Spain April 2016: Market back in positive (+21%), VW back to #1

VW Golf Spain April 2016. Picture courtesy of autobild.deVW Golf sales are up 45% year-on-year in Spain in April, helping the brand back to #1.

* See the Top 45 All-brands and Top 275 All-models by clicking on the title *

After ending 30 consecutive months of year-on-year gains in March with a 0.6% drop, the Spanish new car market is back in frankly positive territory with April up a gigantic 21% to 100.889 registrations, the first six-digit April score in eight years – since the 123.620 deliveries of April 2008. The year-to-date total is now up 10% to 388.087, here to the best tally after 4 months since 2008 (471.382), but still a fair distance from the all-time record of 2005 (546.906). Once again sales to rental pull the market up with a 29% increase to reach 20.9% market share. Company sales are up 21% to 26.5% share while private sales are up 18% to 52.6% vs. 53.8% a year ago and 50.5% so far in 2016 (52.6% at the same stage in 2015). So all-in-all a pretty homogeneous growth across all channels which is great news.

Seat Ibiza Spain April 2016. Picture courtesy autoexpress.co.ukThe Seat Ibiza is the best-selling nameplate in Spain in April but the Leon is #1 YTD.

In the brands ranking, Volkswagen puts an end to three consecutive months of reign by Opel with sales up 31% to 9.014 and 8.9% share vs. 7.720 and 7.7% (+10%) for Opel which however remains in the year-to-date lead at 32.740 deliveries (+22%) vs. 31.537 (+3%) for VW. Peugeot holds itself in third position, gaining slightly less ground than the market in April at +18% to 7.403 deliveries. Seat is down 4% to 4th place above Renault (+7%) while Citroen (+46%), Kia (+34%) and Toyota (+13%) are the other double-digit gainers inside the Top 10. Below, Volvo (+44%), Suzuki (+49%), Hyundai (+60%), Land Rover (+69%), Jeep (+71%) and Honda (+83%) are among the greatest performers while Jaguar (+309%), Ferrari (+200%), Tesla (+133%) and Lamborghini (+100%) lead smaller brands.

Dacia Sandero Spain April 2016. Picture courtesy largus.frThe Dacia Sandero ranks third overall in Spain this month.

Overtaking its larger stablemate the Leon for 149 units (3.363 vs. 3.214), the Seat Ibiza becomes the best-selling nameplate in the country in April for the first time in almost a year – the last was in May 2015 – but the Leon retains the year-to-date pole position at 12.962 units vs. 11.508. The Dacia Sandero is up two spots on March to brilliantly land on the third step of the podium, followed by the VW Golf (+45%) and Polo (+49%) both extremely dynamic, as is the Peugeot 308 at #7 (+46%). Less than a year after its launch, the Hyundai Tucson manages to crack the Spanish Top 10 for the 2nd time at #10 thanks to 1.765 sales.

Jaguar F-Pace Spain April 2016The F-Pace is already Jaguar’s best-seller in Spain. 

Among other recent launches, the Renault Kadjar is stable at #33, the Fiat Tipo is up 22 spots on last month to #73, the Mercedes GLC up 6 to #76 and the Suzuki Vitara is up 14 to #87. The Jaguar F-Pace up almost 100 ranks to #143 with 118 sales, becoming the brand’s best-seller in Spain as early as its third appearance in the Spanish charts – the Jaguar XE follows at #162. Further down, the Seat Ateca is up 21 ranks to #203, and we welcome the Suzuki Baleno at #210, the Porsche 718 at #217, the Mercedes GLS at #254 and the Ssangyong XLV at #255.

Previous month: Spain March 2016: First decline in 31 months on weak rentals

One year ago: Spain April 2015: Seat Leon takes clear advantage, Dacia Sandero #3

Full April 2016 Top 45 All-brands and Top 275 All-models below.

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Taiwan April 2016: RAV4 teases Corolla, Lexus RX just outside Top 10

Lexus RX Taiwan March 2016. Picture courtesy response.jpThe Lexus RX misses out on a Top 10 ranking in Taiwan by just 150 sales this month.

* See the Top 10 best-selling brands and Top 65 models by clicking on the title *

The Taiwanese new car market is up 3% year-on-year in April to 34.953 registrations, lifting the year-to-date total up 0.7% to 141.580 units. Toyota drops 9% to 25.4% share vs. 27.5% year-to-date, followed by Mitsubishi/CMC (+12%), Nissan/Infiniti (+16%), Mazda (+50%) and Mercedes (+1%), with local fare Luxgen holding its head inside the Top 10 at #10 with 1.051 sals and 3% market share (+10%). Model-wise, the Toyota Corolla (8.1%) is for once teased for pole position by the Toyota RAV4 (6.6%) with the Wish rounding up a podium 100% Toyota. The Mazda3 posts a stunning 4th place with 1.286 sales, up 9 spots on March, the CMC Veryca stays at very high levels in 5th place, the Lexus RX is up 9 spots to an outstanding 11th rank an the Mazda CX-3 is up 17 spots on last month to #28.

Previous month: Taiwan March 2016: Toyota Corolla leads, CMC Veryca on podium

One year ago: Taiwan April 2015: Mazda3 improves again to #7

Full April 2016 Top 10 brands and Top 65 models below.

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Thailand March 2016: Isuzu D-Max increases gap over Toyota Hilux

Isuzu D-Max Thailand March 2016Another victorious month for the Isuzu D-Max

* See the Top 32 All-brands and Top 70 models by clicking on the title *

Yet another month of decline for new car sales in Thailand, albeit limited to -2% in March at 72.646 registrations, pulling the First Quarter total down a depressing 8% to 181.560 units. Toyota is in trouble again at -23% to 21.101 sales and 29% share whereas immediate followers Isuzu (+2%) and Honda (+8%) both go against the grain to post very satisfying year-on-year gains, resulting in improved market shares of 18.2% and 15.6% respectively. The Yaris is down 35%, the Corolla down 38%, the Vios still hasn’t restarted production which has deprived the Japanese manufacturer of roughly 8 to 10.000 sales so far this year, and last but not least: the new generation Hilux continues to be surprisingly weak, which is the big event of the year so far in Thailand. At -11% to 10.525 units, it lags in 2nd place overall for the 4th consecutive month, leaving the top spot honours to the Isuzu D-Max at 11.647 (+10%). Year-to-date, the D-Max increases the gap with the Hilux to over 6.000 units at 32.309 and 17.8% share (+8%) vs. 26.299 and 14.5% (-20%). As the months go by it will become more and more difficult for the Hilux to reclaim an annual lead that had been his for the past 7 consecutive years…

Honda Civic Thailand March 2016. Picture courtesy headlightmag.comThe new generation Honda Civic already teases its archenemy the Toyota Corolla in March.

