Here you will find the direct links to the Special 1st Half 2015 Full Reports for the Top 20 markets in the world. This page is updated each time a new Report is pushed live.
Iran 1st Half 2015: Coming soon
Saudi Arabia 1st Half 2015: Coming soon
The Top 20 markets in the world:
|Pos||Market||H1 2015||/14||H1 2014||Pos||FY14|
|19||Saudi Arabia (e)||422,000||3%||408,073||18||19|
Note: China, USA, Japan, Brazil, Canada, Russia, South Korea, Mexico, Australia, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Thailand data include LCV sales, the others don’t.
* See the Top 1116 best-selling cars in the world by clicking on the title *
The much awaited worldwide models ranking is finally here, and it is exclusive to BestSellingCarsBlog. For the first time we have added notes for each car so it is crystal clear what variants are included in the worldwide sales figures, as often a car can be sold under various names and/or brands depending on the region of the world. Hopefully this makes it easier to gauge what really are the best-selling cars in the world in 2014. Both in 2012 and 2013 we witnessed a cutthroat battle for world supremacy between the Toyota Corolla and the Ford Focus. This year the situation is drastically different, and the Toyota Corolla marks one full decade in the worldwide #1 spot. On one hand, Focus sales are softening in all 3 large sales poles: in the U.S (-6%), China (-3%) and Europe (-1%), and took a hit in Brazil and Russia, resulting in a 8% worldwide drop to 1.026 million units. On the other hand, the two-pronged launch of the 11th generation Corolla in China (Corolla/Levin) has boosted worldwide sales of the nameplate 8% to 1.352 million units, now completely out of reach of the Focus, and that is even when excluding the Japanese Corolla (110.931).
Below the Hyundai Elantra regular at the highest level and graduating to the worldwide podium this year at #3 (+2%), thanks to the Mk7 generation now on sale in every corner of the globe the VW Golf is up 3 spots on 2013 to #4 with sales up 18% to 922.800, knocking the Ford F-Series down to #5 (-1%). Helped by its success in Russia and a number of emerging markets, the Hyundai Accent delivers an excellent performance this year: up 10 ranks and 27% on last year to #6 with just above 800.000 worldwide deliveries, above the Toyota Camry (-4%).
But the award of the most spectacular progression in the entire worldwide Top 30 this year goes to the Wuling Hongguang, the best-selling vehicle in the #1 market in the world, China, and up 15 spots to 8th place overall thanks to sales up 40% to 763.526 including a handful of rebadged Chevrolet Envoy sold in India and South America. Adding up a multitude of various nameplates under which it is sold, the Renault Logan breaks into the worldwide Top 10 this year thanks to sales up 7% to 760.385 units. Other great gainers in the Top 20 include the Nissan Sentra (+16%), Toyota RAV4 and Ford Kuga (both at +15%).
If we extend the scope to the Top 100, the most impressive nameplates worldwide going down the ladder include the Ram Pickup (+21%), Honda Fit (+20%), VW Lavida (+22% thanks to the arrival of the Gran Lavida hatchback), Nissan X-Trail (+68% with the new generation’s success in China and most parts of the world), Hyundai i10 (+77% with the arrival of the Grand i10 and Xcent sedan in India), Mazda3 (+25%), Haval H6 (+45%), the Audi A3 up a splendid 53% thanks to the addition of the sedan variant and its launch in China and the U.S., Peugeot 308 up 23%, Opel Mokka up 59%, Ford Ecosport up 34%, Chevrolet Onix up 95% thanks to the addition of the Prisma and the Jeep Cherokee up 481%.
Outside the Top 100, notice the Skoda Rapid up 136% to #111, the Peugeot 2008 up 175% to #112, Renault Captur up 107% to #116, Toyota Noah up 150% to #121 thanks to its and its twin the Voxy’s facelifts and the addition of the Esquire, the Honda N-WGN up 13-fold to #167 for its first full year, the emerging markets version of the Toyota Yaris up to #168, Honda Vezel up to #193, BMW 4 Series up to #205 and the Mercedes S-Class doubling its sales year-on-year to #237.
Full Year 2014 Top 1116 worldwide best-sellers vs. Full Year 2013 figures below.
