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China January 2018: Focus on the All-new models

Traum S70

As per the BSCB tradition on BSCB, after covering January sales in detail, we now focus on the all-new locally produced launches so you can stay up-to-date on the fastest-evolving automobile market in the world. After seven new entrants in December, the 2018 year starts with 9 newcomers for January vs. just 6 a year ago, but none reach 2.000 units for the month. Illustrating the incredible dynamism of local manufacturers, 7 of these 9 new entrants are Chinese, 3 of them inaugurating a new brand – as many as last month. One is Japanese and one is Czech, while in terms of segments we have 5 SUVs and 4 Sedans, the latter being interestingly high. But fear not, you can stay up-to-the-minute on the fast expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 143 Chinese Brands.

1. Traum S70 (#245 – 1.519 sales)

First off the starting blocks in January is new brand Traum, created by Zotye Auto in June 2017 and German for dream. The Chinese name is Junma (君马) translated as Supreme Horse. All Traum-branded vehicles will be manufactured by Jiangnan Auto, a subsidiary of Zotye which until now was reduced to selling a 1985 Maruti 800. Traum already has two nameplates to its name: the MEET3 based on the Zotye SR7 and this S70, looking pretty sharp with a gaping grille, aggressive headlight and a floating roofline. Priced from 81.900 to 115.900 yuan (US$12.900-18.300) and powered by a 156hp 1.5T engine mated to a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic, the S70 enters the most cluttered segment in China: compact SUVs, that also houses the best-sellers in the overall SUV segment such as the Haval H6, GAC Trumpchi GS4 and Geely Boyue. The task is difficult but not impossible, as Zotye has already demonstrated with the success of the Hanteng brand.

Traum S70 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The S70’s pièce de résistance is, as it is the case for more and more Chinese vehicles, to be found inside with a tremendous 25 inch touch screen combining the instrument panel and entertainment unit looking very luxurious indeed, especially for the price it’s asking. A seven-seat variant will be launched later, putting all the cards in its game to guarantee a solid success. All the elements are united for the S70 and future Traum nameplates to find its place in the crowded Chinese SUV market. A long-term objective of 5.000 monthly units will establish the brand the same way Hanteng did 18 months ago.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

2. Lifan X70 (#263 – 1.238 sales)

Alternating ok months with disastrous ones (-27% in October, -16% in December, +10% in January), Lifan edged up 3% in 2017 at home with just under 110.000 units. The carmaker knows its salute is in the SUV segment, but after showcasing a stream of concepts in the local Auto Shows over the past 3 years, the actual launches have been far and few between. The Myway managed to stir some interest at launch (10.080 units in December 2016) but has been down roughly 50% year-on-year every month since last June, and the X80 has but registered a blip on the radar. We are still waiting for the X40, just as both the X50 and X60 are starting to painfully show their age. In comes the X70, and it does show some significant improvement design-wise, thankfully staying clear of copycats such as the outrageous Xuanluan MPV, a clone of Ford S-Max.

Lifan X70 interior.

Launched as a concept at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2015, it took almost three years for the X70 to hit the market, and strangely it seems to have reached faraway shores faster than its home turf, with the X70 already featured and test-driven on both Argentinean and Russian car websites, markets where Lifan has managed to make some significant in-roads accompanied with Chery. Interior-wise, the progress is also showing, but the comparison set is particularly low, with Lifan still creating some of the worst-finished cockpits in the Chinese industry. No price info yet for the X70, but expect it to start around 70.000 yuan (US$11.000). The X70 is powered by a 2.0 engine mated with a 5-speed manual or CVT.

Bar for success: 4.500 monthly units

3. GAC Trumpchi GA4  (#269 – 1.164 sales)

Present at the Detroit Auto Show both in 2017 and 2018, GAC has reaffirmed its plan to enter the hyper-competitive (and saturated) U.S. market by the end of 2019. An ambitious target that would make it the first Chinese manufacturer to venture into the home of Donald Trump. GAC is counting on its Chinese joint-venture with FCA (Jeep and Fiat) to ease the process. At home, the carmaker has had a very impressive run over the past three years. The GS4 crossover has put the brand on the map with an unthinkable 800.000 units now in market, and the GS8 was the first large Chinese SUV to hit 10.000 monthly sales. The GM8 MPV is intending to reproduce the same segment-bending prowess just as the GS3 crossover is looking like a hot shot already. Sedans: like the majority of Chinese carmakers, not GAC’s forte.

GAC Trumpchi GA4 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

That doesn’t mean GAC should give up, and it is launching this GA4, as polished outside and inside, to try and follow in the steps of Geely which has been hugely successful with its sedan lineup lately. The GA4 is powered by a 137hp 1.3T or a 114hp 1.5 mated with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed auto and is priced from 73.800 to 115.800 yuan (US$11.600-18.300). It will compete full-frontal with the Geely Emgrand GL (78.800-115.800), MG 6 (96.800-132.800), Venucia D60 (69.800-111.800) and Changan Raeton CC (89.900-138.900), a really tough bunch to compete with as they all offer wildly improved perceived quality and aggressive designs. The GA3 hit 8.585 sales for its 5th month of sales in December 2014 but has only hit 1.000 units three times in the past 3 months, while the GA6 lately oscillates between 2.000 and 3.200 sales and the GA8 just crossed the 1.000 unit-milestone for the first time this month. GAC should contain its enthusiasm for the GA4: high volumes are reserved to crossovers nowadays.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

4. Skoda Karoq (#341 – 380 sales)

Launched in April 2017, the Skoda Kodiaq hit 7.000 sales in December. Skoda is on a roll, and just launched the locally-produced Karoq only a couple of months after its European debut. The Kamiq, slotted below the Karoq, will follow shortly with an official presentation scheduled for the Beijing Auto Show next April. The Karoq is set to replace the Yeti, launched here in October 2013 and whose 8.101 sales in January seem highly dubious, given they constitute – and by far – the nameplate’s volume record (previous best: 5.561 in December 2015). Skoda will want the Karoq to improve on the Kodiaq as it is smaller but also more affordable. Skoda’s positioning in China is much more high-market than it is in Europe, trying for a level of sophistication rivalling Volkswagen by playing on heritage with the “Since 1895” tagline – something that VW can’t emulate.

Skoda Karoq interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

If this is good for the bottom-line, sales volumes in turn can’t be expected to match those potentially reached in parts of Europe. Local press pits the Karoq against the blockbusters Haval H6, Changan CS75, Roewe RX5 and Geely Boyue as these four nameplates have managed to lift the brand image of Chinese manufacturers to such a level that the question is now genuinely raised as to whether to choose a foreign brand – traditionally always considered superior – or the best of the Chinese crop. Competing with local brands is not what Skoda had in mind and it indicates their ambitious aim at sophistication cannot really gel once the cockpit betrays its low-cost European origins.

Bar for success: 7.000 monthly units

5. Yudo π1 (#344 – 356 sales)

Yudo New Energy is an electric vehicle company partly owned by Fujian Motor and the Putian city, located in the eastern Fujian province. The brand’s first two production models, the π1 and π3 crossovers, were both unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2017, with a commercial launch for the π1 happening in July 2017. Delayed reporting means wholesales figures have only become available in January 2018 at a low 356. Retail figures sourced elsewhere nevertheless indicate 2.258 sales for 2017 including 2.029 π1 in December.

Yudo π1 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Priced between 138.900 and 197.500 yuan before green cars subsidies (US$21.900-31.100), the π1 competes with the 2017 best-seller in the segment, the BAIC EC-Series (151.800-164.800 yuan) as well as other electric vehicles such as the smaller Changan Benben EV (154.800-171.800 yuan) and the larger BAIC EX-Series (192.900-202.900 yuan). The success of electric vehicles remain for now heavily dependent on car-sharing schemes in China, with private ownership still nascent. Yudo’s association with a province may restrict its expansion across the nation and muzzle its sales though.

Bar for success: 2.500 monthly units

6. FAW Junpai A50 (#349 – 321 sales)

Founded in 1953, First Automotive Works, or FAW, was the very first Chinese carmaker. Its state-owned structure has traditionally hampered its development but thanks to a slew of low-cost crossover the brand is up 3% at home in 2017 to 191.000 passenger car sales. FAW has remained far from the headlines though and in just over a decade has become almost anonymous, whereas it had China’s passenger car best-seller in 2005 with the Xiali N3. Far are the times Heavy trucks are another specialty. FAW splits itself into a handful of sub-brands rebadging the same vehicles. Besturn is for slightly more sophisticated fares whereas both Senya and Junpai are manufactured by FAW-Jilin, the latter specifically aimed at replacing Xiali low-cost models. Accordingly, the A50 sedan is available at cut-throat pricing: from a mere 60.000 to 68.000 yuan (US$9.500-10.700)! That’s a lot of – relatively modern and good-looking – car for the money, the A50 coming in at 4.59m long.

FAW Junpai A50 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Powered by a 112hp 1.5 engine mated with a seven-speed DCT, it also has some oomph and a respectable interior (especially for its price) that will surely help it fight the likes of the Chery Arrizo 5 (63.900-97.900 yuan), Geely Vision (53.900-72.900 yuan) and Great Wall C30 (54.900-74.900). The Junpai A50 will exclusively be aimed at third- and fourth-tier cities as well as rural areas. Unfortunately the precedents for Junpai sedans are dismal: launched in August 2016, the A70 only managed two 4-digit sales month and a grand total of 8.103 units since launch. FAW will rather look to the similarly-sized (but frankly dearer) Besturn B30 for inspiration: a personal best of 6.219 units in January 2016.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

7. Cowin E3 (#372 – 151 sales)

In 2014, Chery decided to graduate its Cowin lineup into a fully fledged low-cost brand aimed at younger first-time buyers in second and third tier cities. But despite the services of a new design agency led by Pininfarina’s ex-director Lowie Vermeersch and two large and affordable crossovers, the V3 and X3, Cowin sold less than 50.000 new cars in 2017. Worse: sales are freefalling 66% at the start of 2018. Chery seems to already have given up: the X5 crossover is a rebadged Chery Tiggo 5 and for this E3, Cowin doesn’t makes the effort of renaming the car! This is indeed a Chery E3 with subtle cosmetic adjustments.

