After studying December sales figures in detail, as is the tradition on BSCB we now detail 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 December we welcome no less than nine models, seven of which are Chinese, a testimony to the ground that local carmakers have been catching up on lately.
1. Dongfeng Fengxing S500 (#68 with 10.858 sales)
Not satisfied with an already very imposing presence in the MPV segment, Dongfeng just released the seven-seater S500 after unveiling it at the Shanghai Auto Show in April. Priced from 60.900 to 99.900 yuan (US$ 9.250 – 15.200), the S500 is powered by a 1.5L or 1.6L petrol engine both coming from Mitsubishi and is produced by the Liuzhou branch of Dongfeng Motor (DFM). At 4.62m long, the S500 slots above the Fengguang (4.36m), the only Dongfeng selling more units in China this month. Yes you have read that right, the S500 lands directly as the 2nd best-selling Dongfeng in the country with 10.858 sales in December, one of the most impressive entrances of any all-new nameplates in the past couple of years. Like the Fengguang, the S500 takes its design inspiration from the VW Touran. It has put a dent into the ageing Dongfeng Future’s sales, down 28% year-on-year this month to 7.624. The Future – or Fengxing Lingzhi is also produced by Dongfeng Liuzhou, is larger (4.71m-5.11m) and more expensive (97.900-133.800 yuan) but a lot older. With such a start, it seems reasonable to expect a sales peak around 20.000 monthly units for the S500.
Bar for success: #25 or 20.000 monthly sales
2. Suzuki Vitara (#152 with 4.550 units)
Already a runaway success in Eastern Europe, it was only a matter of time until Suzuki launched the all-new Vitara in SUV-crazed China. After debuting in September at the Chengdu Auto Show, the Vitara makes its grand entrance in the Chinese sales charts with an already solid 4.550 sales. Built by the Changan-Suzuki joint venture in Chongqing, the Vitara is priced between 99.800 and 159.800 yuan (US$ 15.200-24.300). Only a bargain basement 1.6L engine variant enables the Vitara to stay below the symbolic 100k yuan, unlike its brother the Suzuki S-Cross (109.800-154.800). Suzuki offers five versions of the other engine, a 1.4L turbo. It is the first time the Suzuki Vitara nameplate is produced locally in China.
The Vitara is one of the cheapest foreign SUVs in China, competing with Ford Ecosport (94.800-127.800 yuan), the Peugeot 2008 (99.700-137.600 yuan), Citroen C3-XR (108.800-171.800) and Chevrolet Trax (119.900-155.900 yuan). The S-Cross peaked at 5.122 sales in March 2014, so the Vitara’s initial score indicates it will climb much higher and could help lift Suzuki sales in the country to never-seen before heights, that is if its cannibalisation of S-Cross sales is limited which is not a given.
Bar for success: #75 or 7.500 monthly sales
3. Chevrolet Lova RV (#154 with 4.544 deliveries)
With the Lova RV, Chevrolet revives a nameplate that disappeared in 2011 when the Lova sedan (the first generation Aveo-Sonic) was replaced by the Aveo (2nd generation) here in China. Halfway between a hatchback and a wagon, the Lova RV is produced by the SAIC GM joint-venture and is 4.20m long with one engine option: an 80kW petrol 1.5L. The Lova RV is priced between 74.900 and 99.900 yuan (US$ 11.400-15.200), a significant premium on the Sail sedan on which it is based (59.900-73.900) let alone the Sail hatchback (56.800-66.800). Yet and despite this overpricing, very low-end interior and dated mechanics, this was a great idea by Chevrolet. Replicating Volkswagen’s successful venture into the “hatch-wagon” segment (Gran Lavida, Gran Santana), the Lova RV sells more in its initial month (4.544) than the Sail hatchback in the whole of 2015 (3.170)!
Bar for success: #70 or 8.000 monthly sales
4. Zhi Dou D2 EV (#171 with 3.777 sales)
5. Zhi Dou D1 EV (#198 with 2.387 units)
Just as the year closes, a slew of electric models launched earlier in the year “miraculously” appear in the Chinese sales charts in December – see also the Kandy EV by Geely at #149. Not so rare these days, we welcome a new manufacturer in the ranking: Zhi Dou Electric Vehicle Corporation, a subsidiary of the Xindayang Group. Zhi Dou also manufactures micro electric cars for Zotye. The D2 (3.777 sales) and D1 (2.387) manage quite impressive scores, but it is impossible to know whether these figures actually are for the past 6 months since the two models have been on the market, or just December. 2016 data will give a better indication of the success or lack thereof of these two diminutive electric offerings.