The only piece of good news for Toyota comes from the Fortuner: the new generation has been an incredible success and pushes the model up to #3 both in March (+278%) and year-to-date (+203%). Honda on the other hand is going from success to success: the City (+5%) benefits from the Vios absence, the all-new BR-V improves further to 1.885 sales (#11) for its 2nd full month in market and should break into the Top 10 next month and the new generation Civic is back with a vengeance, landing directly at #14 with 1.547 sales, just below the Corolla whereas the Civic nameplate ranked #25 over the FY2015 (Corolla at #11).

MG GS Thailand March 2016The MG GS has landed in Thailand. 

Meanwhile a couple of other Japanese carmakers are having the time of their life: Mitsubishi is up is 54% on the back of stunning Pajero Sport sales (#6 and 2.938 in March, up 386%) and Mazda is up 50% thanks to the 2 doubling its sales year-on-year (+99%) with the arrival of the new gen sedan and the CX-3 at #22 year-to-date. Other great performers include Ford (+32%), Mercedes (+48%), Lexus (+105%) and Kia (+36%) while now-Chinese manufacturer MG has sold over 1.600 units in three months in Thailand, simply its best performance outside China (it sold 992 in the UK during the same period). The MG 3 is within the 2016 Top 30 (#29), the MG 5 within the Top 40 (#39) and the MG 6 is #56 while the MG GS SUV has just arrived at #54 with 38 units sold for now.

Previous month: Thailand February 2016: Isuzu D-Max on its way to outsell the Hilux annually for the first time since 2007

One year ago: Thailand March 2015: Honda HR-V and Toyota Camry shoot up

Full March 2016 Top 32 All-brands and Top 70 models below.

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France April 2016: Peugeot 208 edges past Clio in best April in 6 years

Peugeot 208 France March 2016. Picture courtesy largus.frThe Peugeot 208 is up 22% at home to snap the pole position off the Renault Clio.

* See the Top 20 best-selling brands and Top 50 models by clicking on the title *

The French new car market posts another robust month – at least on paper – with sales up 6.5% year-on-year to hit 181.830 units, the best April tally since 2010 (190.986). This improvement relies once again on company sales (+10%) now accounting for 21% of the total and most strikingly short-term rental sales up 12% to 17% share at 30.693 units. Private sales are up a more reserved 4% to drop to a lowest-ever market share of 48% at just 86.749 deliveries. More worryingly, the booking orders remain frankly below the actual market growth, indicating low-profit bargain sales from manufacturers. Booking orders were at +1.3% in April vs. +1.1% in March (market at +7.5%) and +1.8% in February (market at +13%).

Renault Talisman France April 2016. Picture courtesy largus.frThe Renault Talisman remains above the VW Passat but below the Peugeot 508. 

Renault leads the brands charts thanks to sales up 8% to 35.721 and 19.6% share. The manufacturer is handicapped by the 11% drop of the Renault Clio – overtaken for pole position by the Peugeot 208 (+22%), as well as the Scenic (-27%) and Twingo (-16%) both losing significant ground. The brand’s recent launches, the Megane IV (#12), Kadjar (#13), Espace (#29) and Talisman (#37 – above the VW Passat) are all either at or above their year-to-date levels. Traditionally used to “healthy” gains, Peugeot’s growth this month (+7% to 17.1% share) is only due to short-term rental sales (+59%) while private sales are down 3.5%. The 308 is also up 5% to #3 but the 2008 is down 6% to #6.   Although weak (+1.4%), Citroen’s gain is satisfyingly built on private sales (+9%) whereas short-term rental sales are down 19%. Volkswagen is stable in 5th place (+0.2%) but sees the Polo (+18%) and Golf (+14%) deliver strong gains – they are the only two foreign nameplates in the French Top 16 in April.

The Renegade is the first Jeep to rank inside the French Top 50 since 1990. 

Although Dacia’s performance appears very shy (+0.6%), its April 2015 score was extraordinarily high due to late 2014 deliveries and as a consequence Renault’s low-cost brand hits a very strong 6.2% market share this month, placing the Sandero at #5 and the Duster at #9. Audi (+9%) leads the luxury segment once again but BMW (+29%) and Mercedes (+23%) are catching up fast. Fiat (+16%), Hyundai (+39% thanks to the Tucson at #28) and Mini (+17%) also post strong gains in the Top 20. Below, Jeep is pushed up 23% by the Renegade breaking into the French Top 50 for  the first time (#50). Note also spectacular gains from Mazda (+68% thanks to the CX-3), Honda (+75% thanks to the HR-V), Smart (+41%), Infiniti (+279% thanks to the Q30), Porsche (+35%), Jaguar (+295%) thanks to the XE and F-Pace) and Ssangyong (+146% thanks to the Tivoli).

Previous month: France March 2016: Renault impresses in healthy market up 7.5%

One year ago: France April 2015: Peugeot 308 and 2008 overtake Renault Captur

One year ago (Q1): France 1st Quarter 2015: Artificial recovery?

Full April 2016 Top 20 brands and Top 50 models below.

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Switzerland March 2016: VW Group monopolises Top 7

Skoda Octavia Switzerland March 2016#2 in March, the Skoda Octavia remains #1 year-to-date in Switzerland. 