Cowin E3 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

Problem: this is a very low margin, highly competitive segment with numerous Chinese offerings already well established and the Chery E3 wasn’t even a blockbuster to start with, peaking at 10.678 wholesales for its 5th month in market in January 2014 but failing to hit 2.500 monthly sales since March 2016…  Powered by the same 109hp 1.5 engine as the Chery mated with a 5-speed manual, to add insult to injury the Cowin E3 is not even particularly cheap: priced from 52.900 to 72.900 yuan (US$8.300-11.500). It is undercut in price by larger and arguably better vehicles such as the Geely King Kong (43.900-65.900 yuan), BYD F3 (43.900-77.900 yuan) and even a foreigner: the Hyundai Verna (49.900-73.900 yuan). You will have guessed it, the very launch of the Cowin E3 seems like a waste of marketing money.

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units

8. Acura TLX-L (#377 – 137 sales)

Acura is a newcomer on the local production scene, with its first China-made nameplate being the CDX crossover launched in March 2017 and exclusive to this market. After 10 consecutive months above 1.000 units and a peak at 1.962 in December, the CDX crumbled in January at just 500 wholesales, coinciding with the release of the brand’s second local product: the TLX-L, an extended wheelbase variant of the TLX sold in America. It follows in the steps of almost all premium carmakers selling extended variants of their worldwide best-sellers to satisfy a Chinese clientele that gets chauffeured and therefore needs extra space in the back.

Acura TLX-L interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

All-in-all, 13.191 China-made Acuras were sold in China over the Full Year 2017, less than half the amount of China-made Infinitis sold in the same period (27.826) and only one-tenth of all imported Lexus (130.348). In other words, a disappointment. And given the SUV craze that is hitting China much like the rest of the world, it’s not certain that a sedan will help. Powered by a 208hp 2.4 engine mated with an 8-speed DCT, the TLX-L is priced from 279.800 to 379.800 yuan (US$44.100-59.900) and enters a segment already cornered by the Audi A4L (292.800-409.800), Mercedes C-Class L (312.800-489.000), BMW 3 Series L (288.000-486.900), Cadillac ATS-L (298.800-428.800) and Infiniti Q50L (279.800-409.800). Brand loyalty is much higher with premium marques in China, therefore convincing German premium owners to switch to little-known Acura that offers no price advantage will prove a challenge, a very big challenge indeed. An improvement on the slow-selling CDX is expected.

Bar for success: 2.500 monthly units

9. XPeng G3 (#403 – 39 sales)

Third new Chinese brand to make its first appearance in its home sales charts this month, Xiaopeng Motors or XPeng was founded in 2014 as an R&D bureau but is now launching its first vehicle, the electric crossover G3. XPeng Motors recruited former employees from Guangzhou Automobile, BMW, Lamborghini, BYD, ALi, Tencent, Huawei, and Samsung to help with the creation of the G3. Smartly, XPeng has chosen to opt out of manufacturing the G3 itself, instead giving this responsibility to Haima Auto in a factory located in Guangdong Province.

XPeng G3 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

That will help reduce fixed costs and may mean the company will be able to provide high volumes if the G3 is met with success: the factory’s initial annual capacity is 50.000 cars, with a full capacity of 100.000 cars. It’s hard not to mention the Tesla Model X when looking at the G3, whose angled lines and extravagant touch screen remind of the American superstar. For a fraction of the price, Chinese carbuyers can now afford to drive a local equivalent that has started being surrounded with significant buzz. Initial sales are contained but the sky is the limit for this new startup. Based on the factory’s capacity, 3.500 monthly sales as a long term target seem like a reasonable bar for success.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

Previous month: China December 2017: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago: China January 2017: Focus on the All-new models

China December 2017: Focus on the All-new models

The Lynk & Co brand has now launched in China.

As is the tradition on BSCB, after covering December sales in detail, we now focus on the all-new locally produced launches so you can stay up-to-date on the fastest-evolving automobile market in the world. The December 2017 class has a clear air of Guangzhou Auto Show with almost all newcomers having made their debut there in mid-November. Make sure you check out our Guangzhou Auto Show coverage for more details on this month’s new launches. Six of December’s seven new entrants are Chinese with the only odd one out being the Jaguar XEL. We have two SUVs, two electric cars, two sedans and one MPV and, undoubtedly a first, no less than three new brands make their debut this month in China – adding to the total count of 136 Chinese Brands covered in our Exclusive Guide.

1. Chery Tiggo 5x (#79 – 10.693 sales)

Originally slated to replace the ageing Chery Tiggo 5, the 5x finally takes its place alongside it, but is priced more aggressively at 79.900-110.900 yuan (US$ 12.500-17.300) vs. 88.800-123.800 for the Tiggo 5. The 5x is also shorter at 4.34m vs. 4.51m for the Tiggo 5. In Guangzhou, the Tiggo 5x impressed me with with its interior quality but most strikingly with the design flair displayed in the cockpit, something Chery had not got us used to. The Tiggo 5x is the first car on Chery’s new T1X platform which will next be used for a seven-seat variant of the same crossover. The Tiggo 5x is priced very competitively and it will need it as it enters one of the most contested segments in the whole of the Chinese market: Chinese-branded compact crossovers. No less than 20+ other contenders are already playing in the same sandpit.

Chery Tiggo 5x interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Among them the Changan CS55 (83.900-132.900 yuan), the 2nd best-selling 2017 launch in China, the Soueast DX3 (67.900-105.900) posting a 100.000+ sales result for its first full year in market, the MG ZS (73.800-115.800) enabling the brand to double its sales year-on-year, the Zotye T300 (56.800-93.800) already above 10.000 monthly units a few months after launch and the GAC Trumpchi GS3 (73.800-116.800). Sales-wise, the Tiggo 5x lands with a bang: directly above 10.000 units which places it by far atop the Tiggo lineup this month (the Tiggo 7 is at 6.021, the Tiggo 3/3x at 7.400 and the Tiggo 5 is obliterated at -92% to just 265 sales). In terms of all-time highs, the Tiggo 7 peaked at 11.039 units in December 2016, the Tiggo 3 at 17.081 in December 2015 and the Tiggo 5 at 12.469 in December 2014, so in a sense the Tiggo 5x has already accomplished its mission but let’s give it a stretch goal at 15.000.

Bar for success: 15.000 monthly units

2. Lynk & Co 01 (#138 – 6.012 sales)

Unveiled a year ago in October 2016, Lynk & Co is a semi-premium marque owned by Geely and positioned in-between Geely and Volvo, also a Geely property. Its models are using the same platform that underpins the new Volvo XC40. In Guangzhou, the Lynk & Co stand was the hippest around with a pleasing sense of confidence peppered with some irreverent streaks. The manufacturer put the first batch of 6.000 pre-sales cars for sale online in November 2017, and they sold out in 2 minutes and 17 seconds, making the 01 the fastest-selling car in the world. These are translated into the car and brand’s first ever month of official sales in China.

Lynk & Co 01 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

It’s a solid start for the brand, which will have to confirm with growing figures over the coming months and a short-term target of 10.000 monthly units, a milestone both WEY models launched this year already reached. Yes, Great Wall Motors semi-premium SUV brand WEY is the natural local competitor for Lynk & Co but the latter also has its sights firmly set on foreign manufacturers. The 01 is priced from 158.800-220.800 yuan (20.300-28.300 € or US$24.400-33.950), to be compared with 150.000-163.000 for the WEY VV5 and 167.800-188.000 for the WEY VV7. But foreign blockbuster SUV pricing shows where Lynk & Co’s true competition is: the Honda CR-V (169.800-259.800), Toyota RAV4 (179.800-269.800), Nissan X-Trail (179.800-268.800) and VW Tiguan (199.800-237.800) are all in the 01’s line of fire.

Bar for success: 12.500 monthly units

3. Changan Raeton CC (#152 – 5.440 sales)

Another Guangzhou unveiling, the Changan Raeton CC confuses us with its naming as it has nothing to do with a Coupe version of the much larger Raeton, rather it is the successor to the best-selling Eado sedan. It stands on a new Changan-developed platform, the P3, which will also underpin an upcoming crossover. It features the new signature grille of the brand which is far from being unattractive. Power comes from a new 155 hp 1.5T engine mated to a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. Changan has meticulously updated every inch of the old car that was the Eado to release this very accomplished sedan that had the international press buzzing with flashes and video cameras at the Guangzhou Auto Show. It is deserved, as the car offers all the sophistication you would expect from a model one or two segments above and is priced at a cut-throat 89.900-138.900 yuan (US$ 14.000-21.700),

Changan Raeton CC interior. Picture autohome.com.cn 

This throws the Raeton CC in the same bath as the recently overhauled MG6 (96.800-132.800), Roewe i6 (89.800-143.800) and Geely Emgrand GL (78.800-115.800) as far as locals are concerned. But Changan will also eye the foreign competition and aim at reclaiming buyers that had fallen for western charms. For this, it undercuts such blockbusters as the Toyota Corolla (107.800-175.800), VW Lavida (109.900-159.900), Buick Excelle (109.900-150.900) and Honda Civic (115.900-169.900). The Eado was one of the very rare Chinese sedans to cross the 20.000 monthly units milestone (22.964 in January 2015), including the XT hatchback which is now a separate model, so Changan will be tabling on high volumes for the Raeton CC.

Bar for success: 14.000 monthly units

4. Jaguar XEL (#302 – 1.328 sales)

The XEL is a long-wheelbase version of the Jaguar XE extended by 10cm to make more legroom for the back seats, as is the custom in China. It is manufactured by the Chery-JLR joint-venture and is the second China-made Jaguar after the XFL launched in September 2016. It offers a choice between two 2.0T engine with either 200 or 250hp. Power comes from two 2.0 turbocharged engines; one with 200 and one with 250 horses. Producing the XE locally enables a drastic price drop: the imported variant, still on sale alongside the XEL, starts at 417.500 yuan (US$ 65.200) whereas the XEL is priced from 288.800 to 428.800 yuan (US$ 44.950-66.900).

