As per the BSCB tradition, after covering May China 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 market in the world. Note these updates remain based on wholesales data. Although this month – and for the first time in 6 years – sedans grow faster than SUVs, judging by the class of May 2018 new entrants this reverse of fortune is likely to only be temporary. Out of the 10 new launches making their first appearances in the wholesales charts this month (the largest field since last September), no less than 8 are SUVs… and some of them have very high sales potential. Keep track of the fast-expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 169 Chinese Brands, updated live.
1. Baojun 360 (#74 – 8.003 sales)
Only three months after the appearance of the Baojun 530 in February, the tremendously successful low-cost marque by SAIC-GM is not wasting time, now spurning out the 360 MPV unveiled in Beijing. Every single combustion Baojun launch in the past four years has been a blockbuster, and the 360 is headed this way too with a first month above 8.000 sales. The 730 MPV launched in August 2014 and peaked at 50.128 units in December 2016, the 560 SUV launched in July 2015 and peaked at 42.077 in March 2016, the 310 hatch and station wagon launched in September 2016 and hit a record 35.048 in December 2017, the 510 SUV launched in February 2017 and became the most successful launch in the history of automobile in China and the world (no less), hitting a monthly record of 58.006 in December 2017, and finally the 530 SUV appeared in February and has been progressing ever since, reaching 17.003 sales this month.
There are no more prestigious antecedents to follow and the pressure is on the 360 to succeed without hurting the larger 730. Powered by the traditional GM 112hp 1.5 engine the Baojun brand has been using for most of its nameplates, the 360 is priced at an impossibly low 56.800-75.800 yuan (7.600-10.100€, US$8.800-11.800) and once again features interior quality, materials and luxuries (electric seats…) that set it miles above the local competition. The only competing vehicle that could potentially come close is the markedly more expensive BYD Song MAX (79.900-129.900). But this is where things get challenging for Baojun, as its main competition is internal. The 360 is priced similarly to the Wuling Hongguang S3 (56.800-81.800) and undercuts the larger Baojun 730 (60.800-108.800) which it is already hurting: the 730 is down an abysmal 69% year-on-year in May. It looks like a frustratingly repeating scenario for Baojun as the 530 is slowly but surely hampering the 510 which itself absolutely annihilated the 560.
Bar for success: 20.000 monthly units
2. Changhe A6 (#239 – 1.553 sales)
New owner BAIC continues to try and revive the Changhe brand from a low-cost MPV-maker into a generalist marque, however there had been a drought of new models since August 2016 and the launch of the Q35 small SUV. Even though these two nameplates have already appeared in the retail sales charts, Changhe launches a two-pronged attack this year, now apparent in wholesales, starting with the A6. It is unchartered territory for Changhe as the brand has never launched a standalone hatchback before, notwithstanding the cooperations with Suzuki, and it faced with an uphill battle in an extremely competitive field.
Priced between 69.800 and 99.800 yuan (9.300-13.300€ or US$10.800-15.500), the A6 competes with fellow BAIC sedan Senova D50 (67.900-113.800), also going against the outright leaders in the Chinese-branded sedan segment: the Geely Emgrand (69.800-100.800), Changan Eado (71.900-105.900) and Geely Emgrand GL (78.800-115.800), even though a more direct competitor would seem to be the similarly-shaped but surprisingly cheaper Chery Arrizo 5 (49.900-97.900). So in a few words, lots of sales potential for the A6 but a very crowded sandpit. Changhe should remain humble in its sales objectives given the lack of experience of the brand in this segment, so a modest 3.000 monthly units is our bar for success.
Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units
3. Changhe Q7 (#255 – 1.323 sales)
The second nameplate in a very impressive 2018 Changhe attack, the Q7 totally bluffed me when I discovered it at the Guangzhou Auto Show last November with a prestigious cockpit rarely seen in any Chinese manufacturer, let alone Changhe which comes at the tail end of local marques. While keeping all the luxuries it displayed in Guangzhou, the Q7 market launch reveals an impossibly low price – a Change trait – from 87.900 to 148.900 yuan (11.750-19.900€ or US$13.700-23.100). This sets it in the same bracket as blockbusters such as the Haval H6 (103.000-146.800), Geely Boyue (98.800-159.800) and Baojun 530 (75.800-115.800) except these are all 5-seaters whereas the Q7 is a generous 7-seater.