* See the Top 38 best-selling brands and Top 340 All-models by clicking on the title *

Switzerland is one of only a handful of European markets to lose ground year-on-year in March at -8% to 29.099 registrations, pulling the year-to-date total down to negative territory at -0.4% to 71.957 units. Volkswagen (+2%) goes against grain with a positive result at 11.9% share, distancing BMW (-3%), Mercedes (-16%) and Skoda (-22%) with Audi (-7%) found up the Top 5. Below, Opel (+18%), Toyota (+32%) and Mazda (+31%) all improve frankly, as do Dacia at #21 (+20%), Land Rover at #24 (+27%), Infiniti at #30 (+509%) and Jaguar at #31 (+187%). Model-wise, the VW Golf outsells the Skoda Octavia by just 18 units in March, not enough to reclaim the #1 year-to-date position with the Octavia still in the lead so far in 2016 at 2.708 sales vs. 2.602 thanks to a very strong January score. With the Touran at #3, the Polo at #4 and the Passat at #5, Volkswagen places four nameplates in the Top 5, with the Audi A3 at #6 and VW T6 at #7 the VW Group monopolises the Top 7 and with the Skoda Fabia at #9 and Seat Leon at #10 it places an incredible 8 nameplates inside the Swiss Top 10. Among recent launches, the Hyundai Tucson (#16), Mazda CX-3 (#18) and Mercedes GLC (#26) stand out.

Previous post: Switzerland January-February 2016: Skoda Octavia #1, VW T6 shines

One year ago: Switzerland March 2015: Skoda Octavia takes the lead year-to-date

Full March 2016 Top 38 brands and Top 340 All-models below.

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Ireland March 2016: Nissan triumphs, places Qashqai on top

Nissan Qashqai Ireland March 2016. Picture courtesy autoexpress.co.ukThe Nissan Qashqai is the best-selling nameplate in Ireland in March

* See the Top 30 All-brands and Top 209 All-models by clicking on the title *

The Irish new car market continues all guns blazing this year with a further 13% gain in March to 21.521 registrations, lifting the year-to-date total to 82.834 units, up 28% on the same period a year ago. Nissan manages to beat the market at +29% to finish on top with 2.686 sales and 12.5% share, placing the Qashqai as the best-selling nameplate in the country this month. The Japanese manufacturer however remains 5th year-to-date below Toyota (+29%), Hyundai (+44%), Volkswagen (+8%) and Ford (+27%). Other great gainers this month include Skoda (+29%), Renault (+83%), Audi (+29%), BMW (+32%), Mazda (+43%), Mercedes (+37%), Suzuki (+188%) and Jaguar (+139%). Model-wise, the VW Golf and Skoda Octavia round up the podium while the Hyundai Tucson  drops to #4 but remains at a stunning first place year-to-date and by far: at 4.313 sales and 5.2% share it distances the VW Golf at #2 with 2.871 units and 3.5%.

Previous month: Ireland January-February 2016: Tucson leads, pushes Hyundai to #1

One year ago: Ireland March 2015: Nissan Note and Pulsar impress

Full March 2016 Top 30 All-brands and Top 209 All-models below.

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Beijing Auto Show 2016: The most impressive Chinese carmakers (1/6)

Foton Gratou interior Pic2Gotta like orange… Foton Gratour ix7 

The wait is over. As is now the tradition at BSCB, I give you the ranking of the Chinese carmakers that impressed me the most at this year’s Auto China 2016 in Beijing. Now in its third iteration, this ranking is getting tuned each year as my expectations of each brand vary based on what I saw in the past three Chinese Auto Shows (Guangzhou 2015 was too small to warrant a full ranking). The Beijing Auto Show is smaller than Shanghai, so this year truck specialists are not included and only brands that could make it into the Top 30 are featured: the competition is getting tough!

Everything comes into consideration in the building of this ranking: from the interior/exterior quality and design of the models exhibited, the number/validity of new cars, concept cars, staff availability, savviness and friendliness as well as whether or not they improved since last year, met/exceeeded my expectations or plain disappointed. As always we are going up the ladder from last to first in pure, old-fashioned hit parade tradition. In brackets is first the brand’s ranking last year at the Shanghai Auto Show, second its ranking in Beijing two years ago. We start with brands ranked #30 to #21.

Wuling Hongguang S1 April 2016

Not ranked: Wuling (-, 11), Landwind (28, -), Weichai Enranger (-,-), Denza (35,27), MG (22,20), Brilliance/Huasong/Jinbei (25,24/18,-/24,16)

These brands do not make it into the Top 30, either because they did not have a stand at the Show or because their performance was too discreet. In the case of Wuling, it is now the second time SAIC-GM decides to pass on dedicating a stand for the best-selling local brand (over 1.5 million sales in 2015) and #2 brand in China overall below Volkswagen. A decision that keeps surprising me Show after Show, especially given the company is spitting out updated versions of its best-seller the Hongguang faster that it takes to write these lines. An aggressive-looking S1 (picture above) was hiding in the corner of one Baojun lineup brochure, and the Hongguang S featured in the Baojun highlight video screen, but that is all.

As for Landwind, after exhibiting its Evoque-clone, the X7, last year in Shanghai in a rather impressive stand, the manufacturer is absent in Beijing as it was already the case two years ago. Newcomer Weichai Enranger was relegated to an outside stand almost impossible to find, Denza had nothing new to show us for the 2nd consecutive years as did MG whose stand only featured a sponsorship with the Liverpool soccer club – a partnership that is already in the open as it is included in all MG China advertising. Brilliance is faithful to a very clear separation of its three brands (along with Jinbei and Huasong) but an absence of novelties keeps them away from the ranking despite the very welcome distribution of water bottles on the stand – surprisingly the only manufacturer doing so in the entire Show…

Qoros3Qoros3

30. Qoros (6,25)

Last year in Shanghai I was impressed by the ambience and attitude of the Qoros brand sticking to its positioning of European sophistication. This time it all fell flat. The Qoros stand was a pale copy of the one from Shanghai and was almost completely deserted by the press whereas in 2015 it was the place to be. Yes the 5 SUV is a step in the right direction for the brand and the interior quality is good but if two-three years ago the Qoros interiors were among the very best for a Chinese brand, they have now fallen behind – a testimony to the speed at which all Chinese manufacturers are improving.

Qoros StandA Qoros stand looking decidedly empty

Haima V70Haima V70

29. Haima (26,4)

Two years ago in Beijing, Haima ranked 4th in my Most Impressive list due to a very playful and confident launch of the S5 SUV. This time the only new nameplate on offer is an already dated V70 MPV – losing me in passing with their naming codes. On the plus side, credit to Haima for flying solo and shedding all tying links with its joint-venture partner Mazda. The ambience of the stand is pleasing mix of black, blue and white (the cars) giving a sophisticated touch, unfortunately not matched by the interior still made of way to much shiny plastic. In two years Haima’s S5 has imposed itself as one of the best-selling SUVs in the country, especially in more remote areas. The least we would have expected is for Haima to launch at least one, better: two new SUVs, such as a S1 and S3 for example. Next year in Shanghai?