Jaguar XEL interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The Jaguar XEL will be competing against the leaders of its segment, all featuring long wheelbases: the Audi A4L (292.800-409.800 yuan), BMW 3 Series L (288.000-486.900) and Mercedes C-Class L (312.800-489.000) as well as the Volvo S60L (266.900-390.900). Priced at 388.000-688.000 yuan, the larger Jaguar XFL just reached its all-time high monthly volume this month at 2.559 units. Jaguar will want to easily top this for the US$15.000-cheaper XEL.

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units

5. GAC Trumpchi GM8 (#365 – 550 sales)

Logically unveiled at the Guangzhou Auto Show last November, the GM8 is the largest vehicle ever produced by GAC at 5.07m long. The company just announced at the Detroit Auto Show that it would enter the U.S. market in 2019. This is GAC’s first foray into the MPV segment and the carmaker’s intention is to reproduce the astonishing success it has enjoyed with the GS4 and GS8 in the SUV segment. If all other Chinese carmakers have entered the MPV segment from the low-cost door with tremendous success (Wuling Hongguang, Baojun 730, Chana offers), no one has managed to be successful yet at the more premium end.

GAC Trumpchi GM8 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Jinbei did attempt this feat with the Huasong brand but has bitterly failed so far. Luxury MPVs are used by hotel companies to transport VIP guests and luxury interiors are the norm. Buick has dominated the segment with the GL8 and a new generation launched this year has propelled the nameplate to never-seen before volumes (14.332 in November 2017). This is where the GM8 comes, priced from 176.800-259.800 yuan (US$ 27.600-40.600) which, although high for a Chinese nameplate, greatly undercuts both the Buick GL8 (229.900-449.900 yuan) and Honda Odyssey (228.800-354.800) while offering similar levels of sophistication.

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly units

6. Arcfox Lite (#375 – 472 sales)

The Arcfox Lite is perhaps the coolest EV launched by a Chinese company so far. Arcfox is a brand by Beijing Auto BJEV and it had dozens of them inundating the Guangzhou Auto stand in both bright and pastel colours. There are two main attractions in the Lite: first, the interior which is one of the most exciting ever launched for a Chinese brand, featuring not one but three 8 inch screens forming a full digital bar. Second, it has LED displays at the front and rear of the car where both the driver and passenger can ‘advertise’ their own messages, in Chinese or Western alphabets, and even emoticons. So you get to be able to write anything you want, including insults. Now that’s cool.

Arcfox Lite interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The Lite is under 3m long and is powered by a 49hp electric motor mated with a 16.4 KWh battery located below the floor. Range is just 170km which keeps the Lite firmly put in the city. Top speed is 110 km/h and fast charging takes half an hour to 80% battery and the manufacturer is using advanced materials to keep the car light to fit its name at 895 kg. Price before subsidies is 152.800-162.800 yuan (US$ 23.850-25.400) down to 93.800-106.800 (US$ 14.600-16.700). The Lite will compete with the Zotye E200 (181.800-185.800 before subsidies), Zhi Dou D2 (151.800-188.800) and Chery eQ1 (155.900-205.900).

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units

7. Dearcc EV10 (#419 – 109 sales)

The last launch of the month is the third brand to make its very first appearance in the Chinese sales charts: Dearcc, an EV brand by Soueast whose Mandarin name Dianka weirdly translates as “electric coffee“… Dearcc was created by Beijing Dearcar Auto Technology, a tech firm based in Beijing devoted to research and development of new energy vehicle/electric vehicle platforms and smart technologies. Unveiled at the 2016 Guangzhou Auto Show, the EV10 had to wait over a year to launch in market. It is rather trendy, especially when compared to the rest of the Soueast line-up, with a dual tone colour scheme.

Dearcc EV10 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

It is powered by a 57hp electric motor giving the 3.69m 5-door hatch a 150km range and 100 km/h top speed strictly limiting it to city driving. 80% battery charge is reached in 48 minutes on a fast charger. The EV10 is priced from 133.800 to 141.800 yuan before subsidies (US$ 20.900-22.100) and will compete with some of the best-selling EVs of the moment such as the BAIC EC-Series (151.800-164.800), Changan Benben EV (154.800-161.800) and the Chery eQ1 (155.900-205.900).

Bar for success: 2.000 monthly units

Previous month: China November 2017: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago: China December 2017: Focus on the All-new models

China November 2017: Focus on the All-new models

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

1. Venucia D60  (#106 – 7.821 sales)

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

Venucia D60 interior

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

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly sales

2. Hanteng X5 (#205 – 3.059 sales)

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

Hanteng X5 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn 

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

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly sales

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

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

Bar for success: 8.000 monthly sales

4. Brilliance V6 (#360 – 525 sales)

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

Brilliance V6 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

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

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly sales

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

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

Bar for success: 1.000 monthly sales

6. Yema Spica (#419 – 60 sales)

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

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

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

Bar for success: 2.000 monthly sales

7. Zhi Dou D3 (#428 – 33 sales)

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

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

Bar for success: 2.000 monthly sales

China October 2017: Focus on the All-new models

Dongfeng Fengxing S560 

After detailing October sales for China, as is the tradition on BSCB we now focus on the new locally-produced launches for the month, so you can stay up-to-the-minute on the latest additions in the world’s largest market. After ten new arrivals in September, the October class has another seven new arrivals, four of them Chinese, three SUVs and two EVs.

Dongfeng Fengxing S560 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

1. Dongfeng Fengxing S560 (#142 – 4.637 sales)

Dongfeng sales are down 5% so far in 2017, avoiding a much more dramatic fate thanks to the smashing success of the Fengguang 580, almost hitting 20.000 sales in October. The remedy: more SUVs, and Dongfeng has got the message, launching this surprisingly good-looking Fengxing S560. At 4.515m long and powered by a 138 hp 1.8L engine mated with five-speed, six-speed manuals or a CVT, the S560 is a seven-seat SUV and features a 7 inch touch screen that offers 360 degree camera, rear view camera, Baidu CarLife, Bluetooth, and a Wifi hotspot (!). All this available at the cutthroat price of 69.900 to 96.900 yuan (US$10.500-14.600 or €8.900-12.400). Aimed mainly at buyers in second and third-tier cities, the S560 is priced lower than the very successful Fengguang 580 (72.900-123.000 yuan) and competes with the likes of the Wuling Hongguang S3 (56.800-81.800 yuan), Changan CX70 (59.900-109.900), Baojun 560 (69.800-117.800), Hanteng X5 (79.900-122.900) and Changan CS55 (83.900-132.900). Above 7.000 monthly sales will the S560 be judged a success, but Dongfeng is secretly hoping it will replicate the levels of the 580…

Bar for success: 7.000 sales

2. Buick GL6 (#175 – 3.507 sales)

Only a few months after renewing the hugely successful GL8, Buick launches its little brother the GL6 which appears in the Chinese sales charts ahead of its debut at the Guangzhou Auto Show in November. A China-exclusive model based on the Opel Zafira Tourer, the GL6 arrives at difficult times for overall MPV sales in China, however the 15.6% year-on-year drop so far this year only affects low-cost Chinese fares and not the new GL8 which beat its all-time volume record in September at 13.899 and is up 166% in October. Good looks and Buick’s decades-long tradition of strong sales in China augurs well for the GL6, a 5 or 6-seat 4.69m-long MPV powered by a 156 hp 1.3 turbo four-cylinder petrol engine.

 

Buick GL6 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn 

Priced very competitively from 144.900 to 166.900 yuan (US$21.800-25.200 or €18.500-21.400), the GL6 is unabashedly zeroing in on the VW Touran (145.800-230.800) whose volume record is set at 9.356 last June. This is a good target for the GL6, whose pricing will prevent it from cannibalising the GL8 (229.900-449.900), but the Envision SUV (209.900-349.900) could be more at risk. Buick would also want to try and upgrade existing Baojun 730 owners (60.800-108.800) or even BYD Song MAX prospective buyers (79.900-119.900).

Bar for success: 7.000 monthly sales

3. Buick Excelle GX (#215 – 2.340 sales)

Buick is pumping out the novelties like there is no tomorrow this month. Second off the starting blocks is the Excelle GX, a station wagon variant of the Excelle. This is the third Buick station wagon to be sold in China after the SR-V (2001) and first generation Excelle wagon (2005). The GX is powered by either a 125 hp 1.0 turbo 3 cylinder or a 163 hp 1.3T 3 cylinder, mated to either a 6-speed manual, auto or DCT. The Excelle GX is priced from 119.900 to 146.900 yuan (US$ 18.100-22.100 or €15.300-18.800), and it competes with the Skoda Octavia SW (119.900-179.900), VW C-Trek (125.900-162.900) and VW Gran Lavida (112.900-162.900)

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly sales

4. Roewe RX3 (#259 – 1.546 sales)

Roewe wants to build on the astonishing success of the RX5 with this miniature version, the RX3 based on the same platform as the MG ZS. Since its launch in July 2016, the RX5 has taken Roewe into brand new sales territory, achieving 20.000 sales as early as for its fourth month in market and still gaining ground 18 months after its unveiling: it broke its volume record both last September (25.066) and October (28.203). This is the perfect platform to launch an identical-looking smaller variant: the RX3 comes in at 4.408m long and is powered by a choice of 125 hp 1.6 and 163 hp 1.3 turbo.

