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China June 2018: Focus on the All-new models

Leopaard Mattu

Now that June China sales are out of the way, we focus on the all-new locally produced launches for the month so you can remain on the bleeding edge of the fastest-evolving market in the world. Note these updates remain based on wholesales data. Although this month SUVs see their first year-on-year decline in a whopping 9 years, the nameplates launched this month were conceived months ago and are still dominated by SUVs at 4 out of 6, with sedans the remaining two. Keep track of the fast-expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 174 Chinese Brands, updated live.

1. Chery Tiggo 8 (#109 – 5.220 sales)

The Tiggo 8, presented at the Beijing Auto Show last April, tops Chery’s Tiggo SUV lineup, a group of cars that have been named logically and satisfyingly, which is actually pretty rare for a Chinese brand, and that now includes the Tiggo 3, 3x, 5, 5x and 7. Disappointingly, despite being 4.70m long and the new jewel of the Chery crown, the Tiggo 8 remains a 5-seater. It is powered by a choice of two engines: a 137 hp 2.0L DVVT or a 155 hp 1.6L Turbo. Its price point, from 98.800 to 142.800 yuan (US$14.600-21.100, 12.500-18.100€), means the Tiggo 8 is thrown in the deep end of the Chinese SUV pool already swarming with hungry sharks: it will compete with no less than the ultimate blockbusters in the segment, such as the Haval H6 (103.000-146.800 yuan), Changan CS75 (79.800-184.800 yuan), Roewe RX5 (99.800-188.800 yuan), Geely Boyue (98.800-188.800 yuan) or Geely Emgrand GS (77.800-116.800 yuan).

Chery Tiggo 8 interior. Picture

The Tiggo 8’s entrance in the wholesales charts this month is already impressive at over 5.000 sales: in the Tiggo lineup, only the 3/3x does better in June (6.665) only thanks to the new 3xe electric variant (1.837). All other Tiggo variants are outsold for June: the 5x (3.460), 7 (2.830) and 5 (2.000)… So this is a good start, but Chery will need this level to be at least maintained and at best overcome to find its way back towards growth. Adding to the challenge is the fact Tiggo models tend to hit their highest at or near launch, such as the Tiggo 5x which could never beat the 10.693 units it sold for its inaugural month in December 2017, or the Tiggo 7 whose personal best was reached on Month 4 at 11.039 in December 2016. As for the Tiggo 3 (17.081 in December 2015) and TIggo 5 (12.469 in December 2014), their record volumes have long been forgotten.

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly units

2. Changan Eado DT (#128 – 4.341 sales)

Changan continues to update the design of its entire lineup under the pen of David Hilton who previously created the spectacular NIO EP9. After the new Raeton CC and the new Eado and Eado XT, here comes the Eado DT which is in fact an update version of the Yuexang V7 aligning the model with the new Changan identity with a gaping X-shape grille that hints of Lexus and Mitsubishi. Chinese sedans are dirt cheap, and the Eado DT is no exception, priced from 54.900 to 80.900 yuan (US$8.100-11.950 or 6.950-10.250€), to be compared with its big sister the Eado at 71.900-105.900 yuan. The Eado will compete squarely with the Geely Vision (53.900-72.900 yuan), but thanks to a much improved interior quality that places it among the best in the segment, it will also try and steal sales from the Hyundai Reina (49.900-73.900 yuan), its twin the Kia Pegas (same price range) and the Chevrolet Sail (63.900-79.900 yuan).

Changan Eado DT interior. Picture

As for volumes, the benchmark for the Eado DT is obviously its predecessor the now discontinued Yuexiang V5/V7 which peaked at 10.573 units in December 2010 and remained at strong levels up until the end of 2016, especially successful in the rural areas such as Alashan Youqi in Inner Mongolia. Changan will want the Eado DT to do better of course, but it could be difficult given the lack of enthusiasm for local sedans lately. We want at least 7.500 monthly units to call the Eado DT a success.

