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China Full Year 2017: Geely becomes #1 Chinese brand, market up 3.2%

Geely makes a splash in 2017 and overtakes Wuling and Changan to become #1 Chinese. 

* See the Top 95 All China-made brands and Top 595 models by clicking on the title *

Consult 35 years worth of Chinese Historical Data here

NOW UPDATED with additional data featuring Foday, GAC Gonow, Hongqi, Sinogold, Traum, Yudo and Zinoro and the addition of 19 nameplates.

New vehicle sales in China put on the brakes this year: after a 14% surge in 2016, the year-on-year growth slows down to 3.2% in 2017 to an all-time record 28.878.900 registrations. This upholds China as the largest car market in the world by far: the second largest is the U.S., almost 11.5 million units below. The reason behind this slowdown is the end of a 50% purchase tax cut that applied to small engine vehicles (1.6L or less), reduced from 10% to 5% from October 1, 2015 until December 31, 2016. It was raised to 7.5% on January 1, 2017 and back to 10% on January 1, 2018, meaning prospects for growth in 2018 are limited. Even though the growth rate is markedly below that of previous years, China races to its 27th consecutive annual sales record, with the last time deliveries declined year-on-year being in 1990.

The Baojun 510 has become the most successful launch in history in China.

Light vehicle sales edge up 1.4% to 24.718.300, this time solely pulled up into positive territory by the SUV segment. Sedans and hatches are down 2.5% to 11.848.000 units, MPVs are down 17% to 2.070.700 units and microvans down 20% to 547.000 but SUVs surge up another 13.3% to a record 10.252.700 deliveries. After breaking their monthly sales record four consecutive times at the end of 2016, SUV sales did so twice in 2017: in November (1.108.182) and December (1.173.000). Commercial vehicles (trucks and buses) also confirm their return to form, posting a second consecutive year in positive at a stunning +13.9% to 4.160.600 units. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers predicts 2018 light vehicle sales up 3% to 25.6m with SUV sales up 11% to 11.5m, sedans down 1% to 11.8m, MPVs down 11% to 1.8m and microvans down 7% to 510k. This should bring the Chinese new vehicle market just across the 30 million mark for 2018, including 4.45m commercial vehicles.

The Wuling Hongguang remains the best-selling vehicle in China but drops 18%. 

Meanwhile, the most dynamic platforms remain the eco-friendly ones, with electric and plug in hybrid passenger cars even accelerating their growth compared to 2016: electric vehicles are up 59% to 652.000 units divided into 468.000 passenger cars (+82% vs. +75% in 2016) and 184.000 commercial vehicles (+21%). Plug-in hybrids are up 28% to 125.000 units including 111.000 passenger cars (+41% vs. +17% in 2016) and 14.000 commercial vehicles (-26%). All-in-all, a total of 770.000 “green” cars were registered in 2017 (+53%) placing China frankly on top of the world,  with the million unit mark likely to be surpassed in 2018. Beijing Auto has taken a stance in the segment this year, with BYD taking a step backwards as we will see further down this Report. Keep in mind that in China, only domestically built all-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles qualify for government subsidies, whereas conventional hybrids do not, neither do imports.

The VW Lavida is down 6% but up to 2nd place in 2017. 

For the first time on BSCB we can share with you details of the Chinese market by geographic region, according to data submitted by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. It shows that the Eastern seaboard, by far the largest region in the country in terms of sales and accounting for 35% of the total market at 10.2m units, is in steep decline at -10.2%, Southwest China is also down at -4.9% to 3.02m units and North China is down 3.5% to 4.1m. Areas showing growth are the Northeast at +3.4% to 2.54m units, Northwest at +6.9% to 1.9m and, most strikingly, Central South China up a whopping 12.9% to 7.1m. Explore 30 cities and regions all around China with our detailed Photo Reports here.

Haval H6 sales are down 13% despite the arrival of a new generation.

