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China: 1980-2023 Historical Data now available

Fiat 126P China 1980. Picture courtesy of chinacartimes.comThe Fiat 126p was the first passenger car to be imported into China in 1979.

The direct links to all Historical articles are below.

Chinese historical information all the way up to the start of the eighties is now available on Best Selling Cars Blog. This 40 year-period in China is definitely one of the most interesting ones in the entire history of automobile, sales in the country going from virtually nothing to 28 million today, making China the biggest new vehicle market in the world, and by far.

The VW Santana was the best-selling car in China for one decade from 1986 onwards.

In the early eighties the first passenger cars were imported into China, mainly Fiat 126p from Poland first used as taxis. 1986 marks the local production launch of the VW Santana, the very car that would set the ground work for China’s motorisation, with over 3 million units produced in 25 years. Witness the Santana pass the relay to the VW Jetta in 2001, the Jetta leading for over a decade with 2 million units produced.

The VW Jetta was #1 in China over a period covering 2001 to 2008.

Discover the intense fight between the Jetta, Buick Excelle, Hyundai Elantra and FAW Tianjin Xiali in the mid-noughties, leading to the crowning of the BYD F3 in 2009 and 2010, of the Buick Excelle in 2011, the triumph of the Ford Focus in 2012 and the Wuling Hongguang from 2013 onwards and for the following five years before the VW Lavida takes charge in 2018.

From October 2010 onwards there is a monthly coverage of the Chinese new car market on BSCB.

China Historical Data:

China 1980-1985: Fiat 126p best-seller, 1 passenger car for every 6 million people

China 1986-1990: VW Santana launches Chinese motorisation

China 1991: Volkswagen sells 3 times more than any other brand (new)

China 1992: VW Santana #1, FAW Tianjin Xiali up to #3, market up 45.7% (new)

China 1993: First millionaire market, VW Santana first model above 100,000 annual sales (new)

China 1994: FAW Tianjin teases Volkswagen for #1 brand (new)

China 1995: Growth slows down to +7.3% (new)

China 1996: VW Santana 2000 up to #2 in soft market (new)

China 1997: VW Santana 2000 threatens Santana for pole position, market up 11.9% (new)

China 1998: Stable market hits 1.5 million units, Changhe, Wuling, VW strong (new)

China 1999: VW Santana and Changan Star top market up 8.2% (new)

China 2000: Changan Star takes the lead, VW Santana still best-selling Passenger Car (new)

China 2001: Market above 2 million units, VW Jetta outsells Santana, Great Wall, Chery land (new)

China 2002: Market up 40.7% to almost 3 million, VW Jetta leads Passenger Car ranking again (new)

China 2003: Market up 37.4% to over 4 million, Changan Star and VW Jetta lead, Buick Regal up (new)

China 2004: Volumes consolidate at +13.1%, VW down, Hyundai Elantra instant blockbuster (new)

China 2005: Tianjin Xiali and Hyundai Elantra take the lead of Passenger Car charts (updated)

China 2006: VW Jetta reclaims PC first place, Buick Excelle close second (updated)

China 2007: VW Jetta, Buick Excelle and Toyota Camry on podium

China 2008: VW Jetta #1, Honda Accord and Toyota Corolla up

China 2009: BYD F3 crowned, Buick Excelle and Hyundai Elantra Yuedong follow

China 2010: BYD F3 and VW Lavida on top

China 2011: Buick Excelle best-seller after 4 years at #2

China 2012: Ford Focus triumphs

China 2013: Wuling Hongguang and VW Lavida on top

China 2014: Growth cools to 7% to record 23.5 million sales


China 2015: Market up 4.7% to record 24.61 million despite sluggish summer

China 2015: Discover the Top 137 All-brands (BSCB Exclusive)

China LCV 2015: Sales transfer to mini pickups boosts Wuling Mini Truck to #1

China imports 2015: Discover the first-ever models ranking (BSCB Exclusive)


China 2016: Tax cut boosts market up 14% to record 28 million sales

China LCV 2016: Wuling Mini Truck leads, pickups up 11%


China 2017: Geely becomes #1 Chinese brand in market up 3.2%

China LCV 2017: Wuling dominates, pickups gain 18%

China imports 2017: Exclusive data by model and brand


China wholesales 2018: VW Lavida snaps first ever win in first market decline in 28 years

China retail 2018: Toyota stands out, VW Lavida, Nissan Sylphy and Toyota Corolla best-sellers

China imports 2018: Lexus (+26.3%) has ES at #1, NX at #3 and RX at #5 in market up 3.2%

China new energy 2018: BYD and BAIC EC-Series leaders, market eclipses 1 million annual sales for the first time


China wholesales 2019: Market down -8.2% to lowest since 2015, New Energy sales down -1.2%, first “winter” for weak Chinese brands

China retail 2019: Honda (+16.6%), BMW (+21.6%) stand out in market holding better than wholesales (-4%)

China imports 2019: Lexus takes control with ES and RX, Tesla Model 3 lands in Top 10

China LCV 2019: Wuling Mini Truck breaks record in market down just -2%


China wholesales 2020: SUVs outsell cars for the first time, Nissan Sylphy snaps first win, market down just -1.9%

China retail 2020: Changan (+26.8%), Toyota (+7.6%) headline market down -7.5%

China imports 2020: Lexus places ES, RX and NX in Top 4 again in market down -12.3%

China LCV 2020: Wuling Mini Truck breaks record again in market up 11.2%


China wholesales 2021: Nissan Sylphy resists Wuling Hongguang MINI EV assault in market up 3.8%

China retail 2021: Wuling (+52.3%), BYD (+98.7%) show explosive growth in market up 6.4%

China imports 2021: Lexus ES and BMW X5 top market down -6.9%

China LCV 2021: Wuling #1, Foton Light Truck best-seller in market down -4%


China wholesales 2022: BYD challenges Volkswagen, places Song Plus at #1 in market up 2.1%

China retail 2022: BYD surges 123.3%, Nissan Sylphy #1, market down -2.1%

China imports 2022: Lexus and ES dominate again, Porsche up 1.3% in market freefalling -19%

China LCV 2022: Wuling and Foton Light Truck dominate again in market off -21%

China New Energy 2022: Wuling Hongguang Mini EV, Tesla Model Y and BYD impress


China wholesales 2023: BYD ends 37 years of Volkswagen domination

China retail 2023: BYD and Tesla Model Y on top

China imports 2023: Lexus ES and Mercedes GLE dominate market off just -2.3%

This Post Has 8 Comments
  1. I knew some Fiat 126p were shipped from Poland to China, but I never imagined it could be that many. Thanks for the excellent insight, Matt!

  2. Fiat 126 p was very popular here in Poland in eighties and nineties and I really cannot imagine how Cinese poeple could use it as a taxi. It had extremly tight interior…

  3. I had no idea that FIAT 126 was the first passenger automobile to be imported into China.

    Now we can understand the suddenly success of FIAT Vaggio in the last months.

    Very interesting. Thanks Matt.

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