The future car buyers of Nigeria. Picture © Devesh Uba, all rights reserved.
Africa is progressively shedding its image of a continent embroiled in poverty, corruption and never-ending wars. Yet the dramatic Ebola outbreak in Western Africa is a harsh reminder that the road to development is a long and tortuous one. Three years ago, I created the Africa Project to jump start the collection of new car sales data in a region still very secretive. From only a couple of countries in 2012, official sales data for Africa on BSCB now covers 23 nations, and its scope is expanding every month. New car sales on the continent are still for the most part in their infancy, making Africa the last frontier in terms of automotive development. If the economic growth we have witnessed in the past decade continues at the same rate, could Africa become the new China and replace it as the world automotive sales engine of growth? As is often the case in such generalist questions, the answer is multi-faceted, and some carmakers are already in a much better place to benefit from future African development.
Street scene in Djenne, Mali. Picture © Leonid Plotkin, all rights reserved.
1. Economic and demographic background
In 2014, roughly 1.9 million new vehicles were registered in Africa for 1.1 billion inhabitants, that’s only 1.67 new vehicle per thousand inhabitants (NVPT), to be compared to 2.56 in India and 18.16 in China. Geographically, the market distribution is however very uneven: 8 out of 10 new cars are sold in just four nations (South Africa, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco), the remaining 50 countries adding up to less than 400.000 registrations, equivalent to the number of vehicles sold in China in… 6 days. Among the 30 African markets with available total market data, the NVPT rates vary greatly: from 30.63 in Reunion and 17.19 in Botswana to just 0.04 in Ethiopia and Burundi. So we are still very, very far from even the notion of emerging market as far as Africa bar a handful of countries is concerned, but by 2030 its importance will have improved drastically.
Top 20 largest African new car markets in volume – Full Year 2014:
Africa is now regular around 5% annual GDP growth rate, and despite a predicted oil-related 2015 slowdown to 4% in sub-saharan Africa, countries like Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda and Zambia are slated to post average annual GDP growth of between 6% and 8% over the next decade. According to an Emerging Markets Private Equity Survey published by Coface in 2014, sub-saharan Africa is now the most attractive investment destination in the world ahead of South East Asia and Latin America ex-Brazil, whereas it lagged in 8th place only 3 years earlier. The last piece of the puzzle is demographic: the African population will grow from 1.1 billion today to 2.4 billion in 2050, compared to 1.66 billion in India and 1.3 billion in China by then. This will include over 400 million souls in Nigeria alone (almost as much as in the U.S.) and 278 million in Ethiopia (90 today), and an urbanisation rate doubling from 26% today (290m) to 50% in 2050 (1.2bn).
Strong and regular economic growth + more wealth + four times the population in cities mean we can serenely expect an explosion in new vehicle sales. In this context more and more voices in the business world have started to pose the question of Africa as the future engine of growth of the world economy, including in the automotive sector.
2. Which African regions will act as locomotives?
As opposed to the single entities that are China and India, Africa’s main handicap is its fragmentation into a multitude of countries with immense development disparities and the near-absence of flowing trade inside the continent. The key to its economic and automotive growth as a whole is the creation of internal exchanges through free-trade zones, grouping countries with similar development levels that can then act as pulling forces for the remaining nations. African countries need to develop their transport infrastructures and energy networks in collaboration with each other and start matching their laws and currencies so business and wealth can bloom. We can see some of this sprouting out already: 8 countries in Western Africa and 6 in Central Africa now use a single currency (the CFA Franc) and the South African Development Economical Community is developing. In this context, which African regions can we start to draw upon as future African engines of automotive growth?
Kenya and Eastern Africa
This region of Africa is the closest to taking off, partly because three relatively well connected countries (Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania) are reaching GDP per capita levels that have been statistically known to unlock motorisation: US$ 2.500. It is also home to the African equivalent to San Fransisco’s Silicon Valley, dubbed the Silicon Savannah in Nairobi – Kenya. There, according to the Economist it is easier to pay a taxi fare by mobile phone than it is in New York as over half the Kenyan population already uses the M-Pesa mobile payments system. As Mail & Guardian Africa notes, if “Nigeria and South Africa have for a long time been the economic giants of Africa due mainly to their natural resources, Kenya has future-proofed itself by focusing on financial services and telecommunications” and will become one of Africa’s most dynamic new car markets in the next couple of decades.
