to right and top to bottom: Wuling Hongguang, Rongguang, Sunshine and Journey.

Wuling Rongguang Pickup Mohe 2Wuling Mini Truck (Rongguang Pickup) in Mohe, Heilongjiang province.

2. Wuling Rongguang Pickup transfer

The second significant event occurring within the Chinese LCV market in 2015 is the partial transfer of sales from the Sunshine (-29% in April) and Rongguang (-50%) towards the Rongguang Pick-up, called Wuling Mini Truck. With deliveries gaining a splendid 17% year-on-year this month to 17,772 units, it outsells its microvan namesake (17.475). The tremendous and recent success of the Rongguang Pick-up is something I had noticed in Western China last year and again in the North-Eastern town of Mohe this year, where it is among the best-sellers in both locations. The Rongguang Pick-up features 4 doors with the added functionality of a loading tray. What’s not to love indeed?

Previous post: China April 2015: Focus on the all-new models

Previous April post: China April 2015: Growth cool down and SUV surge accentuate

Previous month: China LCV March 2015: Wuling Hongguang V cracks 30.000 sales

Full April 2015 Top 10 best-selling LCV below.

The rest of this content is for members only.
Log In Register

China April 2015: Focus on the all-new models

Geely GC9 China April 2015. Picture courtesy auto.ifeng.comGeely GC9

As is the tradition on BSCB, after exploring the April Chinese ranking, we then go into the detail of the all-new models landing into the largest new vehicle market in the world. As always this only concerns the models that have kick-started local production as imports data is still very patchy for China. After welcoming 6 new entrants in March, once again we have 6 new nameplates in the charts in April, a handful of them we just discovered at Auto Shanghai 2015. And once again the listing of new entrants in the market illustrates the longer term trends currently at play in China: local manufacturers back to their former dynamism and of course… the SUV craze. 5 out of the 6 new April entrants are manufactured by Chinese carmakers, and 3 out of 6 are SUVs.

Geely GC9 China April 2015Geely GC9

1. Geely GC9 (#226 with 1.033 sales)

Geely is finally showing us the benefits of having purchased Swedish car manufacturer Volvo a few years back with this GC9 designed by Volvo’s head of design, and it shows. The GC9 is Geely’s new flagship, unveiled at Auto Shanghai 2015 and an extremely impressive quality leap forward for the Chinese brand. Astounding interior coupled with stylish exterior including a very unique grille make the GC9 a serious contender for the title of best Chinese car ever produced so far. At 4.96m long and powered by a choice of 1.8L turbo diesel, 2.4L or 3.5L petrol engines mated with a 6AT gearbox, the GC9 is on sale at the ridiculously low starting price of 119.800 yuan (US$19.300).

The range extends to a 3.5L “Flagship” tim priced at a still dirt cheap 229.800 yuan (US$37.100). We have found the new Hyundai and its name is Geely. Given this is completely unchartered territory for the brand, a sales prediction is proving rather difficult. The Volvo S60L on which the GC9 is loosely based points at a shy #175 so far in 2015, not much further up the ladder than the GC9’s very first month. Larger Chinese sedans have traditionally struggled, so much so that Brilliance all but stopped producing any for example, focusing instead on smaller sedans and SUVs. So in absolute terms, a Top 100 ranking would validate Geely in its upmarket pretentious.

Bar for success: #120 or 5.000 monthly sales

Haima M6 China April 2015Haima M6

2. Haima M6 (#238 with 905 units)

The Haima M6 wasn’t unveiled at Auto Shanghai 2015 but… 2013! Fast-foward two long years and it finally lands in the Chinese sales charts, albeit for now at a very discreet #238 for its first month in market. Powered by a 1.5L turbo petrol engine mated with a 6 speed-manual or CVT, the Haima M6 is priced from 76.800 to 102.800 yuan (US$ 12.400-16.600), slotting it in one of the most hotly contested segments in China. Weirdly, the M6 doesn’t really distinguish itself from the M5 aka All-new Family, the brand’s best-seller until last year when it ranked at #104. It is almost exactly the same size at 4.70m vs. 4.69 for the M5 and is priced almost identically with the M5 ranging from 76.800 to 98.800 yuan. Needless to say the M6 is going to struggle making its mark both within Haima’s range and on the market overall.

What can the M6 aim for? Unless we witness a complete sales replacement of the M5 (still a possible option) in which case a monthly Top 100 ranking is viable, my prediction is this outdated design isn’t going to make much waves. If we look up within Haima’s range, the flagship M8 only sold 50 units in April whereas if we look down the M3 ranked #118 in FY2014 but is down 42% year-on-year in April to #186. So far this year, the Haima S5 SUV is the brand’s best-seller at home, selling 4.014 units in April (#124) ranking just outside the Top 100 after 4 months. Haima should aggressively focus on launching a string affordable SUVs rather than pointlessly duplicating its sedan range.

Bar for success: #150 or 2.500 monthly sales

82. Leopaard CS10Leopaard CS10

3. Leopaard CS10 (#270 with 453 deliveries)

Leopaard was one of my biggest surprises at Auto Shanghai 2015, going from grossly made-up Mitsubishi Pajeros a year ago in Beijing to the very professional, fun and confident unveiling of the CS10 SUV at the Show. Confirming it is now a force to reckon with, Leopaard lands the CS10 inside the Chinese sales charts the same month it unveiled it – contrast this with the Haima M6 being two years late above… At a low #270 for now, the CS10 should climb further up shortly. But just how much further? At 4.66m long this is a compact SUV powered by a Mitsubishi 2.0L turbo engine competitively priced from 96.800 to 125.800 yuan (US$ 15.600-20.300).