Haima S5Haima S5

BYD YuanBYD Yuan 

28. BYD (3,14)

In Shanghai last year I was stunned by BYD’s revival, dynamism and clarity on their “Dynasty series” SUV launches. Unfortunately there is nothing new on the the brand’s stand this year apart from a Qin 100 EV sedan, meaning 100 miles range. BYD looks like it’s still trying to find itself, with SUVs and crossovers taking centre stage (and rightly so) but an hesitation in positioning: is it all about eco-friendly transportation (the brand’s big shout last year) or a more youthful, playful and pragmatic angle as illustrated by the hosts dressed in overalls and tee-shirts? The latter positioning would suck in a lot more sales if you ask me.

JMC S330Nice try, but the canary colour won’t hide a rather bland design for the JMC S330.

27. JMC (16,22)

A year ago JMC entertained with outlandish SUV concepts, looking very exciting indeed. In 2016 it’s back to work for JMC and the first new nameplate in a long while, the Yusheng S330, albeit completely on-trend, on-format, on-design, is very bland compared to what we saw in concept. In fact, the S300 could have been released three years ago that we wouldn’t have noticed. At the speed at which Chinese carmakers are improving, this is clearly not a good sign for JMC. On the plus side, the bright colours that hurt the eyes last year (in a good way) are back, with two examples of the S330 in canary yellow and night blue present on the stand, but in a way they stress the bland design a little further. Please bring back the spark in Shanghai next year JMC!

JAC SC5 ConceptJAC SC5 concept

26. JAC (19,9)

With the Refine S3 and S2, JAC has been one of the main beneficiaries of the sales rush towards small Chinese crossovers over the past couple of years, so they are forgiven for not having much energy left for its local Auto Shows. Profit über alles, and there is nothing wrong with that. Based solely on their presence at the Show though, JAC is sliding down the ranking each year. What saves it from a worse ranking is an appetising-looking SC5 concept, which would be welcome as the next generation Refine JS5 SUV. On the negative side, JAC still hasn’t chosen between two logos, with its models featuring both once again in Beijing: the JAC letter on a blue oval, or the Mercedes-inspired star. Which is for what, we (they) will never know…

Hawtai PlusHawtai is headed in the right direction

25. Hawtai (31,30)

Originally limited to assembling clones of outdated Hyundai SUVs under license, Hawtai has been stuck at the bottom of my Most Impressive rankings both in 2014 and 2015, mainly due to low quality interiors. The brand is stepping up this year, with two novelties on its stand: the xEV260 all-electric SUV based on the Shengdafei and an all-new imposing “Plus” large SUV disrceetly exhibited. Though still not among the best in China, the materials are in progress and it looks like Hawtai is slowly but surely finding its groove and stepping away from its Hyundai heritage. The fact that it is taking a lot longer to improve than most Chinese brands isn’t necessarily a bad sign, it also shows they are careful to avoid a burnout. This makes me look forward to what Hawtai will have in store in 2017 in Shanghai.

LeSEE frontLeSEE Super Car Concept

24. LeSEE (-,-) 

Boldly self-annointed as the Chinese Tesla, LeEco is the equivalent of Netflix in China and is led by charismatic CEO Jia Yueting. Unveiled before the Show on April 20, the LeSEE Super Car stole the headlines in the local press. It is symbolic of Chinese tech companies invading the auto industry the same way Google and Apple are doing in the U.S. The concept is a premium D-Class internet autonomous EV with a max speed of 130 km/h – hardly enough to compete with the Tesla Model S. One of the innovations coming from LeEco is the fact that this car could be free to own based on a content subscription to LeEco, in the same manner as Apple is subsidising the iPhone with long-term data plans. Although very alluring, it definitely looked like a concept in Beijing, preventing it from climbing up higher in the ranking. We’ll have to wait and SEE.

LeSEE interiorLeSEE interior

Qiantu K50Qiantu K50

23. Qiantu (-,-)

Another Chinese EV supercar present in Beijing is this Qiantu K50, looking very impressive indeed. It debuted at the Shanghai Auto Show last year but it somehow fell through the cracks. This time, impossible to miss the Qiantu stand, as big as Lexus across the aisle and spectacularly focused on just one example of the K50. The clever use of space has an effect not dissimilar to what Lamborghini achieves on relatively small stands. The VIP area looks very exclusive indeed, the brochure has its place among the most luxurious brands in the world and makes it look like the K50 is already on sale. Almost: the company reportedly started building its plant in Suzhou, with an on sale date set for 2017. Here too, given the myriad of super car brands that promise outstanding performances and never deliver, we’ll believe it when we see it, but given it seems a lot closer to production than the LeSEE, Qiantu ranks higher.

Foton Gratour ix7Foton Gratour ix7

22. Foton “Gratour” (10,25)

After a very impressive show of strength last year in Shanghai, surprisingly there was no Foton stand in the inside halls in Beijing. Only an outdoors stand dedicated to heavy truck – Foton’s first love – and… the Gratour ix7. Futon’s owner, BAIC, is a champion at confusing us with sub-brands that behave like brands but are in fact rebadges, and does it again with the all-new Gratour label. One ix7 was exhibited in the BAIC Group stand next to a Huansu S6 and Senova X55 (more on this later) and two of them were front-stage in the outdoors Foton stand. The Gratour Auto website also features the ix5 – which we’re going to assume has five seats instead of seven for the ix7. Both look the same and really like a smaller Mercedes van. Foton remains faithful to the “Loud” positioning we enjoyed with a ix7 Boom Box complete with giant bass speakers. Bonus points for the effort but this is still all very confusing to me.

Foton Gratour logoAnd one new logo under the BAIC umbrella, one! 