Roewe RX3 interior. Picture courtesy pcauto.com.cn

The RX3 starts 10.000 yuan below the RX5 at 89.800-135.800 yuan (US$13.500-20.500 or €11.500-17.400) vs. 99.800-186.800 for the RX5. This way, the RX3 competes with the likes of the Changan CS55 (83.900-132.900), GAC Trumpchi GS3 (73.800-116.800), Haval H2 (86.800-118.800), Haval H6 (88.800-146.800) and its platform sibling, the cheaper MG ZS (73.800-115.800). Although presumptuous to expect the same volumes as the RX5, Roewe is in its own right to expect sales figures north of 10.000 per month for the RX3.

Bar for success: 10.000 monthly sales

5. Dongfeng Fengshan E70 (#404 – 131 sales)

Dongfeng has topped the 1.000 monthly sales twice in the past three months with the Junfeng ER30 and wants to better this with the Fengshan E70. Not much info dribbling through the net about this nameplate so far, except its price set at 212.800-222.800 yuan (US$32.100-33.600 or €27.200-28.500) before government subsidies are applied. With it, Dongfeng is aiming directly at the Geely Emgrand EC7 EV (165.800-215.800 yuan) but also the BYD e5 (195.900-215.900), Chery Arrizo 5e (212.800-232.800) and BAIC EU-Series (205.900-224.900).

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly sales

6. Yu Lu EV2 (#412 – 76 sales)

Yu Lu is a new brand created in 2015 by the Dongfeng-Yulong joint-venture and dedicated to producing EVs. Its first offering is the EV2 priced from 119.800 to 122.800 yuan (US$18.100-18.500 or €15.300-15.700) minus 70.000 yuan of government subsidies. That’s all the info available about this nameplate so far, and Dongfeng-Yulong will be hoping to convince as many car-sharing schemes as possible to ensure the success of the EV2.

Bar for success: 1.500 monthly sales

7. BAIC Huansu S7 (#416 – 65 sales)

Just as its passenger car sales plunge down 27% year-on-year in 2017 and 30% in October, BAIC continues to launch vaguely similar-looking SUVs under all its sub-brands. After the S2 (August 2014, personal best at 6.220 sales), S3 (August 2014, PB 20.868), S6 (November 2015, PB 5.150) and S5 (January 2017, PB 3.013), the Huansu sub-brand receives its 5th SUV in the shape of this rather appealing S7 with a giant Lexus-like grille. The S7 is a seven-seat variant of the S5 five-seater launched last January. At 4.80m long, the S7 is powered by a 150hp 1.5 turbo petrol engine mated with a five-speed manual box.

BAIC Huansu S7 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

Interior quality shows the steady progression of BAIC in that domain, especially when you consider that the S7 is priced from 78.800 to 115.800 yuan (US$11.900-17.400 or €10.100-14.900). That’s a lot of SUV for this price, and the S7 enters the sandpit where cheap Chinese fares are already playing, such as the Dongfeng Fengguang 580 (72.900-123.000), Changan CX70 (59.900-109.900), SWM X7 (85.900-113.900), Bisu T5 (72.900-89.900) and BYD S7 (99.900-139.900). It will appeal to buyers in second, third-tier cities and below and won’t make much of an appearance in the bigger mega-cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. It looks like the more SUVs Hansu launches, the less successful they are, so we shouldn’t expect too much for the S7.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly sales

Previous month: China September 2017: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago: China October 2017: Focus on the All-new models

China September 2017 – Focus on the All-new models

Citroen C5 Aircross

After detailing September sales for China, we now put a laser focus on the new locally-produced launches for the month, so you can stay up-to-the-minute on the latest additions in the world’s largest market. September is a particularly active month in this regard, with no less than ten new arrivals, six of them SUVs and seven of them Chinese.

1. Citroen C5 Aircross: 4.836 sales

Although one of the first foreign manufacturers to have entered the Chinese market over three decades ago, Citroen hasn’t managed to impose itself nearly as strongly as then-competitor Volkswagen. Worse, its sales are freefalling this year at a very worrying -59%. After launching a bunch of useless fares such as the C6 sedan, the French carmaker finally has something Chinese buyers may want to buy en masse: the new C5 Aircross SUV. While it is busy launching the C3 Aircross in Europe, the C5 Aircross is for now exclusive to China and won’t hit the Old Continent until 2018. It is based on the same platform as the Peugeot 4008 which is in fact the new gen 3008 outside China. Priced between 152.700 and 236.700 yuan (US$23.000-35.700), the C5 Aircross competes with the likes of the Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota RAV4 and Jeep Cherokee, on top of its PSA sibling. It is powered by the same engines as the 4008: a 167hp 1.6T and a 204hp 1.8T. The C5 Aircross posts a solid landing just under 5.000 sales and the most popular newcomer for the month, however it will need to climb significantly higher than that to reverse Citroen’s fortunes in China: even this month the brand is down 30%.

Bar for success: 10.000 monthly sales

2. WEY VV5: 4.569 sales

Only three months after launching its very first nameplate, the VV7, Great Wall Motors’ new semi-premium SUV brand, WEY, doubles up with the confusingly identical-looking VV5. At 4.46m long, the VV5 is however almost 30cm shorter than the VV7. It is powered by a 197hp 2.0T engine mated with a seven-speed DCT and is all wheel drive. A striking exterior design is let down by a very dull interior, especially for a brand that aspires at a premium status. Priced from 150.000 to 163.000 yuan (US$22.600-24.600), the VV5 competes in the busiest end of the Chinese market with the likes of the Roewe RX5, Geely Boyue and Great Wall’s own Haval H6.

WEY VV5 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

Great Wall’s strategy for WEY seems to be working so far, with the VV7 still on the up at 7.444 sales this month and the VV5 triggering the brand’s first five-digit sales month. So far WEY’s sales have more than compensated for Haval’s declining figures, with Great Wall Motors sales in September up 4.5% year-on-year despite Haval being down 11%. The more relevant result will be where sales stabilise in the long-term as current figures are still inflated by the novelty hype.

Bar for success: 7.000 monthly sales

3. Kia KX Cross: 4.374 sales

It’s a year to forget for Kia: in the same vein as sister company Hyundai, the Korean brand has been hit full frontal by tensions between China and its home country in the wake of disagreements about the handling of the North Korean crisis. The brand is down an abysmal 50% so far in 2017 and 29% in September. To try and return to positive, Kia has launched two new nameplates this month, the most popular so far being the KX Cross, and even though it does look (and sound) like a crossover, it is categorised by CAAM as a passenger car. It is priced very reasonably at 74.900-85.900 yuan (US$11.300-13.000), a starting price slightly higher than the K2 (72.900-103.900). In fact, the KX Cross used to be named K2 Cross, it is based on the K2 and is powered by the same 100hp 1.4 engine but sports a totally different body. To be sure, local website autohome.com.cn has it pit against the Baojun 510 crossover so we are really dealing with a crossover here, CAAM being the only body to disagree. This is a new foray for Kia and the starting month is very robust already, but is it cannibalising the K2? The latter is down 60% to 5.384 sales for the month after dropping “just” 30% in August… Before drama hit the Korean brands, the K2 had reached a best-ever 23.037 sales in December, but the current context makes it more challenging to decide on a realistic bar for success. We’ll put it at just under double its opening score.

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly sales

4. Dongfeng Fengshen AX4: 3.072 sales

Dongfeng is sliding down 12% in September and 6% year-to-date and therefore needs new models to stop the sales haemorrhage. Currently the Fengguang 580 and Joyear SUVs are its best-sellers, so it would be a fair bet to launch more of these. In time comes the Fengshen AX4, unveiled last April at the Shanghai Auto Show and the fourth crossover under the Fengshen sub-brand after the AX7 (down 59% to 3.075 sales this month), the AX3 (-87% to 533) and AX5 (1.003). Although its starting point remains relatively modest, it misses the AX? top spot by just three units. The AX4 goes where no Dongfeng had dared to go before design-wise, with huge front fog lamps, a sweeping window line ending in a two-tone rear and a rather convoluted lower door design featuring a metallic “diamond” sporting the AX4 name on it.

Dongfeng Fengshen interior and rear. Pictures courtesy autohome.com.cn

The AX4 is 4.19m long and powered by a 124hp 1.6 or 140hp 1.4T engine, it was developed with PSA Peugeot-Citroen, of which Dongfeng holds a 14% share. It is priced from 66.800 to 101.800 yuan (US$10.100-15.400) and enters a crowded segment also including the MG ZS and GS, Geely Vision X3 and Baojun 510. A year ago, we would have been cautious about the sales potential of such a daring design, but the Baojun 510 has shown that a young Chinese clientele is definitely ready to take the leap. Dongfeng is without a doubt counting on the AX4 to reverse its fortunes at home but to do so, it will have to climb significantly higher.

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly sales

5. Kia Pegas: 2.792 sales

Although the SUV craze has swept up a large part of the Chinese market, cheap sedans remain popular in second and third tier cities and more remote areas. It’s for these customers, mostly first-car buyers, that Kia is launching this Pegas, a China-specific model unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show last April. The Pegas is now the cheapest offering in all of Kia’s lineup in China: it starts at 49.900 yuan (US$7.500) and ends at 73.900 yuan (US$11.100), slitting nicely below the K2. It is 4.30m long and powered by a 95hp 1.4 engine mated with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The Kia Pegas will compete with the Hyundai Verna (49.900-73.900 also), the Chevrolet Sail (59.900-79.900) and a plethora of Chinese fares such as the Chery E3 (52.900-64.900), Cowin C3 (45.800-60.800), Baojun 330 (55.800-59.800) and JAC Heyue A30 (52.900-76.900). In normal times, we would hold the personal bests of the Sail (30.163) and Verna (31.469) as benchmarks, but Kia has lost a lot of its shine this year (see above) and cheap sedans, although still popular, do not deliver the same sales figures as, say, five years ago. We are adjusting the bar for success accordingly.