The D2 is priced at a very attractive 49.800 yuan (US$7,600), making it one of the cheapest electric cars in China – and the world. That’s thanks to huge central and local government subsidies of 109.000 yuan ($16.600). For this price, the D2 comes with a lot of tech indeed: a touch screen infotainment system controlling phone, GPS, TV, internet, music and radio, in-built wifi for connectivity in and around the car and, incredibly for this price, an ‘Advanced Driver Assistance System‘ (ADAS) including lane-departure and anti-collision warning systems as well as a ‘dozing off’ warning system connected to a camera constantly pointed at the driver! No this is not a Tesla, but a Zhi Dou…
Bar for success: #150 or 3.000 monthly sales
6. Beijing Auto Senova X55 (#228 with 1.502 deliveries)
Only two months after the Senova X25 and less than a year after the Senova X65, Beijing Auto lifts its Senova SUV range to three models with the Senova X55 landing directly at #228 with over 1.500 sales. The X45 is coming in 2016… The X55 debuted as a semi-concept at the Shanghai Auto Show and was officially unveiled at the Guangzhou Auto Show in November. It shares its platform with the Senova D50 sedan, is 4.40m long and powered by a turbocharged 1.5L engine matched with a 6MT or CVT. The Senova X55 is tightly priced between 76.800 and 119.800 yuan (US$ 11.700-18.200). So far this is how the Senova SUV lineup has fared: the X65 peaked at 3.971 sales in October and the X25 shot up to 5.571 units this very month of December, so expectations for the X55 should be in line with this. There is still plenty of room for Chinese SUVs indeed.
Bar for success: #120 or 5.000 monthly sales
7. Chana Oushang (#264 with 972 sales)
The Oushang is a 7-seater MPV built by the commercial division of Changan Auto: Chana. The Oushang was unveiled with much fanfare at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2015 (and I was very impressed), now finally hitting Chinese dealerships. The seating layout is 2+3+2, a variation on the traditional 2+2+3 layout. The Oushang is a generous 4.46m long and powered by a choice of two engines a 1.5L and a turbo 1.0L. A modern exterior design hides a more ‘commercial’ interior yet the mandatory touch screen is present on the dashboard. Where the Oushang strikes hard is in the price aisle: from just 51.900 to 64.900 yuan (US$ 7.900-9.900), a lot less than the 70.000-90.000 yuan price range originally estimated and only slightly more than the smaller, older and definitely less sophisticated Honor (44.900-60.900).
With such a tiny pricing Changan positions the Oushang full frontal against no less than the #1 nameplate in the whole of China, the outrageously successful Wuling Hongguang (44.800-69.800 yuan), while operating completely below the Baojun 730 (69.400-81.800 yuan). While there is no way the Oushang will reach the same sales levels as the aforementioned models, it will definitely reinforce Changan’s position on the MPV map, especially given its other offering, the popular Honor, doesn’t seem to be affected yet (+41% in December).
Bar for success: #50 or 10.000 monthly sales
8. Zotye E30 (#290 with 572 units)
Another mini EV appearing in the sales charts this month, the Zotye E30 is a 2.80m long all-electric two-seater unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show. It strangely looks like an angry Smart Fortwo, with Zotye not worried in the least with copying the German microcar body structure, nor is it worried with copying the Tesla Model S extra-large touch screen on the central console. According to Zotye, the E30 can drive up to 80km/h (swoosh!), a questionable claim with only 24hp.
Why 80km/h? Simply because in order to benefit from green-car subsidies, a car must qualify as a ‘real’ electric car, not an LSEV mini car. Only cars able to drive at 80km/h and above are considered ‘real’ electric cars. The E30 joins an already large Zotye EV family, but with the E20 disappearing from the ranking this month, it is unclear whether this month’s sales figure of 572 is for just December or more, making it difficult to forecast long time sales accurately.
Bar for success: #220 or 1.000 monthly sales
9. ChangAn CS15 (#362 with 40 deliveries)
Last but not least this month, the ChangAn CS15 lands in the charts ahead of its official launch in early 2016. Unveiled at the Guangzhou Auto Show in November, the CS15 is 4.10m long and powered by a petrol 1.5L engine of natural aspiration mated to a five-speed manual or a five-speed DCT. Priced between 55.000 and 75.000 yuan (US$ 8.400-11.400), the CS15 is slotted below the hugely successful CS35 (78.900-92.900 yuan) that sold 169.332 units in 2015 (+68%). The other ChangAn SUV, the CS75, did even better at 186.623 units, so expectations are very high for the CS15 that will compete with the JAC Refine S2 (6.485 sales in December), Beijing Auto Senova X25 (5.571), FAW Junpai D60 (2.912), Lifan X50 (1.699) Beijing Auto Huansu S2 (1.346) and Weichai Enranger G3 (932). While the aforementioned names are not exactly setting the market on fire, count on ChangAn to break new sales ground with the CS15, as it did with the CS35 then the CS75.
Bar for success: #50 or 10.000 monthly sales