Foton Gratour StandYet the Gratour models are exhibited under a big Foton logo on the outdoors stand…

Foton Gratour ix7 detailFoton Gratour ix7 Boom Box detail 

Changjiang e.Cool Pic3Changjiang e.Cool

21. Changjiang / Long River (-,-)

We are not in an Chinese Auto Show without a surprise brand popping up on the scene before my rounded out eyes. In 2014 it was Leopaard, in 2015 Huasong and in 2016 it’s Changjiang – translated into “Long River” on the logo. Strategically positioned in the SAIC exhibition hall, Changjiang is one of the first manufacturers you will see when you enter through the media entrance. Very clever, and enormous kudos for booking a full sized stand at the Show, exhibiting a range 100% electric whose e.Cool (pictured) has the highest sales potential. Originally a bus manufacturer, Changjiang also has a couple of them on its stand, making it look like the brand has been eating these Shows for breakfast. Behave like an adult and you will get taken seriously. Sure, the models aren’t the sexiest but a very impressive effort nonetheless.

Stay tuned for the next batch of brands, going from #20 to #11…

Changjiang e.Cool Pic1Changjiang e.Cool

Changjiang standChangjiang stand

Changjiang e.Cool Pic2Changjiang e.Cool

Beijing Auto Show 2016: The Ten Highlights

Dongfeng A9 Beijing 2016Dongfeng A9 at the Beijing Auto Show 2016

It’s finally here! Auto China 2016, the largest Auto Show in the world, alternates between Shanghai and Beijing and this year it’s the turn of the “Capital of the North” – as its name literally means in Mandarin – to host this gigantic event. As you all know, at BSCB we attach particular importance to the Chinese market due to its size, fast evolution and critical place on the world scene. A “Special China” section was even created in our new navigation tab earlier this year to put our entire Chinese coverage at your finger tips, and multiple monthly updates are published to keep you abreast of the latest developments in this fascinating market.

Announced at 220.000 square meters of exhibition space, Beijing 2016 is indeed the largest Auto Show in the world this year, but pales in comparison with Shanghai which still felt at least twice as big if not more. This year, as it has been the case for our Beijing 2014 and Shanghai 2015 coverages, we will start with the Highlights of the Show. We will then publish our much anticipated ranking of the most impressive Chinese carmakers will be unveiled, and I can already reveal that a lot of feathers have been ruffled atop the charts! You can refresh your memory before the big unveiling and check out our “Most Impressive” rankings at Beijing 2014 and Shanghai 2015. Finally I’ll pop in an exclusive interview with Laurens Van Den Acker, Senior Vice President of Corporate Design at Renault, a new player in the China-made scene.

These are the  Ten Highlights of the Beijing Auto Show 2016. If you only read one article about the Show, make it this one.

Chery Arrizo 7Chinese carmaker Chery impressed with the Tiggo 7.

1. No one can keep up with Chinese carmakers

After two years of frantic launches in all segments and prices, with hundreds of new nameplates hitting the local market, I came into Beijing with reserved expectations about Chinese carmakers. Surely they couldn’t keep up with the rhythm they have accustomed us to so far. This was underestimating them again… Out of the 50-odd world premieres the Show had to offer 35 were from Chinese carmakers, and 25 of them in the SUV segment. If most foreign manufacturers are starting to pant at the lightning speed at which the Chinese market is evolving, local players are nonplussed and continue to align relevant model after relevant model, adhering more closely each year to the very specific – and changing – needs of the Chinese customer.

Roewe RX5Roewe revealed the RX5 SUV…

The speed at which most Chinese brands are releasing new models is unprecedented in the history of automobile and their unabated focus on the SUV segment is another proof – if we needed one – that they are not ready to waste time and energy in segments that are losing momentum, such as sedans. Where foreigners persist in launching hatchbacks and 4-doors, hoping for a larger share of a shrinking pie, Chinese carmakers have their eyes on the prize and will bolster the SUV growth even further over the coming years with an ever-expanding list of offerings that are getting dangerously close to their Western competitors’ quality for an unbeatable price.

GAC Trumpchi GS8…and GAC the Trumpchi GS8

Brands that we thought had lost their shine of late came back with a vengeance (Chery, Roewe, Dongfeng, FAW, BAIC), others are building on astonishing SUV successes (GAC, Baojun, Changan, Leopaard, Zotye). Some came from literally nowhere (Borgward, Cowin, LeSee), others are going from low-cost to mass at lightning speed (Geely, Venucia) while seemingly condemned ones won’t go without a fight (Lifan). There were some naughty pupils such as Brilliance, BYD and – to a lesser extent – Haval and but all-in-all it is almost impossible to fault any Chinese brand this year for not trying hard enough.

FAW Hongqi sedan ConceptFAW Hongqi Sedan Concept

The Chinese car scene is evolving at a speed we have never witnessed before, and all cards seem to be redistributed at the start of each year, or each Auto Show. Where foreign manufacturers would ask for a break, Chinese ones hold their breath and fight even harder. As always, it is utterly exciting to see all this change happening so fast before our eyes and one of the reasons why we extend our coverage of Chinese manufacturers each year. Stay tuned for our Most Impressive ranking coming up soon…

LeEco LeSEELeEco LeSEE

2. Chinese Internet companies steal the Show

Aside from the mainstream Chinese brands we have grown familiar to and in line with the U.S. players that are disrupting their local industry such as Tesla, Apple and Google, the big novelty this year in Beijing was the thunderous unloading of large Internet players onto the Chinese automobile scene. LeEco, the Chinese Netflix, unveiled the concept for its self-anointed “Tesla beater”, the LeSEE, looking very impressive indeed but still very far from a production model.

Faraday FutureFaraday Future FF Zero1 

Also backed by LeEco, Faraday Future showed its outlandish FF Zero1 – a sort of futuristic one-seater Batmobile – that had its World Premiere earlier this year in Las Vegas. Jia Yueting, founder of LeEco, says that the car of tomorrow will be connected, electric, self-driving and… free! He considers the car as just a larger smartphone or tablet on wheels, another channel to sell content to his customers. Subsidising the car for a recurring content subscription the way Apple does with the iPhone starts to make total sense from this angle. LeEco isn’t the only Chinese tech to have invaded the auto world this year: Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent are all making their way into it, with Alibaba recently partnering with giant SAIC. The Chinese car industry is not only evolving at breakneck speed, its borders with other tech industries are also blurring fast.