Bar for success: 8.000 monthly sales

6. Zotye T300: 2.456 sales

Zotye continues to launch new SUVs at unbridled pace: this T300 is the fourth one in the past 12 months… It is the third of the “traditionally” named Zotye after the very popular T600 and the brand’s current best-seller, the T700. The T300 directly lands in 4th place for the brand, below the aforementioned two nameplates and the Damai X7. The brand is finding that its copycat models, such as the SR7 (-61%), SR9 or Damai X5 (-75%) are already panting heavily, and a long-term solution could be to launch, well, original nameplates… The T300 is one, and design-wise it is up there with the T700 as Zotye’s best.

Zotye T300 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

Step inside, and it’s a very impressive plush interior, especially given the T300’s tiny price: from 56.800 to 93.800 yuan (US$8.600-14.100). This puts it in the same sandpit as the Brilliance V3 (65.700-102.700), Geely Vision X3 (50.900-65.900), Soueast DX3 (67.900-105.900) but also the best-selling Baojun 510 (54.800-75.800). Only four months after the launch of the T700 (8.771 sales in September, its best month yet), Zotye has another potential volume-driver in the T300 which hopefully will make the brand think twice about launching yet another copycat in the future.

Bar for success: 7.000 monthly sales

7. BAIC Huansu H5: 1.451 sales

Beijing Auto has just launched the fourth MPV for the Huansu brand after the H2, H3 and H6. There is not much information dribbling out of China for this nameplate yet – no price info – but BAIC shows vast improvement in interior quality. Local media autohome.com.cn pits it against the facelifted Baojun 730 (60.800-102.800 yuan or US$9.200-15.500). This is a struggling segment, with overall sales down a worrying 25% in September, and the ageing H3 stumbling down 49%. It could be an opportunity for the more modern H5 to impose itself, but BAIC has shown us very unpredictable sales patterns before.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly sales

BAIC Huansu H5 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

8. BYD Song MAX: 474 sales

This is BYD’s second MPV after the M6 which was a clone of the Toyota Previa. It is arguably the best-looking BYD nameplate so far – and one of the best-looking Chinese cars to be launched, and this could be because it is the first designed by the company’s new head of design Wolfgang Egger, an ex-Audi man. It inaugurates a new design language for the brand, called “Dragon Face” with aggressive lights and a gaping grille. It sure does look very impressive indeed, and very affordable to top it off: priced from 79.900 to 119.900 yuan (US$12.000-18.100).

BYD Song MAX interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

The Song MAX is a seven-seat MPV, powered by a 156hp 1.5T engine and feature a 12.8 inch touch screen on its dashboard. A 2.0 and 1.5T hybrid will be added later. It’s not exactly great timing for BYD to launch an MPV but its striking looks should allow it to easily surpass the M6 which peaked at a meagre 863 sales. It competes with the likes of the Chana Oushang A800 (59.900-119.900) and Baojun 730 (60.800-102.800) but also some large and cheap SUVs such as the Dongfeng Fengguang 580 (72.900-123.000).

Bar for success: 4.000 monthly sales

9. Lifan X80: 365 sales

After first photos appeared a far as March 2015, the Lifan X80 was finally unveiled at the Guangzhou Auto Show in November 2016 and launched in market last May but has been on and off the ranking since, and had not been covered here so we’ve decided to make it appear in this month’s new model summary. This is the brand’s largest SUV by far at 4.82m, and it comfortably seats seven. Sporting a rather aggressive grille at the front, this is Lifan’s best designed model so far and it hasn’t really dated despite its “old age”, even though the rear is a copy of the Hyundai Santa Fe.

Lifan X80 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

The X80 is powered by a strong 191hp 2.0T engine, and in true Lifan fashion is priced incredibly low: from 109.900 to 149.900 yuan (US$16.600-22.600). It competes in size (but not in price) with the Changan CS95 (159.800-229.800), BYD S7, Zotye T700 and Dongfeng Fengguang 580. Sales prospects remain limited for such a large SUV, and it hasn’t yet crossed the 500 monthly sales milestone. Double that and we can call the X80 a success.

Bar for success: 1.000 monthly sales

10. Luxgen U5 SUV: 61 sales

Our last entrant for the month is the Taiwan-born Luxgen U5 SUV, the brand’s smallest SUV to-date, logically slotting below the U6. It is manufactured in China by the Dongfeng-Yulong joint venture. At 4.39m long, it is powered by a 124hp 1.6 engine mated with a CVT. The U5 comes with a very competitive price from 69.800 to 99.800 yuan (US$10.500-15.000), a necessary evil in a very competitive segment filled with dirt-cheap Chinese nameplates. Indeed, the U5 will compete with the likes of the MG ZS and GS, Soueast DX3, Baojun 510, GAC Trumpchi GS3 and the aforementioned Dongfeng Fengshen AX4.

Luxgen U5 rear and interior. Pictures courtesy autohome.com.cn

Hopefully the U5 will be a breath of fresh air for struggling Luxgen: sales are down an abysmal 62% so far in 2017 and an even more depressing 74% in September. The U5 is counting on a giant touch screen and sharp exterior design to woo young Chinese customers. The 6 SUV peaked at 7.647 sales back in January 2015 but has deep dived below 1.000 monthly units since last February, so Luxgen should only expect small steps up.

Bar for success: 4.000 monthly sales

China August 2017 – Focus on the All-new models

Haval M6

As is the BSCB tradition, we put a laser focus on the new locally-produced launches in China, the world’s fastest-evolving market, so you can on the bleeding edge on the latest additions. After a shy July that saw only three introduction, the August 2017 class is rich with seven new China-made nameplates, six of them Chinese – demonstrating once again the dynamism of the local manufacturers – and six of them SUVs, confirming this is well and truly the only segment on fire in China currently.

1. Haval M6: 3.201 sales

China’s SUV king Haval inaugurates a new naming nomenclature with this M6, however this is in fact a sporty-looking version of the previous generation H6 which is still on sale in China. It is priced similarly to it at 89.800-109.800 yuan (US$13.500-16.500) vs. 88.800-118.600 for the previous gen H6 but logically priced below the current gen H6 (101.800-140.800). Being derived from China’s best-selling  SUV, the M6 competes right into the most crowded segment in the country with the likes of the GAC Trumpchi GS4, Geely Boyue and Changan CS75 all the while undercutting them all in price. Although it seems like overkill at this stage (the H6 also has a Coupe variant plus each model has both red and blue label versions), Haval seems to have thought there is yet another niche of the market they can fill with the M6. The new nameplate’s start seems to give them reason, already positioning the M6 as Haval’s third best-selling model in August below only the H6 and H2 but above the H7, H9, H5, H8 and H1 in this order. Haval is in great need of new blood in its range as it has seen sales drop 13% this month, so the M6 comes at the right time. As long as it doesn’t end up cannibalising H6 sales (down 5% in August), this could end up being a good operation for Haval, as counter-intuitive as it first looks.

Bar for success: 8.000 monthly sales

2. GAC Trumpchi GS3: 842 sales

Unveiled at the Chengdu Auto Show in August, the GAC Trumpchi GS3 already makes its first appearance in the Chinese sales charts on the same month. GAC Trumpchi seems to do no wrong with its SUV range. The tremendously successful GS4 has already sold almost 700.000 units since its launch in May 2015 and its honeymoon period still hasn’t ended will sales up another 15% so far in 2017, ranking 6th overall and #2 SUV below the Haval H6. The much larger GS8 has also hit the bullseye with just under 75.000 sales in just ten months. Only the GS7, a 5-seat variant of the GS8, is struggling so far.

GAC Trumpchi GS3 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

In this context, the all-new GS3 seems destined to a stellar career. It is reasonably priced at 73.800-116.800 yuan (US$14.200-22.400) and competes (in size) with the likes of the – much cheaper – Baojun 510, but also the MG GS and ZS, Soueast DX3 and Changan CS55. The polished, leather-clad interior impresses, with a large 10 inch touch screen, and the engines available are a 137hp 1.3 turbo and the 114hp 1.5. Similarly to the GS8, GAC Trumpchi should be aiming at 10.000 monthly sales to declare the GS3 a success, but it could go much higher.

Bar for success: 10.000 monthly sales

3. Cowin X5: 692 sales

Cowin, formerly a Chery sub-brand, was launched as a stand-alone brand in August 2014 and premiered at the Chengdu Auto Show in September of that year, however only started appearing in Chinese sales charts in July 2016. Currently the C3 sedan and C3R hatch, V3 MPV and X3 SUV compose the lineup. But the new brand is already starting to puff, with sales down 65% year-on-year in August. This new entrant is no good news for the Cowin brand: the X5 is none other than the previous generation Chery Tiggo 5. This seems to indicate Chery is already starting to give up on the Cowin trial by only feeding it outdated models. The X5 concept car was alluring and let us imagine a brand new SUV. Not so. In fact, only the badge has been changed from Chery to Cowin as this is 100% from the inside out a 2013 Chery Tiggo 5. The 152hp 1.5 turbo engine has also been kept.

Logically, the X5 is priced below the Tiggo 5 but only by 10-15%: from 79.900 to 104.900 yuan (US$12.000-15.800) vs. 88.800-123.800 for the Tiggo 5. The X5 now competes with lower-end SUVs such as the Dongfeng Joyear SUV X5 and the Geely Vision SUV but ironically, local outlet Autohome also pits it against the Chery Tiggo 5 and 7, seemingly acknowledging the potential cannibalisation that the Cowin X5 may trigger. The fact that Tiggo 5 sales freefall 85% this month to just 770 isn’t good news either, even if it is seemingly awaiting the new generation to kick in. In terms of Cowin sales precedents, the C3 peaked at 1.205 units in July 2016, the V3 at 2.045 in October 2016 and the X3 at 4.431 in October 2016 also, and all these designs were new so it would be unreasonable to expect the same level of success for the X5. On the other hand if the X5 is as or more successful than the aforementioned nameplates, it could mean Cowin becoming an unglorified low-cost hand-me-down of Chery with no design differentiation.

