China September 2017 – Focus on the All-new models
After detailing September sales for China, we now put a laser focus on the new locally-produced launches for the month, so you can stay up-to-the-minute on the latest additions in the world’s largest market. September is a particularly active month in this regard, with no less than ten new arrivals, six of them SUVs and seven of them Chinese.
1. Citroen C5 Aircross: 4.836 sales
Although one of the first foreign manufacturers to have entered the Chinese market over three decades ago, Citroen hasn’t managed to impose itself nearly as strongly as then-competitor Volkswagen. Worse, its sales are freefalling this year at a very worrying -59%. After launching a bunch of useless fares such as the C6 sedan, the French carmaker finally has something Chinese buyers may want to buy en masse: the new C5 Aircross SUV. While it is busy launching the C3 Aircross in Europe, the C5 Aircross is for now exclusive to China and won’t hit the Old Continent until 2018. It is based on the same platform as the Peugeot 4008 which is in fact the new gen 3008 outside China. Priced between 152.700 and 236.700 yuan (US$23.000-35.700), the C5 Aircross competes with the likes of the Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota RAV4 and Jeep Cherokee, on top of its PSA sibling. It is powered by the same engines as the 4008: a 167hp 1.6T and a 204hp 1.8T. The C5 Aircross posts a solid landing just under 5.000 sales and the most popular newcomer for the month, however it will need to climb significantly higher than that to reverse Citroen’s fortunes in China: even this month the brand is down 30%.
Bar for success: 10.000 monthly sales
2. WEY VV5: 4.569 sales
Only three months after launching its very first nameplate, the VV7, Great Wall Motors’ new semi-premium SUV brand, WEY, doubles up with the confusingly identical-looking VV5. At 4.46m long, the VV5 is however almost 30cm shorter than the VV7. It is powered by a 197hp 2.0T engine mated with a seven-speed DCT and is all wheel drive. A striking exterior design is let down by a very dull interior, especially for a brand that aspires at a premium status. Priced from 150.000 to 163.000 yuan (US$22.600-24.600), the VV5 competes in the busiest end of the Chinese market with the likes of the Roewe RX5, Geely Boyue and Great Wall’s own Haval H6.
WEY VV5 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn
Great Wall’s strategy for WEY seems to be working so far, with the VV7 still on the up at 7.444 sales this month and the VV5 triggering the brand’s first five-digit sales month. So far WEY’s sales have more than compensated for Haval’s declining figures, with Great Wall Motors sales in September up 4.5% year-on-year despite Haval being down 11%. The more relevant result will be where sales stabilise in the long-term as current figures are still inflated by the novelty hype.
Bar for success: 7.000 monthly sales
3. Kia KX Cross: 4.374 sales
It’s a year to forget for Kia: in the same vein as sister company Hyundai, the Korean brand has been hit full frontal by tensions between China and its home country in the wake of disagreements about the handling of the North Korean crisis. The brand is down an abysmal 50% so far in 2017 and 29% in September. To try and return to positive, Kia has launched two new nameplates this month, the most popular so far being the KX Cross, and even though it does look (and sound) like a crossover, it is categorised by CAAM as a passenger car. It is priced very reasonably at 74.900-85.900 yuan (US$11.300-13.000), a starting price slightly higher than the K2 (72.900-103.900). In fact, the KX Cross used to be named K2 Cross, it is based on the K2 and is powered by the same 100hp 1.4 engine but sports a totally different body. To be sure, local website autohome.com.cn has it pit against the Baojun 510 crossover so we are really dealing with a crossover here, CAAM being the only body to disagree. This is a new foray for Kia and the starting month is very robust already, but is it cannibalising the K2? The latter is down 60% to 5.384 sales for the month after dropping “just” 30% in August… Before drama hit the Korean brands, the K2 had reached a best-ever 23.037 sales in December, but the current context makes it more challenging to decide on a realistic bar for success. We’ll put it at just under double its opening score.