In fact, the Q7’s true competitors are fellow dirt-cheap 7-seaters such as the BAIC Hyosow S7 (78.800-115.800), Bisu T5 (72.900-104.900), Chana CX70 (59.900-109.900) and Dongfeng Fengguang 580 (78.900-123.000). Even then, all of these offerings don’t come close to the refinement that the Q7 cockpit is offering, with only the Dongfeng able to pretend at anything else than a low-cost label. This makes the Q7 the best value for money 7-seat SUV in the Chinese market (therefore the world), no less. But although huge success would be deserved, as it is the case for the A6 Changhe should be prudent with sales targets as the Q7 is so off-brand (in a good way) that it may actually not be credible to its target customers for which the Changhe brand carries no prestige at all. Changhe could (should) be onto some gold here, but the hardest part will be convincing consumers to even consider the brand in the first place.
Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units
4. FAW Besturn Senia R9 (#277 – 993 sales)
The Senia R9 was the main attraction on struggling FAW’s stand at the Beijing Auto Show in April. First Auto Works, as its name indicates the very first automobile manufacturer to have been founded in China, is down 39% in May and 13% so far in 2018 so it needs all the help any new and modern-looking SUV can bring. Oddly, the Senia R9 appears twice in this month’s sales charts: once under the FAW-Jilin subsidiary with 634 sales (logical, as this is where the Senia sub-brand was born) and once under the Besturn sub-brand with 359 sales, which doesn’t make any sense. This naming confusion was already present at the Beijing Auto Show in April.
To add to the mess, Senia even seems to have been elevated to a brand, with its own logo on the grille and steering wheel. The first Senia was a rebadged Daihatsu Xenia (hence the sub-brand name) launched in 2007 and now called S80, and it was followed by the Senia R7 launched in May 2016 and peaking at 10.207 sales in November 2017. Depressingly for FAW, this month only the Besturn X40 manages to sell more than 1.000 units… Powered by a weak 1.2T engine, the R9 is priced from 83.900 to 125.900 yuan (vs. 66.900-106.900 for the R7) and comes in competition with virtually every strong selling Chinese SUV in the market, among them the Haval H6, GAC Trumpchi GS4, Geely Boyue and Changan CS55. There’s definitely room for more, but the fight will be tough. FAW desperately needs the R9 to succeed, even if it means killing 3-4 sedans to let it flourish.
Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units
5. WEY P8 (#330 – 503 sales)
WEY is a new SUV semi-premium brand launched in 2017 by Great Wall to top its Haval lineup. It has snapped blockbuster status straight away, becoming by far the best-selling new brand in China over the past year with a stunning 154.000 units sold in 12 months, including 67.000 so far in 2018. However, after brilliantly crossing the 20.000 monthly unit mark from November 2017 to January 2018, it has since depleted quite significantly, down to just 11.079 in May which is just enough to outsell its main local competitor Lynk & Co (9.234) even though the latter only has one nameplate in market. The VV7 (June 2017) and VV5 (September 2017) have nabbed almost identical volumes, the former peaking at 10.551 in December 2017 and the latter at 10.798 that same month. They are down to around 5.000 sales each this month, so it’s time for fresh metal to revive sales, and this is where the P8 comes in although it might struggle doing so with its high price tag.
The P8 is Great Wall’s first hybrid SUV and the first vehicle built on the company’s Pi4 plug-in hybrid four-wheel drive platform that powers the front wheels with a conventional 234hp 2.0 petrol engine and the rear wheels via a dedicated 85kW electric motor. Its technology prices it between 292.800 to 312.800 yuan (39.200-41.850€ or US$45.500-48.600) well above the existing VV5 (150.000-163.000) and VV7 (167.800-188.800). It enters a relatively virgin segment, with only the BYD Tang (292.800-299.900) positioned similarly, and perhaps the RX5 New Energy (195.900-296.800). The Tang has a personal best of 5.503 sales in December 2015 while the RX5 NE’s best is 3.339 units this month. Hitting these scores would be a great start for the P8.