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly sales

4. Baojun E100: 674 sales

Baojun is an extremely successful brand manufactured by the SAIC-GM-Wuling joint-venture, owned at 44% by General Motors. Thanks to the exceptional success of the 510 SUV and 310 hatch, added to the 560 SUV and 730 MPV, the brand is up 84% in August and 34% so far in 2017 with just under 550.000 sales. The E100 is Baojun’s first electric vehicle, and if it behaves the same as the manufacturer’s latest launches, it should smash records for this segment in China. But the EV sphere has been quite opaque in the country since its inception, with wide reports of exaggerated sales in order to illegally benefit from the government subsidies. EV is still the far-west of China, but sales are definitely on the up. Plus the Chinese government is currently mulling a date for the ban of sales of petrol vehicles. So EVs are here to stay.

Baojun E100 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Baojun has pushed the envelope for the E100 whose interior is particularly cool for a Chinese vehicle. Tiny, at 2.49m, it has a 39hp electric motor, can go to up to 100 km/h and has a 155km range. Originally priced between 93.900 and 109.900 yuan (US$14.100-16.600), these rates drop to a very affordable 35.300-48.200 yuan (US$5.300-7.300) once green-car subsidies have been factored in. The E100 competes with other mini EVs such as the Zotye E30 (max: 2.044 monthly sales), Zhi Dou D2 (peak at 5.018 sales this month), Zotye E200 (3.500) and Chery eQ1 (1.660). Applying a Baojun filter to these best performances – i.e. smashing them – may not be quite adequate yet but the market does expect a frank success from the E100.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly sales

5. Geely Vision X3: 363 sales

Three months after the Vision X1 which was in fact a facelifted Panda, Geely launches yet another crossover with the Vision X3, based this time on the Geely England SC5-RV and keeping its 1.5 engine. The X3 adds also to the Vision sedan, facelifted this year, and the Vision SUV, a smashing success. It would appear that after deleting its Englon and Gleagle brand a few years ago, Geely now cannot help but building sub-brand families: the Emgrand EC7, GS and GL and this fourth Vision nameplate… The Vision X1 is 3.78m long and is priced between 39.900 and 57.900 yuan (US$ 6.000-8.700), the X3 is 4.01m long and also priced very competitively at 50.900-65.900 yuan (US$ 7.700-9.900), all the while sporting an interior design that we have found in much dearer Geelys.

Geely Vision X3 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn 

Apart from the Baojun 510 (170.000 sales in seven months), few have managed to crack the small crossover segment in China. The Vision X3 will also compete with the likes of the Chery Tiggo 3X, Changan CS15, Haval H1 and JAC S2. For reference, after four months in market the Geely Vision X1 has only managed to crack the 3.000 monthly sales barrier, meanwhile Geely’s larger SUVs such as the Boyue (21.872), Emgrand GS (12.953) and Vision SUV (10.942) fare a lot better. In this context, doubling the current X1’s personal best would be a step in the right direction for the X3 and position it halfway towards its larger siblings’ volumes.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly sales

6. Isuzu MU-X: 359 sales

Japanese car and truck maker Isuzu is engaged in two joint-ventures in China: one with Qingling Motors that produces trucks, and one with Jiangling Motors Co. Group (JMCG) which until now has produced pickup trucks. Based in Nanchang in the Jiangxi province, this joint-venture is called Jiangxi Isuzu Motors. Its first China-made vehicle was the Isuzu D-Max launched in December 2014 (starting at 114.000 yuan (US$17.200), and it later launched a cheaper variant called the Ruimai starting at 84.800 yuan (US$12.800) but sporting a different logo. You can find their sales evolution in our dedicated monthly China LCV articles. Logically, now comes the D-Max-based MU-X SUV, originally launched in November 2013 in Thailand and finally reaching Chinese shores as a local production. Priced between 178.800 and 268.800 yuan (US$ 26.900-40.500), it is offering a rugged and very capable alternative to the Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5, all priced similarly but smaller. The Haval H9, Changan CS95, GAC Trumpchi GS8 and Maxus D90 (see below) would compete with the MU-X as far as Chinese manufacturers are concerned. The Jiangxi Isuzu Ruimai is up 106% to 10.623 sales after 8 months this year while the D-Max is up 46% to 5.651. In this context we think a stretch target of 1.000 units/month should be applied for the MU-X.

Bar for success: 1.000 monthly sales

7. Maxus D90: 83 sales

The last novelty for August – but definitely not the least impressive – is the imposing Maxus D90 SUV. After two vans, the V80 (September 2011) and G10 (May 2014), and one pickup, the T60 (November 2016), Maxus launches its first SUV, the D90. Maxus is owned by SAIC who bought the brand from the British LDV Group in 2010. The D90 is one of the largest Chinese SUVs in market at 5.01m long. It’s an AWD powered by a 221hp 2.0 turbo mated with a 6-speed auto gearbox. Priced very attractively at 156.700-263.800 yuan (US$23.600-39.700), it undercuts all its rivals: the Haval H9 starting at 199.800 yuan, the GAC Trumpchi GS8 starting at 163.800 and even the Changan CS95 starting at 159.800. Maxus will also try to convince foreign SUV buyers that would have otherwise looked at a Toyota Highlander (239.800 yuan start), VW Terramont (308.900 start) or Toyota Prado (369.800 start), all these models being extremely successful already.

Maxus D90 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn 

Traditionally, Chinese manufacturers have struggled to impose themselves in the full-size SUV segment. Only the GAC Trumpchi GS8 has managed to crack the mould with two five-digit sales months and a personal best of 10.032 units last March. Maxus’ low brand awareness in the passenger car segment won’t help, but the vehicle is striking in design and has all the required luxuries inside to satisfy its target clientele. The G10 van hit a personal best of 2.815 sales last March, while the T60 Pickup hasn’t managed to crack the 1.000 monthly sales yet with 882 units last April being its best so far. In this context, reaching 2.000 units would be a gage of success for the D90.

Bar for success: 2.000 monthly sales

Previous month: China July 2017: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago: China August 2016: Focus on the All-new models

Current China data: China August 2017: Chinese SUVs near 60% segment share, market up 4.1%

China July 2017 – Focus on the All-new models

Nissan Kicks. Picture auto.sina.com.cn 

Today we put a laser focus on the new locally-produced launches in China, the world’s fastest-evolving market, so you can stay up-to-date on the latest additions. The July 2017 promotion is a shy one with only three newcomers – all of them SUVs – and the first foreign launch in two months.

1. Nissan Kicks: 4.531 sales

Already launched and successful in Latin America and the Middle-East, the Nissan Kicks has now landed in China as a locally-produced nameplate. This is a very important car for Nissan in China, as it gives the Japanese brand a serious competitor to the incredibly successful XR-V/Vezel duo from Honda, and also an advantage over Toyota which is (disappointingly) yet to release a local version of the CH-R. It also competes with the likes of the Mitsubishi ASX and Suzuki Vitara, and in the Chinese aisle, the (much cheaper) Baojun 510 and MG GS and ZS. Had it launched a couple of years earlier, the Kicks would have almost definitely turned out to be Nissan’s biggest blockbuster in China. It’s now a little late in the game but should still deliver serious volumes for the brand. Priced between 99.800 and 134.800 yuan (US$15.100-20.400), it is significantly cheaper than the Honda twins (127.800-189.800 yuan) which augurs well for its chances of success. Nissan’s range in China is currently dominated by the Sylphy sedan ranking #6 overall so far in 2017, with the Qashqai (#30) and X-Trail (#31) a notch below. The Qashqai has never sold more than 16.000 monthly units in China (PB is 15.680 in November 2016) whereas the X-Trail has topped the 20.000 units three times, peaking at 20.504 in November 2015. In this context, we would want the Kicks to flirt with the 15.000 monthly units to fit with the gang, but it could certainly go much higher. For reference, the XR-V’s record is 19.714 (April 2017) and the Vezel 18.329 (November 2015).

Bar for success: 15.000 monthly sales

2. GAC Trumpchi GE3: 32 sales

Debuting at the Detroit Auto Show last January as a semi-concept and unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show in April, the GAC Trumpchi GE3 is the brand’s second electric SUV after the GS4 EV and is a compact SUV a la Kia Niro. It is powered by an electric motor with 177 hp, the range is 300Km and the top speed 156 km/h. The GE3 inaugurates a new platform developed solely for electric cars that will also underpin an MPV and a sedan. It enters the already large contingent of Chinese EV vehicles, most of them only playing a dummy role in the sales charts. Priced reasonably at 222.800-245.800 yuan (US$33.700-37.200), the GE3 should however not reach the highest ranks of the Chinese sales charts.

Bar for success: 1.000 monthly sales

3. BAW BJ90: 2 sales

The BJ90 already has a convoluted history. Spied in its final form since September 2015 and rumoured to be unveiled at the Beijing Auto Show in April 2016, the BJ90 only makes its appearance in the Chinese sales charts today, and with a lonely two units at that. No official launch has been set yet, there are no test-drives in the Chinese press which given the allure this large SUV sports is a sizeable missed opportunity. But the BJ90 isn’t really a BAW vehicle. It would appear that BAW uses imported Mercedes GL-Class and only changes badges, some body panels, some parts of the dashboard and the rear seats. All the rest, including the drivetrain is the same and almost nothing is actually manufactured in China! This sorcery is made possible by a technology-transfer agreement with Mercedes-Benz, one of BAIC’s joint-venture partners in China. Given the recent success of the BJ20 and BJ40 finally surfing on the Chinese SUV craze, delaying the BJ90 is total nonsense. Worse: competing with the Honqi LS5, it would appear this vehicle will be reserved to military or government officials. Its price should start around 800.000 yuan (US$121.100).

Bar for success: 200 monthly sales

Previous post: China June 2017: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago:  China July 2016: Focus on the All-new models

China June 2017: Focus on the All-new models

The much-awaited WEY VV7 makes its first appearance in the Chinese charts in June. 

Today we pay special attention to the new locally-produced launches in China so you stay aware of the latest development in the fastest-evolving car market in the world. In June, the Chinese market is back into positive territory and fittingly, the number of new launches goes from just three last month to eight. If you thought Chinese carmakers had exhausted their SUV opportunities now that they hold almost 60% of the segment, think again. This month, all new launches are Chinese and five of them are SUVs!