Ford F-150 Raptor2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

3. Ford finally officially launches its iconic F-150 Raptor in China

We at BSCB always try and approach the Auto Shows we visit with a specific sales angle. Gone very much under the radar in Beijing, the decision by Ford to officially launch the 2017 F-150 Raptor in China later this year is in fact a very symbolic one that warrants big headlines. If you have been following our Chinese Photo Reports of the past couple of years (see China 2014 Photo Reports and China 2015 Photo Reports), you will be familiar with the recurring theme of “One Ford F-150 Raptor and one Toyota Tundra in each city”. Indeed, in absolutely every Chinese city I have ever visited – big or small – I would without fault always spot at least one of each nameplate.

It would be mundane were it for the fact that neither is currently officially sold in China, they are privately imported from the U.S. and sold locally at an extortionate price. Yet the Chinese can’t seem to get enough of them, indicating a significant pent-up demand for this type of vehicles. It would appear Ford U.S. has been reading BSCB as they will start officially selling the 2017 Raptor here later this year, the fact that the Chinese government is in the process of cancelling laws preventing pickups from entering big cities probably also helping. This shows that Americans manufacturers are starting to get China very right indeed. GM had a new Buick LaCrosse in Beijing after unveiling the new Excelle GT and Verano in Guangzhou last November, Jeep introduced its China-made Renegade and distributed very sleek brochures celebrating its 75th anniversary and Lincoln also did extremely well as we’ll see further down. It’s not by chance that GM outsold VW in China for the first time in a decade in 2015. Also, where was the Toyota Tundra TRD on Toyota’s stand? Nowhere, you guessed it.

Renault KoleosRenault unveiled the All-new Koleos in Beijing

4. Renault makes a splash

Just one month after the Kadjar made its first appearance in the China-made sales charts, French manufacturer Renault went all guns blazing in Beijing with the World Premiere of the all-new Koleos. Renault kick-started its very first Chinese assembly plant in Wuhan earlier this year and is determined to not make the same mistakes its compatriot PSA Peugeot-Citroen made in this country, namely missing out big time on the SUV wave despite being installed in China for almost 25 years. The marketing budget Renault has unlocked for the Beijing Auto Show is impressive, with large Kadjar banners facing the subway exit into the Show and a gigantic digital screen spanning 200 meters across a large building in construction one block away from the Exhibition Center (see pictures below).

Renault KadjarRenault Kadjar at Beijing Auto Show 2016

Renault has carefully laid out its stand to ensure the connection with its Formula 1 success isn’t missed by any visitor. This connection has done wonders to position the French manufacturer upmarket in India, and Renault wants to replicate this situation for the Chinese market.

Renault Fan Bingbing Chinadaily.com.cnFan BingBing is Renault’s ambassador in China.

The choice of ambassador for the Renault Kadjar in China is also telling: where another French carmaker, DS, selfishly selected Gallic actress Sophie Marceau – unknown in China – Renault opted for Fan BingBing (X-Men, Iron Man 3), a huge superstar in her home country and able to bring the brand a lot closer to its Chinese audience.

Renault Kadjar Fan Bingbing Renault bannerRenault Kadjar banners featuring Fan Bingbing and giant digital advertising across the Show.

Citroen C6Citroen unveiled the All-new C6

Renault is spending big bucks to impose itself in the ultra-competitive Chinese market, and with 3 SUVs in its lineup (Koleos, Kadjar and Captur) it is playing its cards right to succeed at doing so. It better be, because the long-term annual sales target of 800.000 set by Carlos Ghosn in 2014 is an extremely ambitious one. In comparison, Peugeot, Citroen and DS completely missed the mark in Beijing this year. If in 2015 I was awestruck by the Peugeot CEO Maxime Picat delivering his entire speech in Mandarin, this year it seemed the speech was more or less the same and the accent was definitely French. The only ‘novelty’ Peugeot had to offer was a thinly facelifted 3008 while DS had nothing (the 4S hatch was launched in Guangzhou) and Citroen a C6 “Luxury sedan” that looks positively cheap from the outside.

Lincoln Stand 2Lincoln Stand 1The Lincoln Stand at the Beijing Auto Show 2016

5. Lincoln the most impressive stand

Another proof that Americans are getting China very right, Lincoln’s presence at the Show was by far the most sophisticated, aspiring and in touch with the Chinese customer. The layout of the stand, the innovative welcome desk (see above), the hostesses, the lineup (compact SUVs and large sedans), the personal hosts guiding potential customers through the models and the stand, the waterfall, the ‘hidden’ VIP section featuring all the materials used in the cars as well as a new Continental more accessible to explore, the mix of modernity and heritage with a vintage Continental exhibited… Everything, everyone and everywhere is on-brand, on-point, on-target. “Impeccable Craftsmanship” it was. Bravo.

Lincoln Stand 3 Lincoln Stand 4Lincoln heritage and waterfall

Acura CDXAcura CDX and NSX

6. Acura the latest local producer

After Renault with the Kadjar in March and Jaguar with the XFL in April, Acura is the third worldwide OEM to enter the China-made arena in 2016 with the very China-adequate CDX compact SUV. The stand smartly connected it with the brand’s flagship, the NSX, and although not particularly striking, it falls right into the bullseye of luxury SUVs with its sights firmly set on the Lexus NX and the upcoming Infiniti QX30. Infiniti manufactures the Q50L sedan and the QX60 SUV locally since 2015, so among Japanese luxury brands it leaves just Lexus as pure importer in China. Toyota has no plans to start assembling Lexus locally in the near future though.