Bar for success: 7.500 monthly sales
4. Dongfeng Fengshen AX4: 3.072 sales
Dongfeng is sliding down 12% in September and 6% year-to-date and therefore needs new models to stop the sales haemorrhage. Currently the Fengguang 580 and Joyear SUVs are its best-sellers, so it would be a fair bet to launch more of these. In time comes the Fengshen AX4, unveiled last April at the Shanghai Auto Show and the fourth crossover under the Fengshen sub-brand after the AX7 (down 59% to 3.075 sales this month), the AX3 (-87% to 533) and AX5 (1.003). Although its starting point remains relatively modest, it misses the AX? top spot by just three units. The AX4 goes where no Dongfeng had dared to go before design-wise, with huge front fog lamps, a sweeping window line ending in a two-tone rear and a rather convoluted lower door design featuring a metallic “diamond” sporting the AX4 name on it.
Dongfeng Fengshen interior and rear. Pictures courtesy autohome.com.cn
The AX4 is 4.19m long and powered by a 124hp 1.6 or 140hp 1.4T engine, it was developed with PSA Peugeot-Citroen, of which Dongfeng holds a 14% share. It is priced from 66.800 to 101.800 yuan (US$10.100-15.400) and enters a crowded segment also including the MG ZS and GS, Geely Vision X3 and Baojun 510. A year ago, we would have been cautious about the sales potential of such a daring design, but the Baojun 510 has shown that a young Chinese clientele is definitely ready to take the leap. Dongfeng is without a doubt counting on the AX4 to reverse its fortunes at home but to do so, it will have to climb significantly higher.
Bar for success: 7.500 monthly sales
5. Kia Pegas: 2.792 sales
Although the SUV craze has swept up a large part of the Chinese market, cheap sedans remain popular in second and third tier cities and more remote areas. It’s for these customers, mostly first-car buyers, that Kia is launching this Pegas, a China-specific model unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show last April. The Pegas is now the cheapest offering in all of Kia’s lineup in China: it starts at 49.900 yuan (US$7.500) and ends at 73.900 yuan (US$11.100), slitting nicely below the K2. It is 4.30m long and powered by a 95hp 1.4 engine mated with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The Kia Pegas will compete with the Hyundai Verna (49.900-73.900 also), the Chevrolet Sail (59.900-79.900) and a plethora of Chinese fares such as the Chery E3 (52.900-64.900), Cowin C3 (45.800-60.800), Baojun 330 (55.800-59.800) and JAC Heyue A30 (52.900-76.900). In normal times, we would hold the personal bests of the Sail (30.163) and Verna (31.469) as benchmarks, but Kia has lost a lot of its shine this year (see above) and cheap sedans, although still popular, do not deliver the same sales figures as, say, five years ago. We are adjusting the bar for success accordingly.
Bar for success: 8.000 monthly sales
6. Zotye T300: 2.456 sales
Zotye continues to launch new SUVs at unbridled pace: this T300 is the fourth one in the past 12 months… It is the third of the “traditionally” named Zotye after the very popular T600 and the brand’s current best-seller, the T700. The T300 directly lands in 4th place for the brand, below the aforementioned two nameplates and the Damai X7. The brand is finding that its copycat models, such as the SR7 (-61%), SR9 or Damai X5 (-75%) are already panting heavily, and a long-term solution could be to launch, well, original nameplates… The T300 is one, and design-wise it is up there with the T700 as Zotye’s best.
Zotye T300 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn
Step inside, and it’s a very impressive plush interior, especially given the T300’s tiny price: from 56.800 to 93.800 yuan (US$8.600-14.100). This puts it in the same sandpit as the Brilliance V3 (65.700-102.700), Geely Vision X3 (50.900-65.900), Soueast DX3 (67.900-105.900) but also the best-selling Baojun 510 (54.800-75.800). Only four months after the launch of the T700 (8.771 sales in September, its best month yet), Zotye has another potential volume-driver in the T300 which hopefully will make the brand think twice about launching yet another copycat in the future.