1. Leopaard CS9: 3.334 sales

Changfeng Leopaard has waited over two years to add a smaller sibling to the very successful CS10 that put the brand on the map. The brand is on a roll, with the CS10 posting its three largest monthly volumes in the past five months, and the CS9 already starts with the highest volume of all newcomers this month. Double that and Leopaard will be happy with the launch. At 4.315m long and priced from 76.800 to 116.800 yuan (US$11.300-17.300), the CS9 enters an extremely crowded marketplace and competes with the likes of the Haval H2, Soueast DX3, Changan CS35 and BAIC Senova X55.

It is powered by a 1.5L 122 hp Mitsubishi engine coupled with a five-speed manual or a CVT, with a 150hp 1.5T scheduled also. But the main attraction of the CS9 is its 12 inch touch screen, the biggest in its segment, that gives the cockpit an air of Tesla. Given the momentum the Leopaard brand is enjoying at the moment and its roots as sturdy Mitsubishi Pajero rebadges, the CS9 will – as it was the case for the CS10 – enjoy a widespread success across the nation, whether it be in the cities or the countryside. If it doesn’t cannibalise the CS10 (89.800-146.800 yuan), the CS9 could hit an even higher mark. We fix the success bar at 6.000 monthly units.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly sales

2. JAC Refine S7: 3.203 sales

Adding to the S2mini, the S2, S3 and S5, JAC launches the Refine S7 SUV this month. If we described below Leopaard being on an upward trend, the complete opposite is true for JAC, down a harsh 40% year-on-year over the First Half of 2017. The brand is therefore in need of new models fast, but this S7 might be a little too big to generate the volumes that could reverse the downward spiral the brand has fallen into. The S7 is logically the largest SUV launched so far by JAC but this won’t last long as there are even larger ones in the works. Working for it, the Refine S7 sports a spectacular front design and a very original interior.

JAC Refine S7 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

At 4.80m long, coming in 5- or 7-seat options and priced from 97.800 to 173.800 yuan (US$ 14.450 – 25.700), the Refine S7 competes with blockbusters such as the Haval H6 – the overall SUV segment leader, the Geely Boyue, Roewe RX5 and Changan CS75. This should lift the hopes for Refine S7 volumes pretty high, however JAC’s specialty until now has been with much smaller vehicles such as the tremendously successful – until this year- Refine S3. It remains to be seen whether the brand can extend this success to larger vehicles. The engines are reasonably powerful: a 174hp 1.5T and a 190hp 2.0T, both coupled with a six-speed manual or DCT, repackaging the engine lineup of the Refine A60 sedan.

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly sales

3. WEY VV7: 3.166 sales

It’s finally here. Last November at the Guangzhou Auto Show, Great Wall Motors revealed WEY, its new premium SUV brand positioned above Haval. Its ambitions were to compete with Lexus, Infiniti, Lincoln and Volvo, however this first offering sets the bar a lot lower as we’ll see further down. But first a bit of trivia. The WEY brand name unabashedly refers to Wei Jianjun, the founder of Great Wall Motors. It also refers to the State of Wei, an ancient Chinese state during the Warring States period (475-221 BC) which led to the Qin state’s victory as the first unified Chinese empire known as the Qin dynasty. Great Wall’s headquarters are located in Baoding in the Hebei Province which was once part of the State of Wei. Great Wall is using the old Wade Giles Romanisation system that spells Wei, Wey and Baoding, Paoting – hence that word also appearing on the logo which represents the flagpole in front of the local government house of Baoding City.

Very small touchscreen for a “premium” brand

The much-awaited first WEY nameplate is the VV7. It comes in basic (VV7c) and sporty (VV7s) versions, with prices ranging from 167.800 to 188.800 yuan (US$24.800-27.900). This is where the WEY brand starts to feel a lot less premium than its ambitions. This price range positions it right into Haval H7 territory (149.800-193.800 yuan), below the H8 (188.800 start) and the H9 (209.800 start). Among Chinese competitors it goes against the GAC Trumpchi GS8 (163.800-259.800) admittedly much larger, the Borgward BX5 (149.800-216.800) and the Qoros 5 (139.900-194.900). Local publication Autohome.com.cm pits it against the much cheaper Zotye T700 (106.800-155.800) as a valid alternative in terms of sophistication… As for foreign competitors in price, they range from the Nissan Qashqai (139.800-189.800), Kia Sportage (144.800-189.800), Peugeot 3008 (140.700-207.700), Mitsubishi Outlander (159.800-223.800), Honda CR-V (169.800-259.800) and Toyota RAV4 (179.800-269.800). Hardly premium brands although a fight with the mainstream foreigners may be all Great Wall was after after all. For comparison, the similar-sized SUVs by brands listed by WEY as its competitors are for the Infiniti QX30 249.800-389.800, the Lincoln MKC 298.800-458.800 and the Lexus NX 318.000-599.000.

At 4.749m long, the VV7 is built on an extended version of the new Haval H6 plaform, itself an updated variant of an old platform that underpinned the previous generation H6. In terms of engine, the VV7 utilises the same 230hp 2.0T as the H7/H7L. So the last advantage the VV7 has over the “bread and butter” Haval brand is its looks, but they are dangerously similar to the new H6. A lot of confusion, that WEY is decided to dissipate by selling WEY models in a completely separate dealer network. The big question will be to what extend WEY will cannibalise the existing Haval range. In June, only the H6 (35.171) and H2 (11.098) were above the VV7 (3.166), while the H7 (-41%), H5 (-32%), H8 (+72%) and H9 (+18%) fell way behind. It’s therefore a pretty solid start for a new brand, but Haval will want to reach higher targets.

Bar for success: 7.000 monthly sales

4. SWM X3: 1.676 sales

SWM launched its very first nameplate, the X7 SUV, back in September 2016 and has since found almost 55.000 new homes, a very solid success for a completely new brand. SWM is hoping to replicate this success with the smaller X3 SUV, looking like a cross with an MPV and a more modern Dongfeng somehow, pointing its bonnet in the cheap 7-seater SUV segment. Priced from 59.900 to 82.900 yuan (US$8,850 – 12.250), it competes with the likes of the Bisu T5, Changan CX70, Beijing Huansu S3, Lifan Myway and Dongfeng SX6. We could also add the Baojun 730 which, although an MPV, has variants that mimic SUVs the same way this X3 does. The X7 culminated at 7.168 units last December and the X3 will be the perfect test to see whether the brand can expand exponentially, launching more successful models one after the other. Given the scores of the Changan CX70 (pb 15.225) and the BAIC Huansu S3 (pb 20.868), this segment’s potential has clearly not been exhausted and hasn’t been invaded by dozens of offers either. Conservatively, we will put the X3 bar for success at roughly 60% of the X7’s personal best.

Bar for success: 4.500 monthly sales

5. Dongfeng Junfeng ER30: 1.000 sales

Dongfeng has launched a new EV brand, Junfeng, which local publications can’t seem to agree whether full-blown brand or a sub-brand, a subtle distinction as always in China. Launched at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2017, the ER30 is based on the very slow selling Venucia R30, itself based on the 2010 Nissan March. The Junfeng logo is a reworked Donfeng badge with a blue dot in the middle (in China blue means green). The ER30 appears elevated in the manner of a crossover. It is powered by a 80hp electric motor for a 115 km/h top speed. Autonomy is 250km. The ER30 is built in cooperation with SKIO with the ER30 listed under the skio.cn website as well as the diandong.com website. Confusing? Welcome to China!

Bar for success: 2.500 monthly sales

6. Chana Oushang A800: 549 sales

The only new MPV to enter the Chinese sales charts this month, the Chana Oushang A800 is hoping to build on the tremendous success of the Chana Oushang which sold 170.511 units since its launch in December 2015 but has fallen below 6.000 units over the past three months. While the Oushang was priced between 56.900 and 70.900 yuan (US$8.400-10.500), the A800 starts where the Oushang ends: from 69.900 to 119.900 (US$10.300-17.700). The A800 is 4.81m long and is powered by a choice of 125hp 1.6 and 154hp 1.5T. In fact, the A800 is a redesigned Changan Linmax, launched last February, same size, using the same platform and engine. The Linmax has peaked so far at 5.232 (last May) while the Oushang has a personal best of 16.070 in January 2017. Autohome.com.cn sees it compete with the cheaper Baojun 730, the Dongfeng SX6 and the Baojun 310W (for wagon)… In this context, the bar for success has been placed in line with the Linmax rather than the Oushang.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly sales

7. GAC Trumpchi GS7: 50 sales

An instant blockbuster with just under 60.000 sales in 8 months and a pb of 10.032 last March, the GAC Trumpchi GS8 7-seater has redefined success in the large Chinese SUV segment, and has stabilised at a very high level. 8 months after its introduction, GAC Trumpshi launches the identically-designed but smaller GS7 5-seater. Priced from 155.800 to 229.800 yuan (US$23.000-33.950), only marginally lower than the GS8 (163.800-259.800), Autohome.com.cn has it compete against the Haval H7 (149.800-193.800), Roewe RX5 (99.800-186.800), Zotye SR9 (108.800-169.800) and the Haval H9 (209.800-272.800).

GAC Trumpchi GS7 and GS8 comparison.

A frequent stake currently triggered by the multitude of SUV launches by Chinese brands is cannibalisation. Will the GS7 kill the GS8 the same way the edgy Baojun 510 annihilated the dated 560? It’s unlikely as their design are virtually identical. This will be a good test of popularity for 5-seater SUVs vs. 7-seater. With the relaxation of the 1-child policy in China, 7-seaters are becoming the norm, so this GS7 may fall short. The GS7 shares the same engines as the GS8: a 201hp 2.0T coupled with a six-speed auto. The GS7 is a 4WD called i4WD.