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly units

3. Leopaard Mattu (#167 – 3.100 sales)

Unveiled at the Beijing Auto Show last April, the spectacular (inside and out) Mattu propelled Leopaard to #8 in our ranking of the Chinese brands you must know. My comments at the Show: “With its gigantic grille (see lead picture of this article) and chiselled features, the Mattu is here to confirm – if needed be – that the Chinese have made phenomenal progress in terms of exterior design and, in their eager push to impress the world, they sometimes go overboard, daring what more conservative Western brands would only dream of. This is the case with the Mattu.” I stand by this, adding that the interior (see below) looks and feels like a Mercedes with a giant digital panel à la new A-Class. Leopaard inaugurates a new front look but smartly links the Mattu with the rest of the lineup thanks to similarly shaped tail lights. As Leopaard’s new range-topper, the Mattu is logically more expensive than its smaller siblings but has, in true Chinese fashion, managed to contain its pricing to a mere 116.800-158.800 yuan, that’s just US$17,200-23.400 or 14.800-20.100€, in other words a car looking like a premium German for the price of a Dacia Duster…

Leopaard Mattu interior. Picture

For reference, the CS9 is priced from 76.800 to 129.800 yuan and the CS10 from 89.800 to 146.800 yuan, while the Q6, a facelifted Mitsubishi Pajero built under license, goes for 119.900-169.800 yuan. Oddly, Chinese automotive media pits the Mattu against the Haval H6 (103.000-146.800), Roewe RX5 (99.800-188.800), Geely Boyue (98.800-159.800) and Changan CS75 (79.800-184.800) but these are all cheaper and shorter. If anything, the Chery Tiggo 8 described above seems like a more fitting competitor as they are both large 5-seaters standing at 4.70m long. The Mattu lands with a bang over 3.000 sales, unfortunately this is done to the detriment of the rest of the lineup: the CS9 is down 28% to 2.390 and the CS10 implodes at -84% to 1.127 while the Q6 remains anecdotal at -53% to 287 sales. All-in-all, Leopaard sales are down 38% in June so the Mattu has its work cut out for it if its mission is to return the brand’s sales into the black. The CS9 peaked at 7.241 in January 2018 and the CS10 at 10.300 in March 2017.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

4. Hongqi H5 (#205 – 2.120 sales)

Hongqi is FAW’s and China’s only luxury brand, charged with the heavy responsibility of transporting the leaders of the Communist Party in all ceremonies. Although we have seen the H5 sedan appear in the retail sales ranking over the past few months, this is its first appearance in the wholesales charts. The H5 is based on the Mazda6, one of the carmaker’s joint-venture partners in China. Alongside the new E-HS3 electric crossover, the H5 enabled Hongqi to rank #6 in our ranking of the Chinese brands you must know about at the latest Beijing Auto Show last April. Sporting a surprisingly attractive exterior design, picture perfect cockpit and expensive pricing for a Chinese car at 149.800-195.800 yuan (US$22.100-28.900 or 19.000-24.800€), the H5’s aspirations are definitely foreign, with its home media sending it into the same sandpit as the Toyota Camry (179.800-279.800), Honda Accord (169.800-279.800), Nissan Teana (175.800-298.800), VW Magotan (189.900-303.900) and Passat (189.900-316.900).

Hongqi H5 interior. Picture

In terms of commercial success, it’s difficult to find a benchmark for the H5 as this is Hongqi’s first offer resembling a mass model. Indeed, the H7 which was its first try at a model aimed at a private audience, has been on and off in the wholesales charts, actually reaching its highest volume since its first appearance in May 2013 just this June 2018 at 883. sales. More hints can be caught in our exclusive retail rankings where it hit a 12-month best of 925 sales last December. In this context, the H5 start over 2.000 units is already treading unchartered territories for the brand. We want more and often to call the H5 a success.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