Bar for success: 4.000 monthly units
6. Skoda Kamiq (#343 – 402 sales)
The Kamiq is exclusive to China and Skoda’s third new SUV launch in China in the past year after the Kodiaq (April 2017) peaking at 7.030 sales in December and the Karoq (January 2018) up to 2.668 units in April. Skoda enjoys a more premium positioning in China compared to Europe and therefore is able to stick relatively expensive price tags on its models. The Kodiaq is available from 189.800 to 268.800 yuan (25.400-36.100€ or US$29.500-41.800) while the Karoq goes for 139.900-185.900 yuan (18.700-24.900€ or US$21.800-28.900) and although no official pricing has been announced yet, the Kamiq should follow the trend with an estimated 120.000-140.000 yuan price range (16.100-18.700€ or US$18.700-21.800).
This pits the Kamiq against similarly sized foreign-branded blockbusters such as the Honda XR-V (127.800-162.800) or Hyundai ix25 (109.800-152.800). This is a difficult spot for foreign carmakers as it makes these models compete with much larger and sophisticated local fares such as the Haval H6, GAC Trumpchi GS4 and Geely Boyue, and even much more refined 7-seaters such as the Changhe Q7 (see above) so the Kamiq has its work cut out. It is powered by an old-fashioned and weak 100hp 1.5 engine mated to a 5-speed manual or six-speed automatic which will make it all the more difficult to compete with more modern and cheaper Chinese fares, especially as the Kamiq is aimed at a younger, more affluent audience in large cities.
Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units
7. Jeep Grand Commander (#356 – 326 sales)
Almost three years after becoming a local producer with the Cherokee launched in November 2015, Jeep steps up to an essential step in becoming truly engrained in China: launching a nameplate exclusive to this market. It is the Grand Commander, the brand’s only 7-seater and the first China-only model in the history of Jeep, reviving the Commander nameplate that was used between 2005 and 2010. The Grand Commander is the production version of the Yuntu Concept presented at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2017. It is powered by a 2.0T 234hp or 256hp engine both coupled with a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Strangely for the brand, the two base versions are 2WD only.
Priced from 279.800 to 409.800 yuan (37.400-54.800€ or US$43.500-63.700), the Grand Commander competes with the Ford Edge (229.800-429.800), Toyota Highlander (239.800-422.800) and VW Teramont (308.900-518.900). These three models have all reached high sales volumes: the Edge’s personal best is 13.837 in December 2016, the Highlander’s is 12.018 in January 2017 and the Teramont’s is 11.238 in November 2017. As far as Jeep nameplates are concerned, the Cherokee peaked at 10.109 in December 2016, the Compass at 10.302 in December 2017 and the Renegade at 5.137 also in December 2017. Although it has been a smashing success in the past 2 years, the fact is in 2018 Jeep is in great difficulty with sales down a worrying 34% over the first five months and down 48% in May. The Grand Commander couldn’t come soon enough and should at least do better than the Renegade.
Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units
8. Borgward BX6 (#396 – 118 sales)
German marque Borgward was reborn in 2016 thanks to Foton Motor, property of the BAIC Group. Although selling overpriced rebadged BAIC SUVs under an unknown European badge seemed like a stretch at the time, especially after a disastrous unveiling at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 2015, there’s no denying the Borgward reboot has been a success. In less than two years, Borgward has sold 86.798 units in China, for now the only market where the brand exists. The brand’s entire marketing revolves around its prestigious German past, with slogans such as “Since 1919″ despite the half-century production interruption and the listing of the brand’s achievements at the peak of its glory in the 1950s: “A direct competitor to Mercedes”, “One of Germany’s Top 4 Carmakers” (along with Volkswagen, Opel and Mercedes) and “Cumulative sales of 1 million units”. Borderline (or plain?) misleading, with the fact that not a single Borgward is manufactured in Germany conveniently bypassed by the brand’s website. Even the Chinese name for Borgward (Baowo 宝沃) has a premium European taste: it is a mix of BMW (Baoma 宝马) and Volvo (Woer’Wo 沃尔沃)…
And it’s worked. Focusing solely on SUVs which have been the main engine of Chinese growth over the past half-decade, Borgward has carved itself a place under the sun, but new metal is now needed to keep the marque afloat. The BX7 launched in July 2016 and hit a peak of 5.556 units in December 2016 but has not been above 3.000 units in over a year, even crumbling down to just 211 sales last February. The smaller BX5 launched in April 2017 and reached a personal best of 3.710 units in December 2017. Unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show in March 2016, the BX6 is based on the BX5 and took its sweet time to hit the market but its refreshing blend of SUV, sedan and coupe à la BMW X4 sets it apart from the mainstream pack of cloned Chinese SUVs. Priced between 182.800 and 199.800 yuan (24.500-26.700€ or US$28.400-31.100), it is on the dearer side like all Borgwards and could potentially compete with simialrly shaped locals such as the Venucia T90 (109.800-154.800), Lynk & Co 02 (142.000-198.000) and the upcoming Bisu T7.
Bar for success: 4.000 monthly units
9. BMW X3 (#415 – 48 sales)
The new generation X3 is only the second SUV manufactured by BMW in China. As an import it ranked 4th best-seller outright in 2017 with 34.442 sales below its larger brother the X5 ranking #2 with 51.878 deliveries. That should give a pretty good indication of the X3’s huge sales potential as a locally-manufactured nameplate. The X3 made and sold in China is exactly the same as the in the rest of the world (no lengthening of the wheelbase) and it should climb near the top of BMW sales in the country, even potentially becoming the brand’s best-seller in China if its competitors’ sales figures are anything to go by.
The X3 is powered by a choice of two 2.0T engines at 184 or 252hp and is priced from 399.800 to 585.800 yuan (53.500- 78.400€ or US$62.200-91.100). It goes full-frontal against the Audi Q5 (396.400-519.200) and Mercedes GLC (394.800-579.000). Both German SUVs are their respective brands’ best-selling SUVs in China and third best-selling models outright. The Q5 ranks below the A4L and A6L so far in 2018 but ranked #2 Audi in August, September, December 2017 and January 2018, reaching a record 16.688 sales in January. The GLC ranks below the C- and E-Class but was Mercedes’ best-seller in China in April 2018, hitting a record 13.152 units in January. The X3 should aim at similar levels.
Bar for success: 7.500 monthly units
10. VW T-Roc (#439 – 4 sales)
Volkswagen’s compact crossover, the T-Roc, needs no introduction and as it is starting to make its mark in Europe, the much-awaited China launch is now upon us. The China-made version of the T-Roc is longer than the European one by 77 mm and higher by 9 mm with its wheelbase gaining the most at 84 mm, mainly to benefit back passengers. It is powered by a 1.4T 150hp engine Size: 4318/1819/1582, and as we write these lines pricing information is not yet known for China. Volkswagen has been surprisingly slow to react to the SUV storm that has engulfed the Chinese market for the past five years, only launching the 7-seat Teramont in January 2017. It peaked at 11.238 units in November 2017 while the Tiguan’s highest monthly volume stands at 37.971 in October 2017.
Volkswagen runs two joint-ventures in China and both its current SUVs are manufactured by the Shanghai-Volkswagen joint-venture. As incredible as it sounds, the T-Roc will be the first SUV manufactured by Volkswagen’s second joint-venture in the country, FAW-Volkswagen. This is the most important piece of information to remember about the T-Roc in order to predict its success, and needless to say that, as much as VW’s sedan sales remain extremely strong through both joint-ventures, FAW-Volkswagen dealers have been gagging for at least one SUV to add to their lineup for many years now. Therefore the sales potential of the T-Roc is enormous, and FAW-VW will expect it to weigh the same volume both the Tiguan and the Teramont currently command for Shanghai-VW. That’s a big ask, but they would be in their right to work towards it. Oddly, Shanghai-VW is getting a third SUV in the coming months, the Tharu, which is sure to enrage FAW-VW even further.
Bar for success: 20.000 monthly units
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