(The following data is retail sales data including imports as reported by manufacturers) The Volkswagen Group remains the most popular manufacturer in the country for 2017, outpacing the market with a 5.1% uplift to 4.18 million units, including 3.18 million (+5.9%) for the VW brand, 598.000 (+1.1%) for Audi, 325.000 (+2.5%) for Skoda, 71.500 (+10%) for Porsche and 265 for Lamborghini. General Motors for its part is up 4.4% to 4.040.789 units with SUV sales soaring 37%, Buick is stable at 1.18m units, Wuling tumbles down 16% to 1.14m units including microvans, Baojun is up 45% to 996.629, Chevrolet up 4.2% to 547.651 and Cadillac surges 51% to 175.489. Japanese carmakers had a fantastic year in China: Honda Motor is up 16% to 1.46m units, Toyota Motor is up 6.2% to 1.29m and Nissan Motor up 12% to 1.27m. Reversely, Ford Motor sees its sales drop 6.3% to 1.192.625.

The Buick Excelle is up 14% year-on-year but stays in 4th place. 

Audi managed to save its #1 spot in the luxury race by the skin of its teeth, handicapped for a large part of the year by a boycott from dealers who protested its plans to open a second distribution channel. The BMW Group was #1 up until end-November but Audi clawed back on top during the last days of the year with annual sales are up 1.1% to 597.866 vs. 594.388 for BMW and Mini (+15%). Daimler AG posted the biggest year-on-year gain by far at +26% to 587.868. Other notable improvements in the luxury aisle include Volvo up 26% to 114.410 sales and Lincoln up 66% to 54.124. A handful of other Japanese carmakers have also communicated retail sales: Mazda is up 8.3% to 309.407 while Mitsubishi is up 56% to 129.160, with both manufacturers’ China sales finally overtaking U.S. ones. Finally, Subaru, the only large carmaker with Lexus to not have a local production facility, is starting to seriously suffer from it at -35% to just 30.029 sales vs. 647.956 in the U.S.

The Nissan Sylphy steps up one spot on 2016 to 5th place this year. 

We are now back to wholesales data – keep in mind these exclude imports and light commercials which will both be covered in separate Reports. The 2017 brand ranking shows lots of movement at the top: below VW up 4% to 3.14m, Honda shoots up an impressive 18% to snap the #2 spot at 1.42m units but the stunner of the year is undoubtedly Geely. The private company surges 61% year-on-year and leaps from #10 brand in 2016 to #3 overall this year with 1.23m units. This makes Geely the most popular Chinese brand at home for the very first time, ending at least 8 years of domination by Wuling (1.14m), also overtaking Changan (1.06m) and Haval in one go! Geely even edges past Buick (1.22m, -1%) at the last minute to snap the third overall spot. The company is targeting 1.58 million sales in 2018 (+27%). Below Buick, Toyota (1.14m) and Nissan (1.12m) follow with 7% and 12% gains respectively, ahead of Changan (-8%).

The VW Tiguan shoots up 40% to 7th place overall thanks to the new model. 

The other winner of 2017 is Baojun, lifted to unheard-of levels thanks to the smashing success of its 510 crossover and 310 wagon. Launched in February, the Baojun 510 became the fastest nameplate in history to reach 300.000 sales: only 10 months vs. 11 for the Baojun 560 and 12 for the Baojun 730, the previous record holders. The 510 is also the fastest to 350.000 in 11 months vs. 14 for the Baojun 560. The 510 ends 2017 in 6th place overall and #2 SUV but should threaten the supremacy of the Haval H6 in 2018. For its part the 310 saw its sales take a completely new dimension with the arrival of the 310w wagon variant, hitting a record of 35.048 in December which is only a thousand units below the 36.046 reached by the BYD F3 in March 2010, still to this date the all-time record for a Chinese sedan/hatch. The 310 was China’s 4th best-selling sedan/hatch overall in December. As a result, Baojun wholesales majestically cross the million mark this year at 1.02m compared to just 761.000 in 2016, a 34% improvement.

GAC Trumpchi adds the GS8 to the smashing success of the GS4.

