* See the Top 368 All-local models by clicking on the title *
Light vehicles sales are up just 1.2% year-on-year in May in China, with passenger cars up 3.8% to 1.57 million units despite a price war that has accelerated across both local manufacturers and foreign carmakers. The latest factor to hit the Chinese car market is the exceptional strength of the local stock market: the Shanghai Composite has more than doubled in the past year. According to Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the Passenger Car Association interviewed by Bloomberg, “the stock market is like a pump that sucked up all the money. People are not buying cars, no matter how big the incentives. People want their money in the stock market.” Add this to a cooling growth of the economy in general and the license plate restriction imposed by an increasing number of cities to curb pollution, and we are close to getting to a standstill in China – a situation that no one has experienced earlier, at least in the past two decades.
Foreign manufacturers are paying the price of not listening closely enough to the changing tastes of Chinese consumers, namely an appetite for affordable SUVs and MPVs that is as sudden as it is insatiable. As we will detail shortly and as it has been the case for almost a year now, the two most successful new entrants in the sales charts this month are both Chinese branded SUVs. Volkswagen Group May deliveries are down 6% year-on-year while at General Motors the drop is 4%, the latter despite cutting prices on 40 models across its Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac brands. Reversely, Great Wall posted a 26% gain in May thanks to extremely strong sales of its Haval brand, the #1 SUV brand in China, while Geely is up 25% on May 2014 thanks to a slew of drastically improved models including the new flagship GC9 that sold 2.000 units in May.
The VW Lavida manages a coup in the models ranking: despite sales down just 4%, it outsells the Wuling Hongguang for the first time since June 2013 to become the best-selling vehicle in China (LCV data pending) at 36.105 units vs. 34.508 (down a harsh 31%) for the Hongguang. The Haval H6 is unfazed: up another 23% year-on-year to lodge its third consecutive month above 30.000 sales at 30.032. With its facelift and the addition of the Coupe variant unveiled at Auto Shanghai, the H6 can now seriously pretend at the overall Chinese pole position soon. It would be a first for an SUV. Excellent performance of the Nissan Sylphy in 4th place with sales up 18% to 27,685, followed by the Baojun 730 at 26.006 deliveries and now #4 year-to-date, the VW Jetta down 14% to 23.234 units and the Toyota Corolla reborn thanks to the new generation at 22.965 sales, the nameplate’s 2nd best month ever below the 29.019 units sold last December.
Chinese models continue to enjoy their revival, with 14 reps in the Top 50 this month. Below the Wuling Hongguang, Haval H6 and Baojun 730 all inside the May Top 5, the ChangAn Eado is the best-selling domestic sedan this month thanks to sales up 24% to 16.106 (#16), outselling the Geely EC7 up 47% to 13.929 (#22) while the BYD F3 is third at 10.293 (#50). All other Chinese nameplates present in the May Top 50 are either SUVs or MPVs: the ChangAn CS75 continues its formidable career, breaking inside the Top 20 for the first time with 15.113 units, the ChangAn CS35 follows closely at #24 (+50%), ahead of the JAC Refine S3 (#29), Beijing Auto Huansu S3 (#33), Chana Honor (#37), Haval H2 (#39), BYD S7 (#44) and Beijing Auto Weiwang M20 (#48).
Notice also the Ford Escort solid at #19 and 15.257 sales however impacting Focus sales greatly (#15 and -47%), the Buick Envision shooting up to a best-ever #23 and a record 13.691 sales, the Nissan X-Trail up 15% to #26, the twins Honda Vezel (#55) and XR-V (#65) holding up extremely well, the Venucia T70 back up 17 spots on April to #82 and the all-electric BYD Qin flying from record to record, up 31 ranks on last month to #126 and 3.518 sales. Among recent launches, notice the MG GS up 15 spots to #104 and 4.848 sales, the Karry K50 up to #113 and a record 4.316 units, the Haima M6 up 66 ranks to #172, the Geely GC9 up 51 to #175, the Mercedes GLA up 98 to #180, the Changfeng Leopaard CS10 up 55 to #215 and the Haval H8 up 59 to #228.
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Full May 2015 Top 368 All-local models below.