One of the proofs that this region is about to get fast-tracked to automotive development is the creation of Mobius Motors, a car designed by Kenyans for Kenyans that we will be studying in more detail further down. The big unknown at the moment is the exact path entry-level car buyers will take in the region. As opposed to China where the culture is reticent to used cars, in the whole of Africa the obvious entry-level choice so far has been used imports from either Europe or Japan – however these sometimes reach the price of a locally-assembled new car due to high import duties. The new car market may take longer to set in but once unlocked, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania should display explosive new car sales annual growth rates, lifting the first two to above 300.000 annual new units and the latter to above 200.000 by 2030.
Nigeria and Western Africa
This is the African region with the both biggest untapped potential at the moment, and the highest level of uncertainty about future development. Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa with 183 million inhabitants, however its new car market currently stands at an insignificant 53.900 annual units. A local automotive manufacture industry has failed to manage a successful transplant so far, something the Nigerian government is trying to change with its “new automotive policy” offering significant tax breaks for car manufacturers establishing a factory in the country. This won’t be enough, and illegal tariff practices by government bodies inside the country will need to be abolished for an auto industry to start flourishing.
If and once on its way this region could become one of the fastest-growing new car markets in the world. Boosted by Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Cameroon will then act as relays of growth towards nations bridled until now by war and disease, such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau. By 2030, Nigeria alone will count 274 million inhabitants and the region close to 500 million. All planets aligning, 1.3 million annual new cars should get registered in Western Africa by then, vs. less than 100.000 today. Nigeria will continue to dominate with almost 600.000 annual new sales with Ghana coming second at 233.800 and Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Cameroon all approaching 200.000 annual units.
Today, South Africa represents two-thirds of all light vehicles produced in Africa and one-third of all new light vehicles sold on the continent. Its market structure is approaching maturity, with over 50 brands present in the country, a strong prevalence for pickup trucks and a very interesting fondness for low-cost cars originally designed for India, such as the Toyota Etios, Datsun Go and Ford Ecosport. Through direct exports and fluid business routes, South Africa has already lifted neighbouring markets such as Botswana and Namibia, however their limited population (just 2 million inhabitants each) will prevent them from having a true impact on the overall African totals of tomorrow. Instead, and with the help of a carefully managed free trade zone, South Africa will extend its area of influence further north to pull Angola, Zambia and Mozambique in its wake – Zimbabwe unfortunately staying out of the picture for now due to its unpredictable political situation. As a result, while South Africa should still tower at 1.1 million annual new vehicle sales, by 2030 Angola should be able to approach 300.000, with Zambia around 150.000 and Mozambique at roughly 75.000.
Home to 52% of all African new car sales in 2014 at just under 1 million units, Northern Africa is traditionally separated from the rest of the continent, both geographically by the Sahara desert but also statistically, as it is usually fused with the Middle-East when the rest of the continent is dubbed Sub-Saharan Africa. With their sights firmly set on Europe, Algeria and Morocco are fast becoming auto assembly and export heavyweights, notably through the settling of the Renault Group (Dacia and Renault factories) and PSA Peugeot-Citroen who recently announced they would build a new factory in Morocco by 2018. Tunisia follows in their wake development-wise, although remaining an all-importing country for now which will logically change within less than a decade.
Egypt for its part has had an auto manufacturing activity for decades and due to its population, set to reach 133 million by 2030, has the biggest sales potential, but also the most unpredictable in the region given its frequently unstable political situation and proximity to highly sensitive Israel. New car sales growth in the area won’t be as explosive as it could be in other regions because it is starting from a much higher base, but Egypt (1.2m), Algeria (almost 850.000) and Morocco (450.000) should remain within the Top 5 largest African new auto markets by 2030, with Tunisia and Libya a notch below. The development path in this region will spread inside each country from the coastal, more developed areas into the interior, also potentially spreading into Libya that remains very secretive about its auto market but will be the richest country in the region by 2030.