Haval disappoints in 9th place with deliveries down 9% to 850.000. Its parent company Great Wall Motors saw its deliveries slip 0.4% to 1.070.161 sales in 2017 despite the addition of the premium WEY brand (see further down) and strong Great Wall-branded pickup sales up 13% 119.846. There were many other double-digit gains however among Chinese carmakers further down the ranking: GAC Trumpchi doubles up on the tremendous success of the GS4 with a blockbuster GS8 and gains 37% to #17, Roewe surfs on the popularity of its RX5 crossover (#20 overall) and gains 59%, Soueast is up 50% thanks to the DX3 crossover crossing the 100.000 annual sales mark for its first full year in market, Venucia is up 25%, MG up 68%, Hawtai up 77% and Leopaard up 36%. Outside the Top 40, notice Hanteng (+285%) above 60.000 for its first full year, SWM (+150%) just under 65.000 over the same period, Denza (+117%), Zhi Dou (+109%), Foton (+73%), Maxus (+71%), Kandi (+68%), Borgward (+48%), JMC (+44%) and Karry (+25%).

WEY is by far the most successful brand launch of 2017. 

Among the new brands coming into the Chinese market in 2017, the most noteworthy is of course WEY. Launched in June, Great Wall Motors’ premium SUV marque sold a stunning 86.427 units in just seven months with both the VV5 and VV7 each posting two consecutive 10.000-sales months at the end of the year. Lynk & Co also made its appearance in December with a first month above 6.000 units, with Yudo, Yu Lu, Arcfox and Dearcc the only other new domestic brands above 100 units. Bisu, launched in late 2016, closely misses the 50.000 unit-mark. Struggling Chinese carmakers include Jiangnan (-71%), Landwind (-47%), JAC (-40%), Brilliance (-38%), Haima (-38%), Qoros (-36%), Weichai (-35%), Jinbei (-31%), Beijing Auto (-20%), BYD (-18%) and Chery (-12%).

The C5 Aircross arrived too late to reverse the PSA Group’s dismal performance in 2017. 

Continuing on the bad news but in the foreign aisle, Hyundai (-30%) goes from #5 to #11, suffering from a North Korea-related political row between South Korea and China, as does sister brand Kia down 44% to #23. The PSA Group had a nightmare year: Peugeot is down 29%, Citroen down 47% and DS down an abysmal 64% as the company rebuilds its dealer network. Fiat, now discontinued, is down 82%, Luxgen down 56% and Suzuki down 24%. Reversely, Jeep soars 57% and now has a three locally-produced model lineup (Compass, Cherokee, Renegade), Renault is up 141% to over 72.000 units with just the Koleos and Kadjar, Jaguar is up 296% to 22.340 and Acura lands at 13.191 deliveries for its first annual appearance as a local producer.

The Baojun 310 became the best-selling Chinese sedan over the last two months of the year. 

Over in the models ranking, the Wuling Hongguang celebrates five consecutive years as the national best-seller (no interruption since 2013), and this despite a steep 18% drop to 532.000 units. Astonishingly, this marks the 12th consecutive year a Wuling nameplate is the all-vehicle best-seller in China (2006-2012 were dominated by Wuling microvans). The Hongguang was shortly overtaken in the YTD charts during the course of the year by the VW Lavida, down 6% but up one spot to #2 and 517.000 sales including the Gran Lavida. One of the heroes of 2016, the Haval H6 goes backwards in 2017 despite the launch of a new generation with deliveries down 13% after a 56% gain in 2016 to a still extremely impressive 506.000 units. The Haval H6 remains the best-selling SUV in China, a title it has now held continuously since 2013 but that could be in jeopardy in 2018 if the Baojun 510 (#6 this year) avoids cannibalisation by the larger 530, which is uncertain given how the 510 absolutely butchered the 560 (-53%) in 2017. The Buick Excelle (+14%) and Nissan Sylphy (+10%) follow as reliable sedan blockbusters with the Toyota Corolla (+10%) a notch below, in a category that saw the VW Sagitar (-4%), Jetta (-9%), Santana (-10%) and Ford Escort (-4%) all lose ground year-on-year. The Chevrolet Cavalier posts a very strong first full year in the Chinese market (189.000).

