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China September 2018: Focus on the All-new models

The Jetour X70 is one of the cheapest 7-seat SUVs in the Chinese market.

After exploring September China wholesales, it’s now time to shed light on all the new locally produced launches hitting dealerships for the month so you are up-to-date on the fastest-evolving market in the world. Note these updates remain based on wholesales data. September wholesales confirmed the slump is here to stay and has now spread to sedans. Meanwhile, new models being launched on the market steadily continue to reflect the SUV surge we have witnessed for the past decade in China with the risk of now appearing out of step with current market conditions. In July, 5 of the 7 new launches were SUVs, in August it was 6 out of 7 and in September 9 out of 12. You can also keep track of the fast-expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 176 Chinese Brands, updated live.

1. Jetour X70 (#83 – 7.777 sales)

Sporting a suspiciously “lucky” sales figure this month (7 is considered a lucky number in China) is Jetour’s first nameplate, the X70 7-seater SUV. A very impressive start indeed, the strongest 1st month tally since the Baojun 360 last May. Now that Chery has a “clean” SUV lineup with the Tiggo 3, 3x, 5, 5x, 7 and 8 and after presenting the semi-premium Exeed SUV sub-brand last year (to no avail just yet), the company has judged it was time to spread its dwindling budget even thinner and launch a new brand, which is a questionable strategy especially looking at unstable Cowin, another one of Chery’s brands. But the first signs are very positive: the Jetour X70 is as soon as its first month in market the Chery Group’s best-selling SUV above the Chery Tiggo 8 (7.201) and 2nd best-selling nameplate outright below the Chery Arrizo 5 (8.185). In fact, the X70 actually delivers the goods as I was able to verify during the latest Beijing Auto Show in April this year where I selected Jetour as one of the “Top 5 brands you should know about” alongside Chana Oshan’s COS and EV-makers NIO, Weltmeister and Byton. Like COS with its 1°, the Jetour brand is a somewhat “macho” brands aimed at third-, fourth-tier cities and rural areas where Leopaard for example is doing very well, and the X70 offers the full package with 7 seats and a modern (if bland) design and a cut-throat pricing.

Jetour X70 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The Jetour X70’s pricing is indeed quite dramatically lower than its appearance would let us believe, from 69.900 to 120.900 yuan (US$10.100-17.450 or 8.750-15.100€). This significantly undercuts the COS 1° (93.800-145.800 yuan) and positions the X70 as one of the cheapest 7-seater SUVs in the Chinese market, at roughly the same level as much more blunt nameplates such as the Chana CX70 (59.900-109.900), Bisu T5 (72.900-104.900), BAIC Hyosow S7 (78.800-115.800) and Dongfeng Fengguang 580 (78.900-123.000), as well as Zotye’s better-designed Traum SEEK 5 (77.900-128.900) and S70 (81.900-115.900) and the Changhe Q7 (87.900-148.900). To better understand Jetour’s positioning vs. Chery, the Chery Tiggo 8, a 5-seater, is priced 40% higher from 98.800 to 142.800 yuan. The X70’s first month is already above our bar for success of 6.000 sales, the trick now will be to be stable at that level, keeping in mind scores such as the 19.771 peak reached by the Dongfeng Fengguang 580 or the 18.071 record of the Chana CX70 seem out of reach, especially for a new brand.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

2. Geely Binrui (#122 – 5.029 sales)

Geely continues to renew and expand its lineup at breakneck speed, and this sharply-designed Binrui sedan manages an excellent start above 5.000 sales in a depressed context for Chinese sedans. 4.68m-long, the Binrui’s design is very close to the recently-launched 4.99m Emgrand GE – itself is a facelift of the Borue, also already above 5.000 monthly sales. Faithful to what has built Geely into the #1 Chinese manufacturer at home, the Binrui is cheap: from 79.800 to 110.800 yuan (US$11.500-15.990 or 9.990-13.900€), features a high-quality cockpit but mid-range engines with a choice of 133hp 1.4T or 136hp 1.0T mated with a 6 speed manual or CVT.