Top 10 largest African new auto markets by volume – 2030 forecast:
|Pos||Market||2030 sales forecast||NVPT||2030 GDP per capita||Annual sales growth||Annual GDP growth|
NVPT: New Vehicles Per Thousand inhabitants sold annually. This forecast was calculated by BSCB based on official 2030 GDP forecasts by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, KPMG and African Development Bank Group, official 2030 population forecasts by the United Nations Population Division and internal BSCB methodologies linking GDP per capita and car purchase tipping points.
3. Which manufacturers are best placed for an African takeoff?
Carmakers who have a solid experience in low-cost manufacturing are better placed to benefit from African new car sales taking off because of two distinct cultural traits: a decades-long habit of importing used cars en masse and a tendency of the population to purchase less ostentatious vehicles than they can afford so as not to attract the attention of taxation offices. Africa’s fondness of used cars contrasts with psychologies visible in China, Japan and to a lesser extend India and means that pending lower import tariffs, car ownership will be among the most affordable in the world, with 20 to 40 year-old used European and Japanese vehicles readily available to purchase. As Ben Longman from African trend analysis firm Trendtype points out, distrust of government taxation offices and their arbitrary and illegal practices has made African consumers very coy about displaying ostentatious signs of wealth that could make them an obvious target for tax. They tend to choose cars in the lower-end spectrum even if they can afford more expensive vehicles. In that manner, Africa is the total opposite of India where consumers tend to bypass lower-end vehicles that wouldn’t appropriately enhance their status.
These two cultural traits are a fertile ground for new low and ultra-low cost cars, offering an affordable alternative to untrustworthy used cars and fitting right into the discretion African car buyers cherish. Enter the notions of frugal engineering and bottom up innovation I explained in my April 2014 article “STRATEGY: Understanding the Indian market”. These skills, perfected by manufacturers in India to no avail so far, certainly won’t be lost on the African car buyer and Indian experience will turn out to be capital for African success. Bottom up innovation has enabled the appearance of $150 laptops or $10 smartphones in Africa and applying these principles to car making will enable ultra-low cost offerings that, although originally designed for an Indian audience in the case of the Tata Nano, Datsun GO and Renault Kwid for example, will fit right into African tastes.
Toyota and Japanese manufacturers
Toyota is currently #1 in Africa at roughly 15% market share, with an estimated 39 African nations having a Toyota as their best-seller – mainly the Hilux, #1 in 30 countries – and that’s not even taking into account the blanket of used Toyota Corollas of all generations going back to the early eighties that is currently covering the continent. However brand loyalty is low in Africa and carmakers are among the least trusted brand categories according to Trendtype, so this is no guarantee for future domination. In fact, Korean manufacturer Hyundai is already outselling Toyota in four major African markets: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Angola. To sustain and further enhance its domination, Toyota will need to move towards simpler technologies as illustrated in Libya where Chinese ZX Auto pickups replaced the mighty Hilux during the Arab Spring.
Toyota has already been trying its hand at selling low-cost in southern Africa with the Etios, reaching its highest world rankings in South Africa (#4 in 2013), Namibia (#3 in 2014) and Lesotho (#2 in 2014) as well as the Corolla Quest, a previous generation Corolla ranking #4 passenger car in Namibia in 2014, #5 in Lesotho and #6 in Botswana. A future Toyota factory assembling previous generation, simpler Toyota Hiluxes in Africa for Africa would make a lot of sense and capture a large swath of any future growth in the region.
Building on the low-cost observation has Datsun as the next Japanese manufacturer set to enjoy potentially outstanding sales in the region. A complete failure so far in India due to its lack of status, the GO has started a very satisfying career in South Africa and there is no reason why this could not be replicated in future African markets. Suzuki through their Indian subsidiary Maruti is already able to offer ultra-low cost models and as a result is #1 in Angola. The rest of the Japanese have been rather discrete as they mainly count on their pickup offerings such as Mitsubishi with the L20 and Nissan with the Hardbody.