Bar for success: 6.500 monthly sales

Also new this month: BAIC changed the way it reports EV sales, now featuring EU-Series, EV-Series and EX-Series, and Hawtai launched the EV160 small electric hatch.

China May 2017: Focus on the All-new models

Lifan Xuanlang

* See the May 2017 Top 414 All China-made models and Top 74 brands here *

As is the case every month, we pay special attention to the new locally produced launches in China so you stay aware of the latest development in the fastest-evolving car market in the world. May marks the second consecutive month of year-on-year decline for the light vehicle market in China, and fittingly it is a very slow month for newcomers with only three new nameplates this month, all Chinese.

1. Lifan Xuanlang: 2.541 sales

With the recently launched Myway 7 seat SUV, Lifan had started to reassure us that they were back in the race. Unfortunately, here comes the Xuanlang. No, this is not a Ford S-Max, but an almost identical clone, up to the crease lines in the door and the alloys. The S-Max isn’t currently sold in China so unlike the Range Rover Evoque and its Landwind clone we can’t make a price comparison. The Xuanlang signals the fact that cloning is still very much present in the Chinese auto industry and not limited to Landwind and Zotye which we thought were the latest culprits of this dubious practice.

Lifan Xuanlang interior. Picture autohome.com.cn  

Seating seven and powered by a choice of three petrol engines:  1.8 (133hp), 2.0 (141hp) and 1.5T (141hp), the Xuanlang is priced very competitively from 69.800 to 106.800 yuan (US$10.250-15.700). This places it squarely against the #2 best-seller in the segment, the Baojun 730, as well as the Dongfeng Fengxing S500, Chana Ousheng and Changan Linmax. Already by far the most successful entrant this month with over 2.500 sales, this is unchartered territory for Lifan that hasn’t had a similar offering before. Doubling this initial monthly score would cement the Xuanlang as a force to be reckoned with in the MPV market.

Bar for success: 4.500 monthly sales

2. Zotye T700: 107 sales

Just as Lifan tests the murky waters of cloning, Zotye seems to have emancipated from it with this T700. Agreed, there is an air of Range Rover in the silhouette but the latest Zotye offerings had been almost identical clones so there is progress. Cue the Damai X7 (VW Cross Coupe GTE concept), T600 (Audi Q5), Damai X5 (VW Tiguan), SR7 (Audi Q3) and SR9 (Porsche Macan). The T700 is the new flagship of the brand and impresses with sharp design both exterior-wise and inside the cockpit featuring a 14 inch-touch screen.

Zotye T700 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The T700 is powered by a choice of three turbo engines a 1.8 (177hp) and two 2.0 (190 and 220hp) mated with a five-speed manual or six-speed DCT for the 1.8 and six-speed DCT for the two 2.0. It is priced from 106.800 to 155.800 yuan (US$15.700-22.900) and will aim at taking some business away from Haval. Zotye has been struggling lately with overall sales down 25% in May and its best-seller the T600 only gathering 3.654 deliveries, so our bar for success for the T700 is lowered down to 4.000 which would place it as the brand’s best-seller this month.

Bar for success: 4.000 monthly sales

3. Geely Yuanjing X1: 104 sales

Going from strength to strength with sales up 87% year-to-date thanks mainly to a series of new SUVs, Geely launches its smallest SUV to-date, the Yuanjing X1, unveiled at the last Shanghai Auto Show in April. Unfortunately, under a new nameplate and a seemingly new car hides a hastily facelifted version of the Geely Panda. The interior is its best asset with a huge 11.6 inch touch screen.

Geely Yuanjing X1 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn 

The X1 keeps the Panda’s 1.0 68hp engine and replaces the 1.5 by a 1.3 88hp engine, and its price range is at a tiny 39.900-57.900 yuan (US$5.850-8.500). It seems everything Geely launches is a success these days, but this X1 will have a tougher job in a segment that has traditionally struggled with big volumes. It will compete with the Baojun 510 (that proved this struggle wrong), the Haval H1 and the JAC Refine S2mini.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly sales

Previous month: China April 2017: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago: China May 2017: Focus on the All-new models

China April 2017: Focus on the All-new models

We throw a laser focus on the all-new locally produced models hitting the Chinese market so you are up-to-date with all the latest news. No less than 11 new nameplates made their first appearance in the Chinese sales charts in April.

1. Chevrolet Equinox: 5.693 sales

Leading them all is the Chevrolet Equinox with an already very satisfying score. Manufactured by the Shanghai-GM joint-venture, the new generation Equinox is the first one to be produced in China and it’s another welcome breath of fresh air for the struggling Chevrolet brand after the arrival of the Cavalier sedan in September last year. Powered by a choice of 1.5T or 2.0T engines both matched with a nine-speed auto, the Equinox is priced from 174.900 to 249.900 yuan ($25.500-36.400), meaning Chevrolet had the choice of discontinuing the similarly priced Captiva or keep it at a discounted rate. Looking at the two lonely sales the Captiva managed to rack up in April, it would appear Chevrolet has decided to discontinue it instead.

The Equinox enters a very crowded foreign compact five-seater SUV segment that also includes the VW Tiguan, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail and Ford Escape. It bodes well for its chances of strong sales and has emboldened us to lift its bar for success to 15.000. General Motors has also positioned it frankly below the hot-selling Buick Envision (209.900 to 349.900 yuan) which should eliminate the risk of cannibalisation among GM brands. The Equinox is destined to become the best-selling SUV Chevrolet has ever had in China so far, as it already comes close to the Trax’s personal best of 6.937 units.

Bar for success: 15.000 monthly sales

2. Hyundai Celesta: 3.965 sales

Appearing in this month’s sales charts but already displaying a cumulative total of 11.983 sales, the Hyundai Celesta has chosen the wrong timing to enter the Chinese sales charts, in the midst of anti-Korean sentiment that has pulled both Hyundai and Kia sales down over 60% this month. Hopefully for the Korean carmaker this situation will recede shortly and its sales can return to their pre-crisis level. Under a new nameplate hides in fact the Hyundai Elantra Yuedong – the fourth generation Elantra – reskinned and with an updated interior. This is the same method Ford has adopted in China with the Escort, based on the previous generation Focus, and Chevrolet with the Cavalier which is a reskinned previous generation Cruze. Both the Escort and Cavalier compete with the Celesta.

Powered with the same 1.6L engine as the Yuedong matched with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, the Celesta is priced from 78.800 to 120.800 yuan (US$11.500-17.600) and adds to an already busy Hyundai sedan lineup. The Korean carmaker has indeed taken the habit of keeping older generations of the Elantra in production, and the Celesta slides above the new Verna (72.800-105.800 yuan) and the Elantra Yuedong (74.800-95.800 yuan) but below the two latest generations Elantra, the 5th – Langdong (105.800-127.800 yuan) and the 6th – Lingdong (99.800-151.800 yuan).

Bar for success: 15.000 monthly sales

3. Venucia M50V: 2.704 sales

Unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show last April, the M50V is the first MPV by Venucia, Dongfeng-Nissan’s low cost brand. Previously Venucia models have been based on older Nissan platforms but the M50V is based on the Dongfeng Fengguang 360. It is powered by a choice of either 1.5 or 1.6L engines and comes in six or seven-seat configurations. As it is the case for all Venucia nameplates, the M50V is priced sharply at 65.800-84.900 yuan (US$9.600-12.400) which is slightly more expensive than the Dongfeng Fengguang 360 on which it is based (57.900-74.900). Venucia is a late-comer in the struggling MPV segment but its sharp design and modern interior for the segment will make it a worthy option and should trigger solid sales.

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly sales

4. Borgward BX5: 1.593 sales 

The BX5 is the second offering from the revived Borgward brand after the BX7 launched last year. Borgward is a German brand that was resuscitated with the financial backing of Foton Motor, a subsidiary of Beijing Auto. Despite being priced dearly, the BX7 has shown strong figures, peaking at 5.556 units last December, and the BX5 should too as it is more sharply designed and more affordable, priced between 149.800 and 216.800 yuan (US$21.800-31.600). The BX5 is powered by a 1.8T engine matched with either a six-speed auto or manual and both FWD and real-time 4WD configurations are available. A 1.4T and 1.4T hybrid are set to join the lineup in the near future.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly sales

5. Cowin C3R: 1.093 sales

This month the Cowin C3 has been replaced by the C3R in the Chinese sales charts, a model that was launched in 2015 and a quirk of the rankings.

6. Chery eQ1: 1.035 sales

After the eQ, an electric version of the QQ, Chery launches the electric eQ1, a mini hatchback that fits right in with the latest mini electric offerings. Priced competitively from 49.800 to 99.800 yuan (US$7.250-14.500) including green car subsidies, the eQ1 features an attractive exterior design and very trendy interior filled with orange and a 10 inch touch screen. Its range is 180 km. A very interesting offering from Chery indeed, the brand having stepped up its design efforts with its latest launches.

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly sales

7. Skoda Kodiaq: 913 sales

The Kodiaq we know in Europe is now also produced in China. Sharing the same platform as the new VW Tiguan L, the Kodiaq is made here by the SAIC-Volkswagen joint-venture. It is available in a choice of three turbo engines: 1.4L, 1.8L and 2.0L and priced from 189.800 to 269.800 yuan (US$27.600-39.300), keeping in mind Skoda is positioned slightly more premium in China than it is in Europe. It competes with the likes of the Peugeot 4008 and Chevrolet Equinox we described earlier in the article.

The Kodiaq is the first in a four-pronged SUV attack by Skoda in China. Yet to come are the code named Model Q which will replace the existing Yeti, the code named model K which will be based on the current Yeti platform to spurn a budget crossover and a Kodiaq Coupe, the future flagship of the brand, to compete with the likes of the Honda Avancier and UR-V.

Changan CS55

Also launching in April are the electric JMC E160 (285 sales), the Peugeot 5008 (242) which is the same as the European one, the Buick Velite 5, a rebadged Chevrolet Volt (67) and the Changan CS55 (30), the one with the largest sales potential.

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