Leopaard CS10 China April 2015Leopaard CS10 (back)

When climbing inside in Shanghai I had nothing bad to say about its interior quality, the dashboard is stylish and complete and the exterior design is among the best for a Chinese SUV, especially the back looking rather aggressive. What will limit CS10 sales is the small dealership network of the Leopaard brand. To benchmark its sales performance we have to look at other nameplates from Chengfeng (the overarching brand sitting on top of Leopaard). The Kingbox DUV ended 2014 at #194 but ranks #253 so far this year, the original Leopaard (a facelifted Mitsubishi Pajero) sold just 110 units in 2015 and both the CS6 and CS7 have quietly stepped out of the ranking altogether. Not a great pedigree, which means the CS10 almost instantly became Changfeng’s best-seller at home. This is a giant step forward for the GAC-owned brand, so it should aim equally high. A Top 150 ranking in the coming months will be dynamic start, while cracking the Top 100 will put Leopaard on the map.

Bar for success: #150 or 3.000 monthly sales

Mercedes GLA China April 2015. Picture courtesy wolfexp.netMercedes GLA SUV

4. Mercedes GLA (#278 with 365 sales)

Among the Top 3 Germans, Mercedes is the fastest-growing luxury brand in China, quickly bridging the gap it had let expand over the past decade on Audi and BMW. A capital piece to this sales race puzzle is the GLA SUV which kick started local production in Beijing on April 8, exactly two years after enjoying its world premiere at Auto Shanghai 2013. The GLA hits right into a very soft spot in the Chinese market: compact SUVs are currently being snapped up like cheap dumplings and East Coast consumers are craving the status that comes with owning a European car, let alone a Mercedes. The GLA ticks absolutely all boxes in the current Chinese environment, and its sales should take off to levels unheard of before for a Mercedes SUV, despite its steep 220k-450k yuan price range (US$ 35.500-72.500).

Up until now, the only locally-produced SUV in the Mercedes range was the GLK, oblivious to the GLA launch and up a fantastic 51% year-on-year in April to #91 and 5.513 sales while ranking just inside the Top 100 so far in this year at #95 and 22.000 deliveries. The two most relevant benchmarks to the GLA are its direct competitors the Audi Q3 – #98 with 21.642 sales – and BMW X1 – #137 at 13.542 units. Even though Audi sells more Q5 (35.675) than Q3 and BMW doesn’t produce either the X3 or the X5 locally so these are poor sellers, it is fair to assume the GLA will be more successful than the GLK in China, the same way it outsells it in Europe, one reason being the A-Class on which it’s based isn’t produced locally and therefore ends up being more expensive. The choice for cashed-up city youth then becomes very easy to make.

Bar for success: #100 or 6.000 monthly sales

Haval H8 China April 2015. Picture courtesy zhuayoukong.comHaval H8

5. Haval H8 (#287 with 252 units)

Originally launched in November 2013 but cancelled in January 2014 when bashed by the local automotive press for gross shortcomings, Great Wall’s SUV brand Haval has swallowed its pride, went back to the drawing board, made the required improvements and relaunched the H8 this month. This delayed launch may have hurt the model’s sales potential – some local media say it actually shows maturity and a willingness to take responsibility – but if in 2013 the H8 was a critical addition and the flagship to the Haval range, in the space of 18 months a lot has changed for Haval, enjoying absolutely euphoric sales gains, correlated to a lineup widening at lightning speed.

Relieving some of the pressure on the success of this model, the H8 does not top Haval’s range anymore, this honour now goes to the H9 launched last November, priced at 229.800-272.800 yuan ($37.200-44.100) vs. the H8 at 201.800-256.800 yuan (US$ 32.500-41.400). This isn’t cheap by Chinese standards but still a bargain compared to the Mercedes GLA for example (above). Havel now sells the H1 (#74 in April), H2 (#22), H5 (#159), H6 (#2 overall), H8 and H9 (#230) and has just unveiled both the H6 Coupe and H7 at Auto Shanghai 2015. Sales-wise, the H8 should find a spot above both the ageing H5 and the flagship H9 to claim success.

Bar for success: #110 or 4.500 monthly sales

Huasong 7 China April 2015. Picture courtesy 7

6. Huasong 7 (#334 with 60 deliveries)

As detailed in my review of the most impressive Chinese carmakers at Auto Shanghai 2015, Huasong is a new brand launched by Brilliance, offering upmarket MPVs based on Jinbei technology. A quick flick through Chinese media makes it pretty clear that Brilliance is aiming for the Buick GL8 with this first nameplate, the Huasong 7. At 5.00m long, the 7 is priced between 237.700 and 287.700 yuan (US$ 38.300-46.400), a steep ask for a Chinese nameplate and for an interior that isn’t actually that impressive. Second handicap: the Huasong 7 is sandwiched price-wise between the – outdated but still somewhat prestigious previous generation – Buick GL8 Classic (209.000-248.000) and the current GL8 (299.900-399.900). Brilliance is taking a risk with the Huasong 7, but its attractive exterior design may help. One one hand, the targeted GL8 is flying high at #69 overall in April and #79 in 2015 (26.700 sales), on the other hand the cheaper Jinbei Granse on which the Huasong 7 is based didn’t cracked the Top 200 in 2014 (#205) nor has it so far in 2015 (#226 with 4.316 units).

Bar for success: #200 or 2.000 monthly sales

Previous post: China April 2015: Growth cool down and SUV surge accentuate

Previous month: China March 2015: Focus on the all-new models

One year ago: China April 2014: Focus on the all-new models