* See the Top 377 All-local models ranking by clicking on the title *
As is the tradition on BSCB, after going through detailed Chinese sales figures for March we explore the First Quarter volumes in order to extract longer-term trends. The Chinese passenger car market is still up by a robust 9% to 5.31 million units over the period but just 4% to 6.15 million deliveries including commercial vehicles. Some would say it’s the beginning of the end, I say it’s a very normal cooling off of market growth, not of the market as a whole. These quarterly detailed updates will turn out to be critical this year as the Chinese market is evolving so fast that if you miss a couple of months, you end up missing a significant part of the puzzle that this market is.
The SUV segment is currently going through a euphoric time in China. Sales are up 40% year-on-year, and in what may be the most interesting reversal of fortunes in the past few years in this marker, domestic manufacturers are reaping most of the benefits of this new trend: sales of Chinese-branded SUVs have more than doubled compared to the same period last year, bringing their market share in the segment to a splendid 56%. The Haval H6 of course is leading the charge, stepping onto the national podium for the first time at #3 with sales up 29% to 87,749 vs. #11 a year ago.
This SUV craze has had a tremendous impact on the entire Chinese market and is starting to trigger a power shift between domestic manufacturers and foreign ones. As a foreign manufacturer present in China, if you don’t have at least one affordable SUV in your lineup, chances are you underperformed so far in 2015. Hyundai (ix25), Kia (KX3), Honda (XR-V/Vezel), PSA (2008, C3-XR) and GM (Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax) are safe, but the best example of a company struggling because of the absence of any small SUV in its range is Volkswagen, still #1 brand in China but in difficulty with sales down 0.1%.
All mass market Volkswagens bar the Jetta (+10%) and Golf (+22%) underperform the market over the period: the Lavida is down 5% at #2, the Santana is slightly under the market (+8% at #4), the Sagitar is down 2% (#8), the Passat down 10% (#10), Tiguan up 1% (#11), the Bora down 7% (#21), the Polo down 1% (#24) and the Magotan down 14% (#28).
In fact, 7 of the 10 best-selling SUVs in China over Q1 2015 are Chinese, that’s an all-time record for any quarter in the history of automobile in this country. Below the H6, the VW Tiguan is the only foreigner in the Top 8 SUVs at #11 overall, and is followed by the JAC Refine S3 (#22), ChangAn CS35 (#27). Haval H2 (new), ChangAn CS75 (new), Beijing Auto Huansu S3 (new) and Zotye T600 (+371%).
Top 10 best-selling SUVs in China – 1st Quarter 2015:
|Pos||Model||Q1 2015||/14||Q1 2014|
|3||JAC Refine S3||53,712||new||0|
|7||Beijing Auto Huansu S3||40,173||new||0|
The Chinese stranglehold on the SUV market is about to get even tighter as the rhythm of new launches has all but slowed down: the Venucia T70 could come flirting with the Top 10 SUVs in the next quarter or two, the JAC Refine S2 will build on the astonishing success of its big brother and the Baojun 560 is the biggest wild card the segment has seen so far, judging by the tremendous success of its MPV counterpart the Baojun 730. And that’s only 3 out of at least a dozen new affordable Chinese SUVs about to be launched in the coming few months…
Which brings us to the other segment on fire in 2015: MPVs. Led once again by the Wuling Hongguang despite sales having peaked out (-10% to a still gargantuan 189,432 units in just 3 months), this segment has grown by roughly 30% so far this year, with the addition of numerous affordable Chinese options: the Baojun 730 is the most successful passenger car launch ever in China, clocking up an unbelievable 183,600 deliveries since its launch last August, including 84,526 this quarter (#5 overall). The Chana Honor (#16), Dongfeng Fengguang 330/360 (#26) Dongfeng Joyear MPV (#41) and Beijing Auto Weiwang M20 (#44) also see their sales surge year-on-year. This is it: the majority of Chinee small business owners have now upsized to MPV and ditched microvans, down an abysmal 30% so far in 2015.
Top 10 best-selling MPVs in China – 1st Quarter 2015:
|Pos||Model||Q1 2015||/14||Q1 2014||Pos|
|4||Dongfeng Fengguang 330/360||50,089||142%||20,701||68|
|5||Dongfeng Joyear MPV||31,699||28%||24,717||54|
|6||Beijing Weiwang M20||30,286||87%||16,165||89|
But the SUV and MPV segments are not the only ones where Chinese manufacturers are turning the tables around. 4 of the 5 sedans that registered the largest year-on-year gains in the Top 100 are Chinese: the Geely Vision is up 485% to #43, the BYD F3 up 247% to #30, the Geely EC7 up 87% to #17 and the ChangAn Eado up 57% #19. Only the Toyota Corolla, thanks to the addition of a new generation places in the Top 5 at +72% to #31. Other foreign gainers include the Skoda Octavia (+55% to #38) and the Peugeot 308 (+51% to #45) here too thanks to new generations.
If you still needed to get convinced that the Chinese car market is more dynamic than ever, one figure should suffice: there are 19 all-new models ranking inside the Q1 2015 Top 100. Below the Baojun 730 at #4, the other superstar is the Ford Escort, extremely impressive at #18 and 59,083 sales, even cracking the overall Top 10 in March to become the American manufacturer’s best-seller almost single-handedly lifting Ford up to #5 brand in the country. This is a game changer for Ford.
Out of the 19 new entrants, 9 are Chinese SUVs, 5 foreign sedans, 4 foreign SUVs, one Chinese sedan (the Beijing Auto Senova D50) and one Chinese MPV. In short, a perfect snapshot of the trends at play in the market this year. The Buick Envision (#56), Hyundai ix25 (#61), Honda Vezel (#63) and XR-V (#68) lead the foreign SUV charge with 3 entrants in the B segment, while the Toyota Levin (#64), VW Lamando (#69), Mazda3 Axela (#71) and to a lesser extend the Kia K4 (#79) have made their mark already.
Full Q1 2015 Top 377 All-local models vs. Full Q1 2014 figures below.