Below the Baojun 510, the Changan CS55 is the 2nd most popular 2017 launch…

The VW Tiguan lifts up 40% thanks to the new generation to place #7 with a record-breaking 340.000 units, #3 SUV and one of only three foreign fares in the segment’s Top 10 along with the Buick Envision at #7 and the Nissan X-Trail at #10. The GAC Trumpchi GS4 (+3%), manages to beat an already stellar 2016 score while the Geely Boyue storms into the 5th SUV spot thanks to 286.000 sales for its first full year in market. The Changan CS75 (+15%) accelerates its growth slightly while the Roewe RX5 (+160%) lands at over 230.000 units for its first full year, never-heard-before heights for the brand. The Haval H2 (+9%) stays in positive thanks to the arrival of the H2s variant, the Dongfeng Fengguang 580 (+103%) becomes the brand’s best-seller while the Geely Emgrand GS (+149%) and Vision SUV (+157%) both post stunning first full years.

…followed by the VW Teramont. 

In the Chinese sedan category, the Baojun 310 outpaced the long-term best-seller the Geely Emgrand EC7 towards the end of the year but remains below annually at #21 overall vs. #16, while the Geely Vision (+5%) remains above the Chery Arrizo 5 (+6%) but the Geely Emgrand GL storms in just below with sales up 313% for the nameplate’s first full year in market. In the MPV aisle, the facelifted Baojun 730 remains a distant second below the Hongguang as its 26% sales drop pull it from #5 overall in 2016 to #15 this year, with the Buick GL8 an even more distant third but up 83% thanks to the new generation. The BYD Song MAX is an instant blockbuster and ranked third in the segment in December. The Audi A6L (+6%) retains the luxury model crown above the Mercedes C-Class L (+23%), BMW 3 Series L (+27%), Audi Q5 (-6%) and BMW 5 Series L (-16%). The Audi A4L (+19%), Mercedes E-Class L (+97%) and GLC (+28%) also cross the 100.000 annual sales mark. The green car ranking is completely reshuffled this year: the BAIC-EC-Series takes the lead with 78.000 sales ahead of the Zhi Dou D2 at 42.000, the JAC iEV at 28.000, the Chery eQ at 26.000 and the BYD Qin, #1 in 2016, at 25.000 (-21%). The BYD e5 (+50%) makes up for it at #6.

The BAIC EC-Series has become the best-selling green car in China in 2017. 

Finally, to cap our monthly “Focus on the All-new models” series and in anticipation of the December update, let’s have a look at the most popular 2017 launches. There’s no contest on top: the Baojun 510 is the most successful nameplate launch in the history of automobile in China and spat out almost 360.000 units in just 11 months. Below, far below is the Changan CS55 with just under 80.000 units, followed by the VW Teramont at 75.000 sales, the FAW Besturn X40 and MG ZS both at 70.000 deliveries, the Roewe i6 at 64.000, the Zotye T700 at 59.000, the Chevrolet Equinox and WEY VV7 both at 53.000, the Skoda Kodiaq, Nissan Kicks and Honda UR-V all around 44.000, the Chana Oushang A800 at 41.000, the Toyota Yaris L Sedan at 40.000 and the Haval M6, Leopaard CS9 and Toyota Vios FS around 35.000. In summary: 13 SUVs, one MPV and three sedans with 10 Chinese nameplates and 7 foreigners, very aptly illustrating the engines of growth and dynamism that were at play in China in 2017.

Previous post: China December 2017: Geely, Baojun and Zotye end year at record levels

Previous year: China Full Year 2016: Tax cut boosts market up 14% to record 28 million sales

Two years ago: China Full Year 2015: Market up 4.7% to record 24.61 million despite sluggish summer

Full Year 2017 Top 95 All China-made brands and Top 595 models vs. Full Year 2016 figures below.

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