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China April 2015: Growth cool down and SUV surge accentuate

ChangAn CS75 China April 2015 v2. Picture courtesy icarweekly.comThe ChangAn CS75 is the third best-selling SUV in China in April.

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Long-term trends we have been witnessing for the past 12 months accentuate in April in China. The overall light vehicle market gains just 3.7% year-on-year this month to 1.7 million registrations, a further cooling down of growth compared to the 1st Quarter of 2015 when sales gained 9% on the same period a year ago. One reason advanced for the particularly shy growth is foreign manufacturers reducing the inventories of vehicles built locally: they stood at 45 days in March vs. 50 in February (April data yet to be released) after a revolt by Chinese dealers last year prompted foreign carmakers to stop pressuring them to oder more vehicles in order to meet aggressive sales targets. Over the first 5 months of 2015 the Chinese light vehicle market is up 7.7% on 2014 to 6.97 million deliveries. The contrast between sedan sales, now down a very harsh 10% to 932.000 units in April, and microvans (-17% to 108.200) compared to SUV sales (up 49% to 461.600) and MPV (up 22% to 167.000) has never been as glaring, with Chinese manufacturers benefitting from the tremendous market shift at play.

VW Jetta China April 2015. Picture courtesy of biauto.comVW Jetta. Volkswagen sales are down a shocking 7.5% in April in China.

Brand-wise, evolutions are in line with the past couple of months, with an accentuation of trends as well. The most interesting behaviour is that of Volkswagen down a shocking 7.5% year-on-year in April to 221.000 sales. The Santana (+5%) and Tiguan (+1%) save face but most other Volkswagen nameplates crumble down in April, led by the Magotan (-58%), Lavida (-36%), Passat (-31%), Golf (-29%), Sagitar (-17%) and Bora (-15%). Along with General Motors, Volkswagen recently launched a price war to try and prop up its sales in its largest market in the world. The luxury segment is also cooling down its growth: BMW is up just 0.6% year-on-year in April to 37,976 sales while Audi is up 0.2% to 45.296 units vs. +5.2% so far in 2015.

Haval H2 China April 2015Haval H2. Great Wall sales are up 45% year-on-year this month.

Reversely, Great Wall and Geely are leaping forward faster than ever. Boosted by surging SUV sales, Great Wall is up 45% on a year ago to 80.419 deliveries including 63.921 SUVs (+71%). The Haval H6 breaks its ranking record at #2 overall thanks to sales up 17% to 30.767 and below just the Wuling Hongguang (53.086). The Haval H2 also ranks at a best-ever #22 with 14.331 sales and has now sold over 10.000 monthly units without interruption since October whereas it only launched in July. The Haval H1 stands at #74 (7.401 units), the H5 at #159 (-57%), the H9 at #230 and the H8 makes its first appearance. Geely is also up 45% in April to 38.648 sales, with the Emgrand EC7 up 22% to #18 and #1 Chinese sedan, the Vision up 4-fold to 10.112 sales thanks to a much improved model and the flagship GC9 landing this month.

Peugeot 308S China April 2015. Picture courtesy 308S

The Wuling Hongguang and Haval H6 make it two Chinese nameplates on top of the monthly passenger cars ranking, something we haven’t seen this decade. That’s how momentous the current market shifts are. Below, the Ford Focus jumps back onto the podium despite sales down 18% to 28.003 after being outsold in March by the Escort, down to a still very satisfying #19 and 14.833 units this month. The Baojun 730 is cruising along at #7 and 26.003 sales, the Toyota Corolla more than doubles its sales year-on-year thanks to the new generation at #12 and 20.181 deliveries, the Toyota Levin posts its best month so far at 12.670 sales (#32) and with the arrival of the 308S hatchback variant (3.810 units in April), the Peugeot 308 nameplate is up 38% to #43 with 10.448 deliveries.

Nissan X-Trail China April 2015. Picture courtesy auto.qq.comThe Nissan X-Trail hits a best-ever #23 ranking in April.

The Chinese SUV assault recedes slightly in April, with foreign models bridging some of the gap with local nameplates they have let widen over the past 6 months. On one hand the ChangAn CS75 celebrates one year in market by leaping to its best-ever ranking at #21 and 14.382 sales followed closely by the Haval H2 also at an all-time high #22 while the MG GS is unlocked and up 375% on March to #119 and 4.119 sales. But on the other hand the JAC Refine S3 is down 9 spots to #33, the ChangAn CS35 down 4 to #34 and the Venucia T70 down 13 to #99 while the Beijing Auto Huansu S3 (#56), Zotye T600 (#57) and Chery Tiggo 3 (#66) step outside the Top 50. Reversely in the foreign SUV aisle, the Nissan X-Trail is up 54% to hit a record 23rd spot and its 2nd best-ever volume at 14.097 sales (best-ever is 14.121 reached last November) and the Ford Kuga is up 19% to a record 13.262 deliveries.

Hyundai ix25 China April 2015. Picture courtesy the first time, the ix25 is Hyundai’s best-selling SUV in China.

Recent foreign SUV launches are also gaining momentum: the Buick Envision is up to an all-time high #35 and 12.075 sales, the Honda Vezel (#62) and XR-V (#63) add up to a combined 17.727 sales which would earn the twins a 16th position if they were one nameplate, the Citroen C3-XR is up a further 8 spots to #82 (6.211 sales) vs. #97 and 5.269 for the Peugeot 2008, the Kia KX3 is up 10 ranks to #92 and 5.437 sales for its 2nd month in market and the Hyundai ix25 outsells its big brother the ix35 for the very first time at a very strong 8.489 sales (#65) but seems to have cannibalised sales as the ix35 is down 34% to 7.814 (#69).

Dongfeng Fengdu MX6 China April 2015. Picture courtesy bitauto.comDongfeng Fengdu MX6

Looking into last month’s launches, below the Kia KX3 ultra-dominant at #92, the Dongfeng Fengdu MX6 is up 50 spots and 77% to #153 and 2.897 sales, the Chery Arrizo M7 is up 58 ranks and 136% to 1.434 units and the Lifan 820 is up from 26 demo sales last month to 701 deliveries at #251 in April but the Dongfeng Fengshan L60 is down 8% to #218 and the Dongfeng Fengxing Jingye S50 surprisingly cuts its March sales in half to 1.057 at #223. This month’s all-new nameplates will be detailed in a dedicated article as is the tradition on BSCB, so stay tuned!

Previous post: China 1st Quarter 2015: Baojun 730 and Ford Escort superstars

Previous month: China March 2015: Ford Escort in Top 10, outsells Focus

One year ago: China April 2014: Haval H6 breaks records in market up 13%

Full April 2015 Top 358 All-local models Ranking Table below.

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