Korean and Indian manufacturers
Hyundai already outsells Toyota in four major African markets: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Angola, and will credibly challenge the Japanese manufacturer everywhere in Africa once it produces a no frills pickup – there are none on the horizon at the moment but trust Hyundai to react very quickly once it decides the time is right. The Korean manufacturer is already selling the Indian-made Grand i10 successfully in some African nations like Angola, but more interestingly in Egypt, it is offering a 2003 Verna as part of its new car lineup to great success as this is the best-selling passenger car overall in that market. Hyundai should and will replicate this concept as it expands into more sub-saharan countries. Indian auto makers Mahindra and Tata are also making significant inroads in southern and central Africa, and pending their survival at home they should not be discarded, Africa fast becoming one of the few regions where they still have a chance to establish a solid export presence.
Dacia Sandero in Marrakech. Picture © Elmar
French and European manufacturers
Cultural and economic ties make most of Africa the perfect playground for French manufacturers: the worldwide Francophone population will rise to 700 million by 2050, 80% of which in Africa. However, even though there is a decades-long heritage of French cars on most Francophone African roads and all French manufacturers still enjoy a solid brand image here, they have failed to fully capitalise on it so far. They are only dominant in northern Africa: since last year Renault manufactures in Algeria where it ranks #1 ahead of Peugeot, Renault-owned Dacia manufactures in Morocco where it leads the market with 27% share and Citroen is #1 in Tunisia with Peugeot at #3 and Renault at #4. Apart from these, Africa has for the most part returned to being terra icognita for French carmakers, an elephant-sized missed opportunity for them.
The Dacia lineup and its only-as-needed equipment philosophy seem like a perfect match for sub-saharan African consumers, in particular the recently unveiled Kwid small car for booming African cities already cramped with traffic. And Renault/Dacia can now count on a full decade of experience selling low-cost cars at every corner of the globe, an invaluable advantage over all other manufacturers when it comes to Africa as we’ve seen above. It took a while, but French manufacturers are now fully conscious of the low hanging fruit that is Africa, with Peugeot joining the ranks of Moroccan manufacturers in the coming years. The French will be a force to be reckoned with over the next couple of decades, as opposed to the quasi majority of other European manufacturers except perhaps Volkswagen, currently weak outside of southern Africa and in dire need of low-cost models such as the Polo Vivo it sells there if it wants a chance at a slice of future African growth.
Unbeknown to most, some Chinese carmakers already have a decade of assembling experience in Africa under their belt, with Chery starting in Egypt back in 2004 for example. As I studied in detail in my April 2014 article STRATEGY: How Chinese carmakers are setting themselves up for success, they have been working extra-hard under the radar to secure less developed markets that will form the bulk of the global car sales growth over the next couple of decades, namely South America and Africa. As a result, Chinese carmakers currently hold an astounding 20% market share in Kenya, Senegal and Ivory Coast, 15% in Egypt and 12% in Nigeria. Geely, Brilliance and Chery (with the Speranza brand) are strong in Egypt while Great Wall is making significant inroads in most of Africa, like in Namibia for example where the Wingle pickup ranks #10 overall in 2014. A wide coverage that goes against current perceptions of Chinese weakness in export markets.
But what makes the Chinese implantation in Africa unique is their government’s deep involvement in the infrastructure building of the continent for the past two decades, in essence since the fall of the Berlin wall and the loosening of Russia’s influence over the continent. Along with assembling cars, the Chinese are also building roads, rail tracks and airports (along with, oddly, soccer stadiums), prepping Africa to use their automotive products to their full extent. Chinese manufacturers lack the heritage that brands like Toyota, Peugeot or even Hyundai enjoy in Africa, however car manufacturers as a whole suffer from an extremely low level of consumer trust according to African trends analysis firm Trendtype, so it’s a blank page for everyone so to speak, which evens out the chances the Chinese have at carving themselves a significant slice of the African growth cake. Chinese carmakers are certainly the keenest to succeed here, and will account for one third of sales in a substantial list of African countries by 2030.
