After studying November sales figures in detail, as is the tradition on BSCB we have a closer look at the all-new nameplates making their first appearance in the Chinese sales charts this month. Note this update is only for the locally-produced models. Imports are covered in separate updates. In November we welcome six new models, and for once sedans are here in force with three arrivals, along with the expected three SUVs. No new MPVs this month, as most manufacturers are busy releasing upscale variants of their existing models – see the Wuling Hongguang SI, Lifan Lotto S, Dongfeng Fengguang 370 and Beijing Auto Weiwang M30.
1. Honda Greiz (#125 with 5.164 sales)
Unveiled in September and launched at the Guangzhou Auto Show last month, the Greiz is another China-exclusive nameplate from Honda after the exceptionally successful CRider. Manufactured by the Dongfeng-Honda joint-venture, the Greiz is in fact a sporty twin for the City, whose new generation also launched in Guangzhou and is manufactured by GAC-Honda, the other joint-venture the Japanese manufacturer has set up in China. Honda had in fact already made a similar move a year ago with the twin crossovers Honda XR-V (Dongfeng) and Vezel (GAC), with Toyota also duplicating the Corolla (FAW) with the Levin (GAC).
The Greiz is powered by a 1.5L engine, enabling it to qualify for the 50% purchase tax cut initiated in October. It is priced absolutely identically to the City: from 79.8k to 119.8k yuan (US$12.400-18.600), and competes in a crowed segment dominated by the Kia K2 (20.735 sales in November), Hyundai Verna (19.826) and Toyota Vios (11.397). The Greiz has managed a successful baptism-by-fire: at 5.164 units in its 1st month it already outsells its twin the City (4.976), itself up a fantastic 137% year-to-date. A few years back when competition was less intense in this segment, the City was a regular offender above 10.000 monthly units, peaking at 17.846 and #7 in December 2011. We cannot reasonably expect the same target for the Greiz but a peak goal of 10-12k monthly deliveries seems attainable.
Bar for success: #50 or 9.000 monthly sales
2. FAW Besturn B30 (#132 with 4.612 deliveries)
FAW – for First Automotive Works, this is the first and oldest vehicle manufacturer in China – used to dominate the Chinese sales charts not so long ago: in 2005 the best-selling passenger car in the country was the Tianjin Xiali, at a time when annual sales amounted to 2.77 million units, only marginally more than the November 2015 figure alone… Since then it has been a slow and painful descent to hell for the Xiali sedans, down 53% so far in 2015 from #107 to #175 despite including all generations (N3, N5 and N7). FAW has been struggling to find a entry-level replacement since, with the Oley a total flop, while trying to shed its bargain basement reputation and move slightly more up-market with the Besturn sub-brand.
Besturn launched three sedans – the B50 peaking at 11.331 sales in January 2011, the B70 and B90 – and one SUV- the X80 peaking at 8.199 units in October 2014. Naming this new compact sedan the Besturn B30 is therefore an astute choice and one that gives the model its best chance at success. In fact, with 4.612 sales for its first month in market, the B30 is already the 2nd best-selling FAW nameplate in November below just the B50 (5.292). 4.62m long and powered by a FAW-made 1.6L petrol engine, the B30 is reasonably priced between 69.800 and 92.800 yuan (US$10.800-14.400) and can honestly aim at a significant share of the Chinese sedan cake.
Bar for success: #75 or 7.500 monthly sales
3. Jeep Cherokee (#192 with 2.171 units)
As an imported brand, Jeep has been very successful so far in China – totalling almost 7.000 sales in September – with a lineup composed of the Compass, Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, Patriot and Wrangler. Through their joint-venture with GAC Group, FCA is now producing the Cherokee locally in its Changsha plant in Hunan since October 19. Only one engine option, the Tigershark 2.4L, with a petrol 2.0L coming later. Interestingly, localising the Cherokee’s production has not put a significant dent in its price: at 229.800-315.800 yuan (US$ 35.600-48.900), it starts higher than the most expensive Cherokee in the U.S., where it is priced at US$ 24.090 to $31.890! I’ll let you calculate the fat profits Jeep will be making with the Cherokee in China.
