* See the Top 325 All-local models ranking by clicking on the title! *
As usual after exploring the monthly Chinese ranking, we detail the all-new models making their first appearance in the world’s biggest car market this month. Even though some say (I’m not one of them) the Chinese automotive market is “cooling off”, the rhythm of new nameplate introductions into local production lines does not slow down at all, a sure sign of China’s incredible dynamism. After welcoming 8 new models in August and 3 in September, we are back up to 9 in October…
1. Buick Envision (#153 with 2,880 sales)
The most successful new entrant this month is the Buick Envision, tellingly launching in China first before a US release scheduled for the 2016 model year. It is manufactured by the Shanghai-GM joint venture and based on GM’s Delta global-compact platform. The Envision positions itself above the China-made Buick Encore and below the Buick Enclave that is currently imported into China. It is priced between 269.900 and 349.900 yuan (US$44.100-57.100) with only a 2.0 turbo engine available for now, to be soon joined by a low-output variant of the 2.0 turbo and a 1.5 turbo priced at 230.000 and 210.000 yuan respectively or $34,300 and $37,600. The Envision is the first Buick-badged vehicle to sport an Off-Road driving mode.
Vegetating in the US (#18 so far in 2014) and not sold much elsewhere, the Buick brand only owes its survival to its Chinese success where it regularly ranks within the Top 5 most popular brands, frankly outselling Chevrolet. The brand even sold over one million vehicles worldwide in 2013, topping a sales record that dated back to 1984 when China was out of the picture. The Envision’s bar for success here is a Top 100 ranking in the long run. The Encore ranks #65 so far in 2014 with 70,000 sales, but the Enclave is above the real core of the Chinese SUV market in both size and price, and a good benchmark is the Hyundai Santa Fe, currently #88 and priced similarly.
2. Volvo S60L (#162 and 2,552 sales)
Even though it launched at the end of last year, monthly sales of the Volvo S60L only pop up now, along with two other Volvos detailed further. Looks like Volvo is suddenly sharing sales figures of its locally-produced models in China. The S60L gets spit out in a new Geely-funded Volvo factory in Chengdu in central China, and as is the convention here, the L means this is a stretched variant of the S60 designed uniquely to China to allow more leg space for passengers in the back seats, simply because a large part of customers in this category do not actually drive the cars themselves, leaving this strenuous task to their drivers. Priced between 269.600 and 348.900 yuan (US$44k-57k), the S60L has for main rivals the Audi A4L, BMW 3 Series L and upcoming Mercedes C-Class L.
Its October performance already positions the S60L as the brand’s best-selling sedan in China by very far with the S80L at #256 with just 354 sales (#267 and 3,848 units year-to-date). Volvo did not communicate monthly data to CAAM and therefore the car hasn’t appeared in the ranking up until now but the Volvo website states 17,564 S60L have been sold so far in 2014, placing it at #183. In its line of fire, the Audi A4L sold 96k units (#41) and the BMW 3 Series L sold 78k (#56), out of reach at this stage for the S60L. A Top 100 ranking stretch target by the time 2015 comes to an end would mean Volvo has become a potent player in the Chinese premium segment, a Top 140-150 would be more realistic given the S60L has already stabilised around its long-term level.
3. DS 6 (#199 and 1,308 deliveries)
The new premium brand by Peugeot-Citroen PSA, DS, debuts its third locally-produced model this month: the China-only DS 6 SUV. It comes after the DS 5 hatchback launched in December 2013 and the China-only DS 5LS sedan launched last April, is based on the same platform and also manufactured in Shenzhen by the Changan-PSA joint venture, a second joint venture by the PSA group along with the one it has with Dongfeng. The DS 6 is priced between 199.000 and 309.900 yuan, or US$32.500-$50.600. While the DS brand has been created solely to aim at the German premium trio Audi-BMW-Mercedes, it will take a while before DS can pretend to play in the same sandpit. The Audi Q3 (#64 with 70,200 sales so far this year) and BMW X1 (#120 and 37,900 units) are the logical benchmarks as we await the production start of the Mercedes GLA.
In this context a first month inside the Top 200 is a good start for the DS 6, better than the DS 5 has ever done (best ranking: #206). Both previous DS models have tended to be quite front-loaded, reaching their best sales volume in their first few months: the DS 5 never topped the 1,271 units it sold in December 2013 and has fallen to a paltry 210 sales this month while the DS 5LS’s peak occurred in its third month in June with 1,739 units (best ranking: #172). However the DS 6 should improve progressively as this is the most promising segment for the brand in China. A Top 150 ranking would make the DS 6 the best-ranking DS ever, a Top 100 would cement it as a true competitor to the Audi Q3 and BMW X1.
4. Honda Vezel (#210 and 1,209 sales)
If you are a regular BSCB reader you will already know that the Honda Vezel is a runaway hit at home in Japan where it ranks #7 overall so far this year and will sell upwards of 100,000 units by the time 2014 comes to an end. The Vezel is now produced in China also and therefore enters the sales charts this month, a welcome breath of fresh air for the Japanese manufacturer that has been seriously struggling here of late, in steep YOY decline over the past 4 consecutive months. Honda has set very competitive prices for the Vezel (128.800-189.800 yuan or US$21k-31k) which should allow it to rise up the ladder fast.
Logical competitors are the Nissan Juke (not produced in China therefore not in the ranking), Buick Encore (#65 in 2014 YTD), Peugeot 2008 (best ranking so far: #75) and Chevrolet Trax (best at #78). Given Honda’s footprint in China, the Vezel can reasonably hope for better scores than all the aforementioned models. Failing to break into the monthly Top 100 will make the Vezel a dud, a Top 50 ranking seems well within reach and a Top 20 not impossible. Why so high? The small SUV segment is so hot right now in China and a semi-premium offering like the Vezel will make Eastern Chinese female car buyers hyperventilate.