5. Brilliance V7 (#261 – 1.250 sales)

Only 6 months after adding to its SUV lineup the V6 launched last November, Brilliance now readies the larger V7, lifting to 4 its SUV lineup alongside the V3 and V5, even though they only represent 17% of Brilliance June sales. Brilliance charges a premium for its association with BMW, and the V7 is no exception at 108.700-194.700 yuan (US$16.000-28.700 or 13.800-24.700€). Yet although the exterior design is improved yet in line with the brand’s stylistic codes, the interior is frankly lagging behind some cheaper Chinese such as Geely with the Boyue, Haval with the H6 and the aforementioned Leopaard Mattu.

Brilliance V7 interior. Picture

Once again automotive Chinese media pits the V7 against the segment’s best-sellers such as the Haval H6 or Roewe RX5 but I disagree. It’s a 4.70m long 5-seater powered by a 204 hp 1.6 turbo engine, and therefore exactly the same length as the Leopaard Mattu (116.800-158.800) and Chery Tiggo 8 (98.800-142.800) mentioned above but price-wise in my view it competes with other plush 5-seaters such as the Haval H7 (139.000-180.000), GAC Trumpchi GS7 (149.800-209.800), WEY VV7 (167.800-188.800 and Lynk & Co 01 (158.800-220.800) although all these models are powered by a 2.0T engine and run rings around the V7 in terms of interior presentation. The V3 peaked at 21.117 sales in December 2015, the V5 at 5.519 in November 2013 and the V6 at 3.676 for its 3rd month of sales last January, so we want at least 5.000 units to deem the V7 a success, which also means the V6 is a failure and I stand by it.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

6. COS1° (#408 – 80 sales)

COS is a new marque by the Oshan MPV division of Changan that will specialise in… SUVs and is aimed at a rural clientele. Like Chery’s Jetour, it was launched last April at the Beijing Auto Show and like Jetour, COS was one of the “Top 5 brands you should know about” I selected from the latest Beijing Auto Show in April this year, the other three being EV makers NIO, Weltmeister and Byton. The marque’s first offering is the creatively-named 1° (for one degree), a modern, sober and toned down exterior design that goes against the rulebook for the extrovert traits that characterise rural customers – a risk has been taken here by being a little muted. The interior is extremely well packaged up with a large touchscreen beautifully integrated in the dashboard, luxurious pattern on the tunnel and doors (see below), Pioneer speakers artfully positioned alongside the inside door handles, matte-painted gearshift and gold-painted controls for the driver: this does look like a much more expensive car than what it is.

Chana OshanCOS1° interior and detail. Picture

The 1° is a 7-seater SUV priced at 129.800 yuan for its unique variant, that’s US$19.200 or 16.400€. It is powered by a 178 hp 1.5 turbo engine mated with a 6-gear automatic. Its main competitor is the yet-to-be-launched Jetour X70, also a 7-seater aimed at a rural clientele and inaugurating a new brand, this time created by Chery. In terms of already existing models, the 1° could potentially be pitted against the Zotye T800 (139.800-185.800) at the higher end, the Chana CX70 (59.900-109.900), BAIC Hyosow S7 (78.800-115.800) and Dongfeng Fengguang 580 (72.900 to 123.000 yuan) at the lower end, but as you can realise, there is no real Chinese offer at this price point at the moment, hence the smart decision by Changan to launch 1°. The launch of an all-new brand is debatable however. Looking at previous Chana Oshan models, the original Oshan (pictured above) peaked at 16.070 sales in January 2017 while the Oshan A700 hit a high of 9.967 in October 2017. We want at least half of this to deem the 1° a success.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

New Buick Excelle

Also of note is the launch of the new generation Buick Excelle this month, a nameplate that has been dormant for roughly a year – only one sale between January and May 2018 – while the Buick Excelle GT was renewed. The new Excelle lands directly at #151 with 3.528 sales, a level that its predecessor last reached in December 2016.

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