Geely Binrui interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The fact that the Binrui enters an overcrowded Chinese sedan market goes without saying but it hasn’t prevented previous Geely sedans such as the Emgrand GL and GE from succeeding and it will also be the case for the Binrui. The oddity with the Binrui naming is that it uses neither the upmarket Emgrand nor the mass-market Vision sub-brands. Its pricing is closer to an Emgrand model. For comparison, the slightly shorter 4.60m Geely Vision (53.900-72.900 yuan) is a lot cheaper while the 4.63m Emgrand (69.800-100.800) and 4.725m Emgrand GL (78.800-115.800) are closer with the Emgrand GE (136.800-179.800) topping the range. Geely has managed to create an extremely successful sedan lineup thanks to its ability to go fight with foreign models and the Binrui is emblazoned with the same mission, taking aim at the VW Jetta (79.900-134.900), Toyota Vios (69.800-113.800) and Chevrolet Cavalier (79.900-114.900) while among local fares the Roewe 360 notably (77.900-129.900) is targeted. Because it’s a Geely model and because of the fantastic performances the brands has repeatedly aligned over the past couple of years, expectations are high for the Binrui.

Bar for success: 10.000 monthly units

3. Cadillac XT4 (#198 – 2.313 sales)

Another illustration of the prime importance of the Chinese market in the world today, Cadillac has launched Chinese production of its new small crossover, the XT4, at the same time as in the U.S. Even then, the XT4 may be arriving here two years too late, but better late than never. The XT4 joins the China-made XT5 and the imported Escalade in the American manufacturer’s SUV lineup, a smart “trickle-down” move that is making the brand more accessible to Chinese consumers the exact same way Volvo is doing with the XC40 and as all German premiums understood years ago. XT4 pricing starts at 259.700 yuan and ends at 399.700 (US$37.500-57.700 or 32.500-50.000€) almost exactly the same as its U.S. pricing but 40.000 yuan/US$5.800/5.000€ lower than Cadillac’s entry sedan offerings, the ATS-L (298.800-428.800) and XTS (299.900-359.900). Additionally, the XT4 is 100.000 yuan/US$14.400/12.500€ cheaper than the XT5 (359.900-539.900).

Cadillac XT4 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Equipped with a 241hp 2.0T engine, the XT4 enters a very competitive premium small SUV arena composed of the imported Lincoln MKC (275.800-385.800), BMW X2 (289.800-379.800) and Volvo XC40 (321.800-411.800) and a growing contingent of China-made blockbusters such as the BMW X1 (283.800-439.000), Mercedes GLA (269.800-395.800), Audi Q3 (246.900-340.700) and Jaguar E-Pace (288.800-395.800). The sales potential of the XT4 is strong yet paradoxically weaker than larger premium SUVs, with some Chinese buyers failing to see the use of paying a disproportionate amount of money for what they consider cramped vehicles. The largest volumes in the category flirt with 5 figures: 10.580 for the Q3, 9.984 for the X1 and 8.002 for the GLA. The American carmaker has some flex in terms of production capacity: the largest monthly volume reached by any Cadillac nameplate is 10.385 by the XT5 SUV in January 2018, with other personal bests including 7.500 by the XTS sedan and 5.919 by the ATS-L sedan. In a slightly morose SUV context, we want at least 6.000 sales to consider the XT4 a success.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

4. Chevrolet Orlando (#209 – 2.095 sales)

In a challenging context for foreign mass market carmakers, Chevrolet surprises us with this second generation Orlando (the first one was never produced locally) which has morphed from a bland MPV into a racy crossover that starts relatively well above 2.000 wholesales. Classified by the CAAM as a sedan perhaps because it is very low, the Orlando is however definitely a crossover in the minds of consumers. By pricing it competitively at 119.900-154.900 yuan (US$17.300-22.400 or 15.000-19.400€), Chevrolet positions the Orlando more as a potential upgrade from sedans in its lineup such as the Cavalier (79.900-114.900) or even the Cruze (109.900-169.900) than a logical addition in its SUV lineup where it should definitely kill the already slow-selling, much smaller but similarly priced Trax (99.900-149.900). The Equinox (174.900-250.900) on the other hand is placed unequivocally above the Orlando.