Although this is the first collaboration between GAC and FCA on the Jeep brand, this Cherokee is not the first Jeep produced in China. The Cherokee XJ was produced locally from 1984 to 2005 by BAIC and sold as such, then renamed BAW Qishi and survives until today. Averaging 3.500 monthly sales, the Compass is currently the most popular import in the whole of China, so the Jeep brand benefits from a very solid reputation here. The Cherokee must do better to be deemed a success, and given the current SUV craze Chinese consumers are going through, the sky is the limit. It competes in the same segment as the best-selling foreign SUVs in China, such as the VW Tiguan, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
Bar for success: #100 or 6.000 monthly sales
4. Ford Everest (#201 with 1.944 sales)
The Everest is the first Chinese Ford SUV manufactured in partnership with JMC, it completes a strong Ford SUV lineup along with the Edge (13.010 sales in November), Kuga (12.953) Ecosport (4.327), all produced with Changan, while the Explorer sold 1.136 imported units in September and will soon also benefit from local production. Interestingly, in November the most expensive Ford SUV (the Edge) is also the best-seller, with the cheapest (the Ecosport) struggling at -47% year-on-year. This can be explained by the sudden and massive interest towards small, cheap and cheerful Chinese SUVs that make the Ecosport look dear and dated.
Ford is pricing the Everest very high: from 265.800 to 360.800 yuan (US$41.200-55.900), in line with the Edge (249.800-429.800) and it could paradoxically be its saving grace, positioning it as a premium offer and playing on the iconic status of the brand. The Everest may struggle to hit similar levels as the Edge and Kuga, however the nameplates it competes with are all managing very solid results, so there is potential there: the Buick Envision is at 21.559 sales in November, the Toyota Highlander at 8.296 and the Nissan Murano at 2.214.
Bar for success: #70 or 8.000 monthly sales
5. Beijing Auto Huansu S6 (#208 with 1.795 deliveries)
The Huansu sub-brand is only 18 months old but already has three SUVs under it belt: the S2 (1.259 sales in November), the S3 (18.005) and the S6 – the largest so far at 4.69m – but still tightly priced from 79.800 to 116.800 yuan (US$12.400-18.100), making it one of the cheapest SUVs of its size in China. Good news: its turbo petrol 1.5L quality the S6 for the 50% purchase tax cut. The Huansu S6 competes squarely against the very successful Zotye T600 (13.699 sales in November), the Zotye X5 (6.756) and the Changfeng Leopaard CS10 (5.490). However as the very contrasting Huansu S2 and S3 sales figures show above, Beijing Auto launches tend to be hit and miss. The S6 has a good chance due to its very competitive price, allowing a lot of car for the money, and its design in vast improvement over its siblings.
Bar for success: #80 or 7.000 monthly sales
6. Ford Taurus (#247 with 1.003 units)
The second Ford to make its Chinese debut this month, the Taurus was unveiled at this year’s Shanghai Auto Show and is the brand’s flagship sedan in China. It is the first time the Taurus name is used in China, a nameplate very familiar in the U.S. where it was the best-selling passenger car from 1992 to 1996 before a bold redesign sent it to deletion in 2006. Although resurrected in 2009, the Taurus nameplate has never recaptured its past glory. Ford is hoping for a whole different story in China, pricing the Taurus at the edge of luxury from 249.800 to 349.800 yuan (US$ 38.700-54.200). The Taurus is produced along the Edge at Changan-Ford’s plant in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, is 4.996mm long and is powered with a choice of three turbo engines: 1.5L, 2.0L and 2.7L.
With the Taurus, Ford is aiming at wooing the executive crowd with plush equipment in the rear seats which is where this chauffeured clientele rides. It competes with the flagships of other established brands such as the VW Passat (15.914 Nov sales), Buick LaCrosse (8.502) and Toyota Crown (3.453), but also the smaller BMW 3 Series L (10.068), Audi A4L (9.800), Mercedes C-Class L (9.552), Cadillac ATS-L and Volvo S60L (2.369). Ford is a respected mass brand in China, and as such can seriously aim with the Taurus at similar levels to those achieved by Buick and Toyota with their respective flagships. Going higher will be a real challenge, yet the similarly-priced Edge achieved 13.000 sales this month, so in the unlikely event Chinese executives decide to “downgrade” back from SUVs to sedans, the Taurus could be a surprise hit.
Bar for success: #100 or 6.000 monthly sales
Previous month: China October 2015: Focus on the All-new models
One year ago: China November 2014: Focus on the all-new models