Bar for success: 7.000 monthly sales
7. BAIC Huansu H5: 1.451 sales
Beijing Auto has just launched the fourth MPV for the Huansu brand after the H2, H3 and H6. There is not much information dribbling out of China for this nameplate yet – no price info – but BAIC shows vast improvement in interior quality. Local media autohome.com.cn pits it against the facelifted Baojun 730 (60.800-102.800 yuan or US$9.200-15.500). This is a struggling segment, with overall sales down a worrying 25% in September, and the ageing H3 stumbling down 49%. It could be an opportunity for the more modern H5 to impose itself, but BAIC has shown us very unpredictable sales patterns before.
Bar for success: 6.000 monthly sales
BAIC Huansu H5 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn
8. BYD Song MAX: 474 sales
This is BYD’s second MPV after the M6 which was a clone of the Toyota Previa. It is arguably the best-looking BYD nameplate so far – and one of the best-looking Chinese cars to be launched, and this could be because it is the first designed by the company’s new head of design Wolfgang Egger, an ex-Audi man. It inaugurates a new design language for the brand, called “Dragon Face” with aggressive lights and a gaping grille. It sure does look very impressive indeed, and very affordable to top it off: priced from 79.900 to 119.900 yuan (US$12.000-18.100).
BYD Song MAX interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn
The Song MAX is a seven-seat MPV, powered by a 156hp 1.5T engine and feature a 12.8 inch touch screen on its dashboard. A 2.0 and 1.5T hybrid will be added later. It’s not exactly great timing for BYD to launch an MPV but its striking looks should allow it to easily surpass the M6 which peaked at a meagre 863 sales. It competes with the likes of the Chana Oushang A800 (59.900-119.900) and Baojun 730 (60.800-102.800) but also some large and cheap SUVs such as the Dongfeng Fengguang 580 (72.900-123.000).
Bar for success: 4.000 monthly sales
9. Lifan X80: 365 sales
After first photos appeared a far as March 2015, the Lifan X80 was finally unveiled at the Guangzhou Auto Show in November 2016 and launched in market last May but has been on and off the ranking since, and had not been covered here so we’ve decided to make it appear in this month’s new model summary. This is the brand’s largest SUV by far at 4.82m, and it comfortably seats seven. Sporting a rather aggressive grille at the front, this is Lifan’s best designed model so far and it hasn’t really dated despite its “old age”, even though the rear is a copy of the Hyundai Santa Fe.
Lifan X80 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn
The X80 is powered by a strong 191hp 2.0T engine, and in true Lifan fashion is priced incredibly low: from 109.900 to 149.900 yuan (US$16.600-22.600). It competes in size (but not in price) with the Changan CS95 (159.800-229.800), BYD S7, Zotye T700 and Dongfeng Fengguang 580. Sales prospects remain limited for such a large SUV, and it hasn’t yet crossed the 500 monthly sales milestone. Double that and we can call the X80 a success.
Bar for success: 1.000 monthly sales
10. Luxgen U5 SUV: 61 sales
Our last entrant for the month is the Taiwan-born Luxgen U5 SUV, the brand’s smallest SUV to-date, logically slotting below the U6. It is manufactured in China by the Dongfeng-Yulong joint venture. At 4.39m long, it is powered by a 124hp 1.6 engine mated with a CVT. The U5 comes with a very competitive price from 69.800 to 99.800 yuan (US$10.500-15.000), a necessary evil in a very competitive segment filled with dirt-cheap Chinese nameplates. Indeed, the U5 will compete with the likes of the MG ZS and GS, Soueast DX3, Baojun 510, GAC Trumpchi GS3 and the aforementioned Dongfeng Fengshen AX4.
Luxgen U5 rear and interior. Pictures courtesy autohome.com.cn
Hopefully the U5 will be a breath of fresh air for struggling Luxgen: sales are down an abysmal 62% so far in 2017 and an even more depressing 74% in September. The U5 is counting on a giant touch screen and sharp exterior design to woo young Chinese customers. The 6 SUV peaked at 7.647 sales back in January 2015 but has deep dived below 1.000 monthly units since last February, so Luxgen should only expect small steps up.
Bar for success: 4.000 monthly sales
Design wise, it appears there’s a CA Car Design program available that’s written in Europe and available to all Chinese manufacturers. I see clones of almost every successful EU and Japanese model. Luckily the Citroen C5 Aircross stands out …… as long as it lasts.