Linking low cost expertise to the carmakers best placed for future African growth does not currently favour American auto makers. Ford manufactures in South Africa and is faring well both in southern and northern Africa (#3 in Morocco) thanks notably to its Ranger pickup, #1 in South Africa so far in 2015. The Indian-made Ecosport has true potential in booming African cities, and is seemingly already a success in Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa. Further learnings from India will help Ford spread its success towards less developed African countries while it is mulling the opening of a Nigerian factory. Chevrolet also has a relatively strong presence on the continent, but it is mainly due to relatively fragile ties it has kept with Japanese pickup maker Isuzu, ties that have been severed in Australia for example. Chevy leads the Egyptian market outright mainly thanks to the TFR pickup, the best-seller overall which is in fact an Isuzu D-Max. In southern Africa, Chevrolet concentrates on passenger cars and uses the Isuzu brand for commercial vehicles with the D-Max (called KB) market leader in Zimbabwe and Swaziland. Chevrolet will need to prepare a no frills pickup back-up to the Isuzu option and import low-cost expertise from South America and China where it sells the Sail sedan at very competitive prices to count on a bright future in Africa.
The big unknown: African manufacturers
In China, most domestic actors in the automotive industry didn’t exist 20 years ago and Wuling, founded in 2002, now sells almost 1.5 million annual units domestically. It isn’t therefore unreasonable to expect mid-size African carmakers to enter the local automotive scene in the course of the next 15 years. At the moment, most new African car brands popping up here and there are in fact just assembling a range of rebadged Chinese models, such as Mozambique’s Matchedje Motor, Ghana’s Kantanka Cars, and Ethiopia’s Holland Car, a short-lived joint venture with Lifan.
One exception: Kenya’s Mobius Motors, symbolic of the country’s entrepreneurial spirit. Mobius Motors aims at empowering entrepreneurs with the Mobius II, an off-road vehicle priced similarly to a 7 year old sedan. On paper, it indeed offers a solution to a two-pronged issue that is currently locking out entry-level car buyers and particularly entrepreneurs in need of a cost-efficient vehicle: the degradation of rural and peri-urban sub-saharan roads and the inadequacy of most used cars imported into the region from more developed countries (think a 1995 Toyota Corolla sedan), still relatively expensive to buy due to high import duties, but also expensive to maintain because they are old and not designed to an African environment. On paper only, as it will take a lot of convincing to entice Kenyan buyers to trust an unknown brand, even if it is a local one.
The joker: Hybrid and electric technology
An option not to be discarded, hybrid and electric cars will enjoy tremendous progress and see their price drop drastically over the coming 15 years, making it a potentially viable option for the growing African middle-class. With Africa’s transport, energy and communication infrastructures sometimes lagging 50 years behind that of developed or even developing countries, we have already witnessed a phenomenon called leapfrogging that could well apply to the hybrid and electric car technologies in the not so distant future. A lot of sub-saharan countries have leapfrogged the construction of a landline telephone network to directly install a mobile network, and as a result Africa will hit 1 billion mobile subscribers this year for a 1.1 billion population! (see How Africa’s mobile revolution is disrupting the continent) There will be a time where the cost of establishing a network of petrol stations that facilitates fast car ownership growth will have to be balanced with a potentially cheaper network of solar-powered charging stations.
It seems far-fetched now, but may not be in ten years time when the vast majority of sub-saharan countries still far from taking off, thus unable to finance large infrastructure projects. Couple this with potential low-cost electric car offerings by some manufacturers and the equation becomes a lot simpler to resolve. As of today the Japanese are best placed in this segment, but this may also change quite fast and all auto makers, notably the Chinese pushed by their government, will have perfected these technologies by the time Africa really takes off after 2030. As for many areas in this report, this is a completely open book and once again the carmakers that will be able to produce low- or ultra low-cost hybrid or electric cars by 2030 will be best placed to succeed, were this segment to leapfrog petrol cars in Africa.
Africa is growing and it’s doing it fast, but its new car market is still a long way off having a real impact on the worldwide automotive scene. I forecast 7 million annual units in Africa by 2030, that’s an additional 5 million annual units compared to today’s 1.9 million which is far from negligible. In the same timeframe, China (predicted 40 million) should add 15 million annual units, India (predicted 7 million) should add 4 whereas both the U.S. (18.5 million) and Europe (16.8 million) will essentially add nothing. The new China: perhaps not, but Africa is the last frontier in terms of development and therefore automotive sales, and will progressively become one of the world’s largest engines of growth in the next two decades. Car manufacturers neglecting the establishment of a dense sales network and production hubs in Africa will miss out on a huge chunk of sales and bear the consequences in the long term.
