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China January 2015: Focus on the all-new models

Venucuia T70 China January 2015. Picture couresy fblife.comAmong this month’s launches, the Venucia T70 has the biggest potential.

* See the Top 353 All-models ranking by clicking on the title *

The BSCB tradition is to first explore monthly Chinese ranking, then detail the all-new models that make their entrance in the biggest car market in the world, in other words models that have kick-started local production as imports data is still a very well-kept secret in China. After a record 12 all-new nameplates launched in November and a further 11 did so in December, new entrants slow down a little in this start of 2015 with four of them making their way into the January ranking, although two of them are rebadges. Interestingly this month, they are all Chinese: two MPVs followed by two SUVs. 100% on-trend.

Changhe Freedom M50. Picture courtesy auto.sohu.com

1. Changhe Freedom M50 (#179 with 2,136 sales)

Previously owned by ChangAn since 2009, the Changhe brand was in trouble and disappeared from BSCB’s rankings last year due to the discontinuation of the Ideal microvan. Beijing Auto bought a 70% stake in Changhe in November 2013, announcing plans to lift the production capacity from the current 270,000 units to 500,000 units by 2017 and 1 million by 2020. Typically Chinese grandiose targets, that start with a simple rebadge of the Beijing Auto Weiwang M20 launched 18 months earlier, called the Changhe Freedom M50. It is priced at an attractive 49.800-51.900 yuan (US$ 7.900-8.300) compared to 46.800-53.800 ($7.500-8.600) for the Weiwang M20, benefiting from a larger range. There are no price or spec differentiation, just a different branding. Illogical, but this is the Chinese market after all, where branding logic is a faraway concept.

This rebadge therefore seems to mainly target current Changhe owners, trying to entice them into upgrading from their microvan to this mini-MPV. This is something most of China’s countryside has done with Wuling and the Hongguang over the past 3 years, so a pretty reasonable bet. The Beijing Auto Weiwang M20 has steadily been lodging very strong sales figures since its arrival in the ranking in August 2013, peaking at 11,801 sales and #40 in November 2014 and still ranking at a 2nd best #56 this month despite the arrival of the Changhe. This shows the tremendous potential of this segment, and reaching 1/3 of these figures within the first year would be a cool achievement for the Freedom M50.

Bar for success: #120 or 4,000 monthly sales

Karry K50 China January 2015. Picture courtesy xcar.com.cn

2. Karry K50 (#210 with 1,445 units)

Yes, the unprecedented success of both the Wuling Hongguang (a record 750,000 deliveries in 2014) and the Baojun 730 (30,000 sales at its third month in market) have logically spurred an assault of look-alike MPVs rushed by all Chinese manufacturers. Chery resuscitates a moribund Karry brand, specialised in commercial vehicles, with this K50, almost identical to the aforementioned Hongguang and M20/M50 badge twins. Price goes from 46.800 to 69.800 yuan (US$7.500-11.200) compared to 44.800-60.800 yuan ($7.200-9.700) for the Hongguang and 69.400-81.800 yuan ($11.100-13.100) for the Baojun 730. This positions the K50 as a direct competitor to the Hongguang albeit slightly more pricey.

Chery isn’t traditionally strong in the commercial segment even with the Karry brand, so this might be a tough one and the success or lack thereof of the K50 will give us a good indication of whether the MPV segment still has legs. Let’s not expect the heights of the Hongguang or 730 of course, but the K50 must do better than a plain Changhe rebadge to justify its existence.

Bar for success: #100 or 6,000 monthly sales

Venucia T70 China January 2015. Picture courtesy xcar.com.cn

3. Venucia T70 (#275 with 361 deliveries)

As opposed to Honda’s Chinese low cost brands Li Nian or Ciimo, GM’s Baojun and Nissan’s Venucia have managed to make their mark. After the R/D50 based on the Nissan Tiida, the e30 – a rebadged Nissan Leaf and the R30 based on the Micra, the T70 is Venucia’s first SUV. It uses the same platform as the first generation Nissan Qashqai, still in production in China, and is priced from 89.800 to 127.800 yuan ($14.480-20.610). Both mass market passenger cars Venucia has launched have done well: the R/D50 peaked at #26 and 13,751 sales, breaking the 10,000 monthly sales barrier 9 times since its April 2012 launch. The R30, launched in July 2014, has also started relatively strongly, reaching #133 and 3,393 sales in September and outselling the Nissan March on which it is based each and every month since launch.

The T70 marks a new step in Venucia’s expansion at home: not only is it the brand’s first SUV, it’s also the first model to have its own design identity. SUV sales are on fire in China, with new launches by Chinese brands previously discreet in this segment reaching 10,000 monthly units in no time – like the JAC Refine S3. With a reasonable price, ample size (4.54m) and 5 out of the 6 available trim levels using a 2.0l 142hp engine, the T70 could well reach that target also, but won’t need that much to be called a success. A score halfway between the R/D50 and R30 bests would suffice.

Bar for success: #70 or 8,000 monthly sales

Beijing Auto Weiwang 007 China January 2015. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

4. Beijing Auto Weiwang 007 (#308 with 116 sales)

The last model in the list is just the result of Beijing Auto streamlining its sub-brands. First it facelifted the E-Series and renamed it Senova D20 (see last month’s Focus on all-new models), now it’s the turn of the BAW Yusheng 007 to become the Beijing Auto Weiwang 007. Here too a simple change of brand but the “007” stays, not fitting the Weiwang naming pattern (letter-two figures). BAW is a subsidiary of Beijing Auto that mostly produces SUVs so this looks like an attempt at regrouping most BAIC models under the Beijing Auto brand and its sub-brands: Senova, Weiwang and Huansu.

Although I thought the Huansu sub-brand was created to house SUVs, so shouldn’t the Weiwang 007 be a Huansu instead? Go figure. In any case, the BAW Yusheng 007 had sold just 281 units in the whole of 2014, including 104 in December alone, and sold 130 more in January! Certainly clearing stocks at heavily discounted prices. In this context, the Weiwang 007’s start at 116 sales is actually pretty good. It is priced between 89.800 and 122.800 yuan (US$ 14.400-19.700) and powered with either a 2.0 or 2.4l engine. Surely Beijing Auto is aiming at significantly higher sales by transferring this nameplate under its own brand name.

Bar for success: #200 or 1,000 monthly sales

Previous post: China January 2015: Market up 7% to 2.3 million units, Haval H6 on podium

Previous month: China December 2014: Focus on the all-new models

One year ago: China January 2014: Focus on the all-new models

Full January 2015 Top 353 All-models Ranking Table below.

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