5. Volvo XC60 (#234 and 706 units)
Unlike the S60L launched late last year, the XC60 has just kick started local production and therefore logically hits the models ranking this month, the third Volvo to be manufactured in China after the Geely take-over along with the S60L and the XC Classic detailed further down. The XC60 is manufactured in a Geely-built factory in the city of Daqing in Heilongjiang province, and is priced between 366.900 and 539.900 yuan (US$59.900-88.200). It competes with the Audi Q5 (#47 with 88,000 sales in 2014) and Mercedes-Benz GLK, the brand’s best-seller in China at #121 with 37,500 units so far this year. A shy start for now but a Top 150 ranking soon must be in the cards if Volvo really wants the XC60 to compete with the German premiums.
6. Yema F16 (#254 with 388 deliveries)
Yema Auto (Chinese for wild horse or Mustang) is a little-known Chinese manufacturer based in Sichuan province that currently builds small SUVs based on the ancient Austin Montego/Maestro platform that it acquired in 2008. All current Yema models have the shape of the first generation Subaru Forester, with only the front grille and headlights changing. The F99 and F10 do look like the Forester, the F12 looks like a Kia Sportage and somehow this new F16 doesn’t look like anything else from the front. Progress. The F16 is priced between 80.000 and 110.000 yuan (US$13k-18k) and this kind of large-for-the-money vehicles are still very popular in China’s vast countryside and in second and third tier cities, where citizens finally have enough cash to buy their first car, but not enough to buy a recognised brand.
In line with the Chinese’s fascination for dashboard touch screens, the F16 has one that is bigger than in most Fords for example, including the Kuga. F16 sales potential can be gaged based on that of other Yema models: the F12 finished 2013 at #246 and currently ranks #226 this year, the F10 was #277 in 2013 but has been discontinued since, only ranking #317 this year, and the F99 is further down at #338 in 2013 and #365 in 2014. In this context the initial sales figures for the F16 are very encouraging for the brand. The highest ranking ever reached by a Yema model in China is #177 by the F12 in May 2014, and the F16 can do better. Reaching #150 would mean more Yema models should hit Chinese roads in the coming years. Whether that is a good thing remains to be seen…
7. Volvo XC Classic (#279 and 191 sales)
As its local production debuted last September, the Volvo XC Classic logically appears in the sales charts this month, albeit still at a modest level. It may seem counterproductive to launch production of the first generation XC90 in China at the same time the new XC90 is unveiled worldwide, but it is not uncommon here and explains the choice of the XC Classic name. Manufactured in a new Geely-funded factory in Daqing in Heilongjiang Province, the XC Classic is priced between 548.900 and 638.900 yuan ($89k-104k). The new 2015 Volvo XC90 will be imported into China starting in H2 2015, priced above 818.000 yuan or $133k, so a distinct notch above the XC Classic. The car’s Chinese tagline is “Legacy Continues.” Indeed, its production is scheduled to run four years with a facelift after two years. It is very difficult to forecast sales volumes as it is one of the rare large luxury SUVs to be produced locally. The Toyota Land Cruiser 200 for example vegetates at 2.500 sales so far in 2014 and the XC Classic is already above that level for its first month, so a Top 200 ranking with 1.000+ monthly sales would be a great achievement.
8. FAW Junpai D60 (#294 and 89 units)
Originally called the FAW Xiali T012 and still referred to as such in CAAM’s official sales statistics, the FAW Junpai D60 is yet another small Chinese SUV hitting the roads this year. FAW doesn’t learn and keeps creating new sub-brands that are perfect for confusing us and, well, the Chinese consumer as well, no doubt. Last arrival: Junpai with the D60, manufactured by Tianjin-FAW and priced between 64.900 and 99.900 yuan or US$10.600-16.300.
The Junpai D60 is in the bullseye of the fastest growing segment in China this year, competing with the likes of the Changan CS35, Haval H2, JAC Refine S3, and Chery Tiggo 3, all currently within or close to the country’s 50 best-sellers overall. With a somewhat good-looking exterior design and snazzy interior but old and underpowered engines, the D60 should position itself quite significantly below the aforementioned models, yet a great surprise isn’t to be discarded. Bar for success is the Top 175. Anything above is bonus for FAW.
9. MG GT (#314 with 13 deliveries)
Last but not least in this list of new entrants on the Chinese market in October is the MG GT, arguably the trendiest Chinese MG so far, showing a sleek sporty fastback shape but actually a sedan based on the same platform as the MG5 and Roewe 350. MG continues to draw parallels with the old British MG models as seen at the Beijing Auto Show, this time actively advertising the MG GT along the old MGB GT, MGC GT and MGB GT V8 which was manufactured from 1973 to 1976.
The 13 deliveries occurring in October are dealer demo models as the MG GT only launched to the public on November 1, so expect a much higher ranking next month. But how high can the GT go? Reasonably priced between 95.900 and 149.900 yuan (US$15.700-24.500), the GT should be able to revitalise MG sales as all models are currently in decline: the MG 3 is down from #110 in 2013 to #156 this year, the MG 6 down from #182 to #219, the MG 5 down from #226 to #238 and the MG 7 down from #333 to #363. A Top 200 ranking would be a good start and would logically position the GT as MG’s 2nd best-seller below the cheaper MG 3.
Full October 2014 Top 325 All-local models Ranking Table below.