Hyundai VernaHyundai unveiled the new generation Verna at the Show

7. The Koreans still as hungry as ever

Just as the Elantra Lingdong launched in market in March, Hyundai hasn’t wasted any time renewing another best-seller, the Verna (aka Accent) with a new generation unveiled at the Show as a World Premiere – a clear sign of how critical the Chinese market is for the Korean manufacturer. The Hyundai stand had a separate area for new luxury brand Genesis with the G90 and G80 exhibited and a smooth, silky ambience in the refined corner and hostesses were eagerly distributing the Hyundai Premium D magazine. Kia had a refreshed K3 and a facelifted K4 among other novelties: it appears Korean manufacturers are the only ones able to keep up with the frenetic launch rhythm set by Chinese carmakers at home…

Kia K3Kia K3 Toyota ViosA facelifted Vios is pretty much all the new material Toyota had to offer at the Show

8. …while Toyota is asleep at the wheel…

If Ford smartly launched the F-150 Raptor (in the absence of any other novelties), the Tundra TRD was nowhere to be seen on the Toyota stand. Last year in Shanghai, the focus of Toyota was on its new Corolla and Levin Hybrid. This year in Beijing, the focus of Toyota is on… its Corolla and Levin Hybrid. Passable in a European or American Show but unacceptable in China. In a market flooded with dozens of new SUVs each year (month), Toyota did not even exhibit the new CH-R it unveiled in Geneva last March. It will sell like hot dumplings in China and would propel the Toyota brand to the top of the shopping list of many local consumers, yet this seemed to have escaped Toyota’s management. And the feebly facelifted Vios and Yaris L shown will not do.

VW Phideon

9. …and Volkswagen wants to go premium

Embattled in its emissions scandal, Volkswagen has made one thing clear: its necessary budget cuts will not affect China in the least. Its stand at Beijing smelled very premium indeed, with only the upmaket variants of each nameplate exhibited, a lot of space made for the all-new Phideon (unveiled in Geneva) and yet another large SUV concept (the T-Prime) when what the brand needs since 2010 is one or four compact SUVs. A facelifted Bora also pointed its bonnet, but this is not a World Premiere as I have already spotted one on the steers of Beijing.

VW T-Prime Concept

If Volkswagen definitely did not behave like the market leader it is in Beijing, premium Germans also showed a definitive step back compared to their performance a year ago in Shanghai. BMW had a new long-wheeled X1 to show and Mercedes the new E-Class L but Audi had nothing really new. We have time for Mercedes who has been on a launching frenzy in the past two years, especially in the SUV segment the Chinese consumers can’t get enough of, but the other two carmakers have certainly not made the most of the opportunities that the Beijing Auto Show had to offer this year.

Cowin X3 Beijing 2016Cowin X5 conceptCowin X5 and X3 Concept

10. Borgward, Cowin and Changhe among Chinese surprises

A Chinese Auto Show wouldn’t be the same if there weren’t any big, very big surprises such as completely new brands coming out of nowhere or carmakers resuscitated from the dead. And Beijing didn’t disappoint in this area.  Literally just a logo a year ago, Borgward relaunched in Frankfurt last September (bad idea) but now that it is back on its backer’s territory (Foton/BAIC), it suddenly came up with a full stand complete with a 3-model lineup!

Borgward BX5Borgward BX5

Cowin, a “young and connected” spinoff brand from Chery, had nothing to be ashamed of against most other Chinese established brands, SAIC launched a new all-electric brand/lineup and Changhe came back from the dead with two very satisfying offers. But there was more, much more, and we will cover every single Chinese carmaker present at the Beijing Auto Show 2016 is our “Most Impressive” ranking, coming up shortly. Stay tuned!

Mexico March 2016: Nissan Versa tops 15th consecutive record month

Nissan Versa Mexico January 2016The Nissan Versa confirms it is now Mexico’s most popular nameplate.

* See the Top 40 All-brands and Top 225 All-models by clicking on the title *

The Mexican new car market posts an incredible 15th consecutive record month in March with sales up a cool 11% year-on-year to 116.870 units, an all-time high for the month. Year-to-date volumes are up 13% to a record 347.347 units after three months. At this rate, Mexico will cross the symbolic 1.5 million annual registrations for the very first time by the end of 2016, an additional 150.000 units on 2015, the current record at 1.35m sales. Although slightly underperforming at +8% in March and +11% in 2016, Nissan remains by far the most popular brand in the country with 26.5% share this month, distancing Chevrolet at 17.1% (+4%) and Volkswagen at 13.9% (+13%). Toyota (+22%) overtakes Ford (-8%) for the overall 4th spot with Honda (+14%) and Mazda (-8%) in tow.

Nissan Pickup Mexico November 2015. Picture courtesy autocosmos.com.mxThe Nissan Pickup ranks #2 in March. Picture autocosmos.com.mx

Kia confirms it is more successful than sister brand Hyundai, lifting its personal best further to 3.381 sales and 2.9% share only eight months after it launched in the country. Coincidentally, Hyundai also beats its monthly volume record in March at 2.747 and 2.4%, up 60% year-on-year. Notice also Renault (+36%), Ram (+56%), Mercedes (+24%), GMC (+28%), Buick (+46%) and Volvo (+32%) all frankly outperforming the market.

Chevrolet S10 Mexico March 2016Four years after Brazil, the Chevrolet S-10 has launched in Mexico to great success. 

Model-wise, the Nissan Versa cements its newfound leadership of the Mexican market thanks to sales up a splendid 53% to 7.194 units, distancing another Nissan, the Pickup – the commercial variant of the Frontier – despite sales down 5% to 5.145. The Chevrolet Spark (+21%) steps onto the podium for the very first time in Mexico, progressively replacing the Aveo (-32% to #7) as the brand’s best-seller here. The VW Vento (-6%) and Jetta (+53%) roundup the Top 5 with the Chevrolet Sonic (+65%) posting a second consecutive month inside the Top 10.

Toyota Hilux Mexico March 2016. Picture courtesy autocosmos.com.mxToyota Hilux sales are up 50% in Mexico thanks to the new model. 

Among recent launches, the Chevrolet S-10 (the world Colorado) imported from Brazil albeit with a 4 year-delay shoots up to #14 with 1.700 sales, becoming an instant blockbuster and the 2nd best-selling pickup in Mexico, just above the Nissan Frontier (+60%), Chevrolet Silverado (+28%) and Toyota Hilux, boosted up 50% by the new generation. The Honda HR-V (#19) is now the brand’s best-seller, the Chevrolet Equinox is up to #24, Kia Rio up to #33 and the Hyundai Tucson up to #35.

Previous month: Mexico February 2016: Nissan Versa sails off in market up 13.5%

One year ago (1): Mexico March 2015: Top 222 All-models and All-brands available

One year ago (2): Mexico March 2015: VW Vento up to 2nd place in market up 22%

Full March 2016 Top 40 All-brands and Top 225 All-models below.