Chevrolet Orlando interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Touted as a 7 seater despite a relatively short 4.68m long, the Orlando is moved by a 163hp 1.3T mated with a 6 speed manual or auto, simple mechanics to help lower the price. Local automotive press is a little confused by the format, aiming it at a couple of low MPVs such as the Buick GL6 (141.900-168.900) or BYD Song MAX (79.900-129.900) or even the Honda Jade (129.900-179.900). Will choosing an unconventional approach pay for Chevrolet? It’s a worthwhile bet, and all will depend on whether the younger customer base will deem the Orlando cool enough. GM is definitely putting its right foot forward by focusing the communication on the sporty-looking (but actually not sporty) Redline variant. A refreshing entry in a saturated SUV segment, especially as the Equinox, on paper a straight-forward blockbuster, has been sputtering off (previous best at 7.697).

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

5. BYD Qin Pro (#287 – 1.003 sales)

BYD virtually launched the electric car market in China with nameplates such as the e6 hatchback and the Qin sedan. The Qin Pro is simply the 2nd generation of the model, allowed to co-exist with the first and therefore needing a specific denomination. The first month of sales is slow, and it remains to be seen whether the Pro will progressively swallow up the original Qin or whether it will act as a pricy and niche premium version. BYD will definitely be hoping for the former option, especially as the Qin Pro is the third model after the Song MAX and the new Tang to feature BYD’s new “Dragon Face” design language imagined by Wolfgang Egger, ex-Audi, that pretty much makes all BYDs look very much like Hyundais.

BYD Qin Pro interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The Qin Pro is available in combustion variants powered by a 109hp 1.5 mated with a 5 speed manual or a 154hp 1.5T mated with a 6 speed DCT and going for a very attractive 79.800-115.800 yuan (US$11.500-16.700 or 10.000-14.500€) or hybrid powered by a 154hp 1.4 and pure electric priced at 149.900-299.900 yuan (US$21.600-43.300 or 18.800-37.600€). The combustion variants compete with the Geely Binrui (79.800-110.800) and foreigners such as the Buick Excelle (109.900-144.900), Honda Civic (115.900-169.900), Toyota Corolla (107.800-175.800) and VW Lavida (109.900-165.900) while the green variants compete with BYD’s very own e5 (220.700-230.700, the BAIC EU-Series (79.800-252.650), JAC iEVA50 (183.700-234.500), Geely Emgrand (165.800-238.300) and Geely Emgrand GE (199.800-232.800). Even though the new Qin Pro had already been unveiled by then, the Qin has managed record volumes in the past few months, hitting 5.597 last June. BYD will hope for at least the same for the Qin Pro.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

6. VW Tayron (#290 – 954 sales)

Reacting with many years’ delay, Volkswagen has finally decided to significantly embolden its SUV presence in China with two nameplates exclusive to this market, both making their entrance this month: the Tayron and Tharu (see further down). To understand how these new SUVs position themselves in the China-made Volkswagen galaxy, it is essential to distinguish the carmaker’s two joint-ventures in this country. SAIC-VW has had a significant SUV presence in China for many years through the Tiguan – the first generation of the nameplate was kept on sale alongside the new generation Tiguan L aka Allspace, as well as the larger Teramont since January 2017. FAW-VW has been playing catchup this year, receiving its very first SUV in the form of the T-Roc in June, and the Tayron is its 2nd entry in the segment. The Tayron is in fact based on the second generation short-wheelbase Tiguan that is only imported into the country but not produced locally. Still with me?