– – –
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.
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)|
(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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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$16.000). These Chinese vehicles only are Sports Utility Vehicles by name, in no way true four-wheel drives capable of stepping out of urban areas, but they are high enough on the road for Chinese customers in Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities. Mission accomplished.
5. … while rural buyers switch from microvans to MPVs
If urban dwellers are abandoning their entry-level sedans to lap up an increasing variety of Chinese-branded SUVs, their newly prosperous rural counterparts are also moving upwards, ditching microvans for low-cost MPVs. In 2014, the MPV segment was the fastest-growing in the country with sales surging 47% to 1.91 million units just as microvan were losing 17% to 1.33 million deliveries. In 2015, MPVs are up by a further 28% so far and should end the year just under 2.5 million units. The good news for Chinese manufacturers is that 85% of all MPVs sales go to domestic brands, being a segment mostly popular in rural areas.
Price comparison – Wuling MPVs and microvans:
|Model||Cat||April sales||Price range (yuan)||Price range (US$)|
|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:
(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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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:
(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.
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.
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.
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The Chevrolet Chevette was the last Passenger Car to dominate the US ranking – in 1981.
The Austin Mini ranked within the UK Top 10 up until 1981
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Staying in India for a couple of days has enabled me to get a much better understanding of the Indian new car market and its dynamics which have very unique characteristics. In fact, not only is India very different from any other new car market in the world, but its logic pre-empts that of many future developing markets, at the centre of which most of Africa. With the main notion to remember being ‘bottom-up innovation’ to achieve even lower selling prices, understanding India is essential in today’s worldwide automotive scene.
1. Why India matters
Ever wondered why so many India-exclusive new cars were unveiled at the Delhi Auto Show in February compared to the relative small size of its new car market (2.5 million units in 2013 vs. 20.9 million for China)? That’s because on top of the enormous growth potential, making and selling cars in India requires a very different set of skills. And the manufacturers that are getting good at it are taking a decisive advantage into succeeding in tomorrow’s developing markets, because they will know how to make cars so cheap they can sell at a profit even in Africa – which is, believe it or not, the new China (a much more detailed analysis of this last point will be published soon).
To be successful in India, cars need a price tag so much lower than in most other markets, that new thinking is needed. An Indian trademarked way of innovating that is adapted to local conditions, constraints and revenue levels. The ‘old ‘way of creating low-cost was to engineer down from more sophisticated products by cutting cost through tried-and-tested platforms and economies of scale. The new way is to engineer up from scratch a product that is game-changingly cheaper with a mix of bare bones elements and latest tech features. Example: the $100 laptop. This process has been dubbed ‘frugal engineering‘ (achieving more with fewer resources) by Carlos Ghosn, or ‘bottom-up innovation’.
2. Bottom-up innovation at play
Indian manufacturer Tata was the first to bring bottom-up innovation to the car industry with the Nano, ‘the cheapest car in the world’ at US$1,700 when unveiled in 2009. The Nano turned a lot of carmaking conventions on their heads. It uses a modular design that theoretically enables a knowledgeable mechanic to assemble the car in a suitable workshop. It also includes numerous lighter components, from simple door handles and bulbs to the transmission and engine parts, enabling a more energy efficient engine. The Nano is one of the shortest four-passenger cars on the market, yet it allows for ample interior space. The fact that the Nano didn’t succeed doesn’t question this trend, as we’ll see below.
These ‘ultra-low cost’ cars can end up being more user-friendly, if sophisticated. One case in point that stroke me: the new Datsun Go does not have a radio or CD player (even optional), only an aux-in port and USB charging point, which means you can only listen to music stored on a portable device. On one hand I can hear you say “no radio? blasphemy!” After all, even Tata kept it optional on the Nano. On the other hand, most cars manufactured over 5 years ago don’t have these functionalities (even premium ones!), making listening to your favourite music without burning it on a CD impossible. See what I mean? All in all, for the target market, the Go driving experience as far as music is concerned is potentially more user-friendly for a fraction of the cost.
But just how low are car prices in India?
3. Low cost is premium is low cost
Car prices are on a drastically different scale in India: they are not just a little cheaper, but in a different ball game altogether.
This strategy analysis continues below.
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