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World 1st Quarter 2016: Volkswagen back above Toyota despite scandal

Cracked-Volkswagen-logo. Picture courtesy autotribute.comNot so broken after all: Volkswagen Group 

The much talked-about emissions scandal that has been plaguing Volkswagen since last September prevented it to claim its very first worldwide sales crown in 2015, ending the year at 9.9 million sales vs. 10.15 for Toyota and 9.8 for General Motors. But First Quarter 2016 results show that the VW crowning may have just been delayed by one year despite the on-going scandal. Thanks to strong demand in China and Western Europe, the Volkswagen Group sees its Q1 sales improve by 0.8% to 2.51 million units. In contrast, Toyota has been hit by a series of production disruptions including earthquakes and an explosion at an affiliate factory which means ther worldwide volumes are down 2.3% to 2.46 million vehicles. In third place, General Motors also declines despite very strong results in China, at -2.5% to 2.36 million units.

Toyota CH-R World 2016Toyota needs to launch the C-HR fast if it wants to retain the worldwide crown in 2016. 

This is the illustration of how limited the effect of the scandal has been on VW’s worldwide sales, beyond the mechanical effect of stop-sale orders such as in the U.S. Month after month, market after market we at BSCB have studied in detail the potential sales effect of Volkswagen’s emission scandal as taking the pulse of the auto industry is what we pride ourselves with. It has now been over six months since it came to the world’s knowledge that the company had rigged 11 millions of its vehicles with emissions-cheating devices, and our extensive research across the world has shown that a large majority of markets has responded with either slightly sub-par growth levels such as in Europe, or indifference such as in China where almost no model is affected by the cheating devices.

VW TDI rangeVolkswagen’s TDI range is the one mainly affected by the cheating devices.

In select markets the sales effect has been drastic such as in Japan where the Volkswagen brand plunged by as much as 48% last October and has been toppled from the #1 foreign brand throne by Mercedes, and South Korea where VW sales are still down 25% in March. It is to be noted that these markets do not have a large amount of vehicles affected by the rigging device and recalls will be low. By and large, the amount of vehicles affected isn’t in correlation with the drop in sales, indicating that consumers are not overly worried with the technical implications of the emissions scandal. Instead, it’s the overall trust towards the brand that is dented in the markets that have penalised VW. Volkswagen has also particularly suffered in the U.S. with declines larger than the diesel models stop-sale orders should have triggered, but the brand’s position there was already precarious way before the scandal broke. In Germany, customers have rallied behind the brand to limit its decline to 4% so far in 2016 in a market up 4.5%.

Audi A4 Germany March 2016. Picture courtesy autobild.deAudi sales haven’t been affected by the scandal at all…

Interestingly, it is the Volkswagen brand that has been mainly affected by the scandal, in case there was a visible effect at all. Audi, Porsche, Seat and Skoda, although also involved with cheating devices, have for the most part seen no detrimental sales effect at all (except once again in Japan for Audi). Speaking with many VW Group car owners, BSCB has found that because this device does not pose a life-threatening situation, current vehicle owners do not see the cheat as overly significant, and it doesn’t alter in any notable way their relationship with Volkswagen. This is very important in the long term as VW is working hard to regain the trust they have lost during the past 6 months. In fact, the more dangerous situation coming up for the manufacturer now is the lingering of the scandal and its continuous presence in the press. Even though the population tends to not completely understand what VW has done wrong, a months or years-long litany of negative press will definitely have an impact on the brand image. And VW has not been particularly fast nor cooperative in resolving the crisis in the briefest delays.

Porsche Cayenne Macan China September 2015…neither have Porsche sales.

The biggest threat Volkswagen is facing is therefore, in our view, not so much the potentially changed perception of the brand by general consumers, but more so the cost of innumerable law suits launched by various governments around the world. By cheating on emissions levels, Volkswagen has committed what is seen in some legislations as a criminal act linked to tax evasion. If you are a regular BSCB reader, you will know that in some countries – such as the Netherlands until last year – the purchase of an eco-friendly car triggers very significant government subsidies that can go as far as reducing the amount of tax a car buyer is paying over the five years following the purchase of a car. This means that dozens of governments around the world have paid Volkswagen extremely large sums of money on the basis of specific emissions figures. Righting this wrong is what is currently endangering Volkswagen: the company lodged a $4.6 billion loss recently solely on the basis of the scandal, and has had to slash its R&D spending in most worldwide markets except China.

Baojun 560 China July 2015bVW (still) plans to launch a brand to compete with GM’s Baojun in China. 

As a result, the world map is now much clearer for the Volkswagen Group: the emissions scandal may result in less new models outside China which will handicap the Group in the long term but also an even stronger focus on the Chinese market to retain its dominant and very profitable position there. VW Group recently announced a very ambitious plan for China: the introduction of 10 SUVs and crossovers and 15 EVs and plug-in hybrids by 2020. Volkswagen will also reportedly create a brand to fight GM’s Baojun in the Chinese rural market from 2018 onwards. This low-cost brand has been in the making for quite some time though and most analysts including myself are getting rather impatient. Also, judging by the lack of truly significant new models Volkswagen exhibited at this week’s Beijing Auto Show, these grand plans are all talk for now. More on this in our Beijing coverage shortly.

Mercedes GLC Japan March 2016. Picture coutesy autoc-one.jpBut Mercedes is heading towards the worldwide luxury crown in 2016. 

In the luxury segment, although not really affected by the scandal Audi is gaining less ground worldwide than its two main competitors BMW and Mercedes. Over the First Quarter, Audi sales are up 4% to 455.750 vs. 478.743 for BMW (+6%) and 483.487 for Mercedes (+13%).  Mercedes has declared it wants to overtake BMW by 2020, a goal it may hit early due to the popularity of all-new models including the GLC SUV, said Automotive News Europe. However March results showed BMW in the lead: the Munich-based brand topped the 200.000 mark in a single month for the first time in its history at 201.352 units (+3%), distancing Mercedes at 198.921 (+8%) and Audi at 186.100 (+4%). This result was achieved thanks to particularly string sales of the 2 Series (+56% in Q1 to 43.657) and X1 (+68% to 51.002) while the 7 Series flagship was up 20% to 10.588 thanks to the new model.