VW Tayron interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Dimensions may help clarify: the Tayron is 4.589m long, vs. 4.712 for the Tiguan L, 4.506 for the 1st gen Tiguan, 4.486m for the imported 2nd gen short wheelbase Tiguan and 4.318m for the T-Roc. Therefore Volkswagen has found a smart way to not put any of its China-made SUVs in a cannibalisation situation, something it had not managed with its sedan lineup, mirrored between the two joint-ventures. The Tayron comes with a 186hp or 220hp 2.0T engine mated to a 7-speed DCT. Although no pricing has been communicated yet as the Tayron’s official on-sale date is 22 October, it will slide in an overlapping spot bewteen the 1st gen Tiguan (199.800-237.800 yuan) and the Tiguan L (223.800-359.800) and accordingly, local automotive press pits it against the Buick Envision (219.900-319.900) and Toyota Highlander (239.800-422.800). It’s a Volkswagen and it’s an SUV, plus it’s FAW-VW’ best shot at SUV glory so far, so our expectations are high.

Bar for success: 17.000 monthly units

7. Ora iQ (#315 – 707 sales)

Instead of electrifying its existing Haval and WEY lineup, Great Wall Motors has preferred to create a standalone EV brand it unveiled at last April’s Beijing Auto Show: Ora. I have doubts on the viability of this decision, but the implacable GWM marketing machine is unstoppable and after an aggressive WeChat campaign counting down the days until launch, Ora’s first offering, the iQ, has now hit the sales charts with an ok 707 sales. The exterior design is… different, bold? and the interior looks like it has been patched up compared to a dreadful experience in Beijing.

Ora iQ interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Powered by a 163hp electric engine, the iQ is priced between 188.800 and 204.800 yuan (US$27.250-29.600 or 23.700-25.700€) which is not cheap for a very standard-looking vehicle (I did not say low-cost, but…). The issue is the Chinese EV SUV pool is getting bigger every month, currently including the Chery Tiggo 3xe (157.800-189.800), BYD Song (176.900-219.900), BAIC EX-Series (183.900-202.900) and GAC Trumpchi GE3 (212.800-246.500). Setting goals for an entirely new brand is always difficult as there are no benchmarks, but GWM’s other attempt at an electric SUV has currently been pretty dismal with the WEY P8 culminating at just 570 units after 5 months, a result the cheaper iQ has already surpassed.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

8. Citroen C4 Aircross (#324 – 650 sales)

Looks familiar, but this is not the C3 Aircross. In China, Citroen is upside down, firstly sales-wise (-45% in September) but also launch-wise: the larger C5 Aircross was commercialised a year ago just here as the C3 Aircross hit European dealerships. This year, the C5 Across is reaching Europe whereas a stretched version of the C3 Aircross, baptised C4 Aircross, is now available in China. Based on the C3 Aircross for all exterior and interior design elements, the C4 Aircross is 12 cm longer with a wheelbase 6 cm longer. The extra space goes to the rear passengers and the boot. The C4 Aircross  is priced competitively at 109.800-159.800 yuan (US$15.850-23.100 or 13.800-20.100€) but looking at Citroen’s current SUV lineup it also means it will kill the smaller C3-XR (108.800-171.800) while logically siding well below the larger C5 Aircross (152.700-236.700). To say that the segment it enters is crowded is an understatement…

Citroen C4 Aircross interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The 4.27m-long C4 Aircross will compete with its cousin the Peugeot 2008 (89.700-128.700), but also such foreign blockbusters as the 4.27m Honda XR-V (127.800-162.800), 4.29m Hyundai ix25 (109.800-152.800), 4.31m VW T-Roc (139.800-209.800), 4.38m Nissan Qashqai (139.800-189.800), 4.39m Skoda Kamiq (109.900-130.900), 4.41m Roewe RX3 (89.800-135.800) and to a lesser extent the 4.40m Toyota C-HR (144.800-179.800). Citroen needs a success very badly these days and a lot of hope rests on the C4 Aircross, especially as the C5 Aircross bubble has already been busted: -66% to just 1.640 units in September. Realistically, even if it is successful the C4 Aircross won’t be enough to reverse Citroen’s fortunes in China, but regularly evolving above 5.000 monthly units would be a good start, if a tad frivolous in the current context.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

9. Audi Q2L (#329 – 594 sales)

After adding the Q5L a few months back, Audi is expanding its China-made SUV lineup with this Q2L, supposedly with a  stretched wheelbase but in actual fact it is only extended by 2.7cm to 2.628m while the length is up just 4.5cm to 4.229m vs. 4.191m for the imported Q2. Powered by a 150hp 1.4TSI engine, the Q2L is entering a pretty empty competitive set as premium carmakers haven’t had the chance to launch small SUVs just yet.

