As per the BSCB tradition, after covering April sales in detail, we now focus on the all-new locally produced launches so you can stay up-to-the-minute on the fastest-evolving – and largest – automobile market in the world: China. Our “Focus on the All-new models” updates remain based on wholesales data. Like last month, the class of April 2017 counts 5 newcomers, but this time it’s 3 SUVs, one MPV and one station wagon. Keep track of the fast-expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 146 Chinese Brands, updated live.
1. Hyundai Encino (#127 – 4.385 sales)
By far the most successful new entrant in April, the Hyundai Encino is in fact a slightly longer Kona at 4.195m instead of 4.165m. China is the second market in the world not to adopt the original name: it is called Kauai in Portugal because Kona sounds like Portuguese for an expletive describing female genitalia…but despite some research I still don’t know why the name was changed for China – if you do please comment. The Encino lands in the red-hot small crossover segment where Hyundai has managed to be a lot faster than Toyota with its C-HR.
The stars of the segment, the Honda XR-V/Vezel tandem, sold exactly one million units in China since their launch in late 2014, so the commercial potential of the Encino is huge. Despite being longer than the overseas version, it is still shorter than most of its competitors. Its pricing is in line with most of the Westerners in the segment: from 129.900 to 155.900 yuan (US$20.400-24.500 or 17.300-20.800€) vs. 127.800-162.800 for the Honda XR-V, 128.800-189.800 for the Honda Vezel and 139.800-189.800 for the Nissan Qashqai. Only the less sophisticated Nissan Kicks at 99.800-134.800 is priced lower. Within the Hyundai lineup however, the Encino will need to count on its quirky styling to justify a higher pricing vs. the larger ix25 (109.800-152.800) and ix35 (119.900-161.900). We expect at least 10.000 monthly units to call it a success.
Bar for success: 10.000 monthly units
2. Nissan Terra (#204 – 2.211 sales)
The Nissan Terra is for now exclusive to China and manufactured by the Zhengzhou Nissan joint-venture. It is the SUV variant of the Nissan Navara pickup, also produced in China. It replaces the Nissan Paladin that will also continue to be sold. The Terra is therefore the latest in an expanding list of pickup-based mid-size SUVs that also includes the Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Isuzu MU-X, Chevrolet Trailblazer and Ford Everest. However the Terra is the odd one out as it is priced significantly lower than all its aforementioned siblings: from 169.800 to 245.800 yuan (US$26.700-38.600 or 22.600-32.700€) which is a lot of foreign SUV for the money – the Terra is a 4.88m long 4WD powered by a 184hp 2.5l engine mated with 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic.
The Terra is even cheaper than the much smaller Nissan X-Trail (179.800-268.800 yuan). This cut-throat pricing transpires in the cockpit, very basic with a 5 inch touchscreen – Chinese models costing one-third of the price wouldn’t be seen with anything less than double that – and the fact that it is strictly a 5-seater contrary to most of its competitors. These include the Honda Avancier (220.000-329.800 yuan), Ford Edge (229.800-429.800), Toyota Highlander (239.800-422.800), VW Teramont (308.900-518.900) and Toyota Prado (464.800-636.800). But its true siblings are the pickup-based Isuzu MU-X (178.800-268.800), Ford Everest (265.500-357.700), and the imported Toyota Fortuner (250.000) and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport (368.000-398.000). Its price even enables the Terra to compete with large Chinese 5-seater SUVs such as the Haval H8 (183.800-231.800) and GAC Trumpchi GS7 (149.800-209.800).
Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units
3. Roewe RX8 (#276 – 998 sales)
The RX8 is Roewe’s new flagship: a 4.93m long 7-seat SUV powered by a 224 hp 2.0 turbo engine and based on the same platform as fellow SAIC output the Maxus D90. The RX8 showcases its 4WD abilities loud and clear with no less than six driving modes, from off-road to snow to sport. Both exterior and interior designs are very pleasant and give the RX8 almost a luxurious feel. However well designed the central console is with a seamless integration of the touch screen (tell that to Mercedes!), material quality is not quite up there yet as I could verify at the Beijing Auto Show last month.
The RX8 has for objective to replicate the tremendous success of the RX5 in a segment one notch above and the one to follow among Chinese carmakers in this exercise is clearly GAC Trumpchi which managed to be the first local manufacturer to truly crack the large SUV equation with the GS8. That very nameplate is in the RX8’s direct line of fire. Priced from 168.800 to 251.800 yuan (US$26.500-39.500 or 22.500-33.500€), the RX8 almost exactly matches the GS8 price range of 163.800-259.800 with other competitors including the Maxus D90 (156.700-266.300), Haval H9 (199.800-272.800) and among foreigners the much smaller Mitsubishi Outlander (159.800-223.800) and Chevrolet Equinox (174.200-250.900).
Bar for success: 7.500 monthly units
4. BAIC Hyosow H5 (#329 – 473 sales)
Although the Hyosow H5 MPV hasn’t officially launched yet, it already appears in the sales charts with 473 wholesales. It is powered by the same 133hp 1.3 engine that can be found on the Hyowsow S5 SUV and should see its pricing start under 60.000 yuan (US$9.400 or 7.990€) given the smaller H3 MPV (55.800-69.000) and equivalent S5 SUV (59.800-85.800) price ranges.
The Hyosow lineup has come a long way since the launch of the S3 in August 2014 (peak of 20.868 in December 2015) and the H3 in October 2015 (peak of 12.333 in December 2016) with both exterior and interior designs improving by leaps and bounds. However, somewhat paradoxically sales also seemed to take a hard hit in the past year or so so commercial prospects for the modern-looking H5 are a little uncertain.
Bar for success: 4.000 monthly units
5. FAW Jumpal CX65 (#365 – 216 sales)
Final entrant for the month, the FAW Jumpal was originally unveiled as a half-concept at the Shanghai Auto Show a year ago before officially appearing in Guangzhou last November. It’s the latest iteration of fast-improving FAW and the second “cross-country” station wagon by a Chinese manufacturer after the Dongfeng Fengshen AX3 launched in January 2016. The CX65 combines sharp exterior design with a surprisingly classy dashboard but is powered by a weak 115hp 1.5 engine and indeed aligns its pricing almost exactly on the AX3: from a ridiculously low 70.000 to 90.000 yuan (US$10.995-14.100 or 9.300-11.990€) vs. 69.900-87.900 for the Dongfeng. The CX65 is based on the Jumpal A50 sedan (55.900-72.900).
Inspired by the cross-country Volvo wagons such as the defunct XC70, the V60CC and V90CC, the CX65 positions itself as a half-price VW C-Trek, which peaked at 7.812 sales in October 2017 and goes for 116.900-162.900 yuan. Other models targeted by the CX65 include the Skoda Octavia Scout (119.900-179.900), VW Cross Lavida (148.900-171.900) and, to a lesser extent because not SUV-looking, the Excelle GX (119.900-146.900). More realistic sales benchmarks would be the 4.624 record sales hit by the Dongfeng Fengshen AX3 in January 2017 and the high of 2.198 managed by the Jumpal A50 sedan so far, in February 2018. In this context, aiming for at least 3.500 monthly units seems reasonable.
Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units