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The impact of last October’s tax cut is weakening with Chinese new car sales up 8% in January to 2.5m units after surging 24% in November and 17% in December. Aggressive promotions during the pre-holiday sales season ahead of the Lunar New Year helped the market up. Passenger cars are up 11% to 2.17m sales whereas commercial vehicles are down 3.5%. Segment evolutions we witnessed in 2015 continue onto the new year and even accentuate: Chinese carbuyers’ hunger for SUVs seems unquenchable: the segment is up another 63% year-on-year in January to 795.654 units, the 2nd-ever largest SUV monthly volume in China just below the 803.491 hit last December. At 264.531 sales, MPVs are up 18% on a January 2015 score that was an all-time record at the time. Sedans and hatchbacks continue to be less and less favoured at -10% this month to 1.113.039 sales. In January, SUVs are at 71% of the sedans sales level: this ratio was 62% just last month.
Back to the Chinese pole position in 2015, General Motors stays there in January with sales up 7% to 421.023 sales as Buick (+36%) and Baojun (+147%) compensate for Chevrolet (-36%) but Volkswagen Group is up at double the rate: +14% to 400.100. With no visible emissions scandal effect, the Volkswagen brand gains 15% (CAAM however reports China-made sales down 5%) while Skoda is up 9%. Ford Motor Co. stuns with a spectacular 36% jump to 130.832 units on the back of booming SUV sales at +75% to 37.411 while Toyota (+32%) and Honda (+21%) are almost as impressive. Hyundai (-27%), Peugeot (-21%) and Kia (-12%) give us some worry.
Among luxury brands, Audi is up 6% to 54.402 sales and BMW up 8% to 43.441 units but once again Mercedes trumps them both, galloping much faster with sales up 52% to 42.671 vehicles. At this rate Mercedes will pass BMW in the coming months and will be well above Audi in a year’s time. Yes you read that right, Mercedes could end decades of Audi domination in the Chinese luxury segment in 2017, and with the GLC and GLE hitting Chinese dealerships this year, it is actually not at all beyond the realm of possibles.
Given its gigantic size, the Chinese market would be forgiven if it displayed an extremely stable models ranking month after month. But it doesn’t, making it one of the most interesting markets to follow. Below the Wuling Hongguang (70.002) and VW Lavida (55.765) virtually immobile year-on-year, three superstar Chinese nameplates delight once again. First observation: 4 of the 5 best-selling vehicles in China are Chinese this month, something that hasn’t happened since microvans ruled the roost here – seems like a decade ago but it was still the case in 2013 – and a first as far as passenger cars are concerned.
Passenger cars above 40.000 monthly Chinese sales:
The Haval H6 posts its third consecutive (and ever) month above 40.000 units at 42.188, but behind this splendid performance hides a fragile situation: ending January with almost identical scores are the Baojun 730 (40.015) and Baojun 560 (40.002) – meaning Baojun places more models in the Top 5 than Volkswagen, or any other brand for that matter. The 730 lodges only its 2nd month at this level after a record December (47.690) but the 560 score is absolutely phenomenal, making it the fastest nameplate to reach this level of sales in the history of automobile sales in China (see table above).
The 560 could soon become China’s best-selling SUV, putting an end to the Haval H6’s implacable domination. The H6 has been the #1 SUV overall without interruption for two years, and the #1 Chinese SUV for almost four years, since April 2012 when it was outsold by the Great Wall Hover H5. The last time the #1 Chinese SUV at home wasn’t a Great Wall or Haval was in August 2011, when the Chery Tiggo sold 10.379 units vs. 9.009 for the Great Wall Hover H3/H5… Haval is the uncontested best-selling SUV brand in the country, but not having the #1 SUV nameplate wouldn’t look good on the company’s resume…
The SUV craze continues below, with the GAC Trumpchi GS4 (30.512), ChangAn CS75 (27.148), Buick Envision (25.916), Honda XR-V (14.762), Zotye X5 (12.266), Soueast DX7 (9.250), Jeep Cherokee (8.307), JAC Refine S2 (8.073), Beijing Auto Senova X25 (8.066), Changfeng Leopaard CS10 (7.530), Beijing Auto Senova X55 (6.492) and Beijing Auto Huansu S6 (5.150) all beating their volume record this month…
In the other segments, the Dongfeng Fengxing S500 (MPV) confirms it is an instant blockbuster with a 2nd month above 10.000 sales (11.307) in as many months on sale. Despite the format’s recent fall out of fashion in China, some recently launched sedans manage to score big and break records, such as the Roewe 360 (8.437), now the brand’s best-seller, the FAW Besturn B30 (6.219) – a welcome breath of fresh air for the embattled state-owned manufacturer, the prestigious Geely GC9 crossing a new milestone at 6.001 sales and the Ford Taurus (5.557) posting a very solid debut.
Full Year 2015 posts:
Full January 2016 Top 67 All-brands and Top 370 All-models (China-made) below.