Audi Q2L interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Priced between 217.700 and 279.000 yuan (US$31.400-40.300 or 27.300-35.000€), the Q2L significantly undercuts its only competitor, the imported Mini Countryman (243.800-363.800) while safely residing well below the larger Audi Q3 (246.900-340.700). However Audi shouldn’t be too ambitious with the Q2L which could act as sales support for the Q3. Indeed at 4.236m long, Chinese customers will deem the Q2L cramped despite its slightly stretched wheelbase and may be reluctant to fork out this amount of money for a vehicle that will likely be considered impractical. As such, our expectations are somewhat limited at 4.500 sales/month.

Bar for success: 4.500 monthly units

10. Kandi Gleagle EX3 (#396 – 173 sales)

Part of the Geely Group, Kandi specialises in micro and small EVs. This EX3, using a Gleagle badge (previously a Geely brand), is in fact a simple electrified version of the Geely Vision X3. It is powered by a 67hp electric engine giving it 302km of autonomy and is 4.005m long. Priced from 76.800 to 96.800 yuan (US$11.100-14.000 or 9.600-12.150€), the EX3 is among the cheapest electric vehicles on sale in China at the moment, and competes with the likes of the Changan CS15EV (79.900-89.900) or BYD Yuan EV (79.900-99.900).

Kandi Gleagle EX3 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Electric vehicle volumes are traditionally seesawing depending on the time of the year, with November and December showing sudden surges in time to benefit from government subsidies. Looking at the performance of its direct competitors and taking into account the mighty production power of Geely we are setting the bar for success at 1.500 monthly units.

Bar for success: 1.500 monthly units

11. Hyundai Celesta RV (#401 – 164 sales)

Emboldened by the success of the Hyundai Celesta which is nothing more than a 18 year-old Hyundai Elantra Yuedong with an up-to-date bodywork, the Korean carmaker has now launched a station wagon variant of the Celesta, baptised Celesta RV and its first foray in this segment. At 4.40m long and powered by a 123hp 1.6 engine mated with a 6-speed manual or auto or a 130hp 1.4T engine mated with a 7-speed DCT, the Celesta RV is priced from 80.900 to 119.900 yuan (US$11.700-17.300 or 10.150-15.050€) which is a lot of car for the money indeed.

Hyundai Celesta RV interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

To pus this pricing into perspective, let’s note that the entry model Celesta RV is only a tad dearer than the top-of-the-range 4.62m Baojun 310W (42.800-69.800) while logically positioning itself above the 4.24m Kia KX-Cross (74.900-90.900). Station wagons are still a pretty rare occurrence on Chinese roads and in local lineups so it’s a make-or-break bet for Hyundai here, with models such as the 4.518m Dongfeng AX3 (69.900-87.900) and 4.538m Buick Excelle GX (119.900-146.900) falling flat in market whereas the VW Gran Lavida (112.900-162.900) has resonated with buyers. Hyundai should therefore be prudent in its sales expectations for the Celesta RV.

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units

12. VW Tharu (#430 – 52 sales)

On top of the Tayron described earlier in this article, Volkswagen also launches the Tharu SUV this month. Unlike the Tayron, the Tharu is manufactured by the SAIC-VW joint-venture that already has the 1st gen Tiguan, 2nd gen Tiguan Allspace and Teramont in its SUV lineup. The Tharu won’t disorient SAIC-VW customers as it looks like a mini Teramont but is in fact based on the Skoda Karoq. So here too, Volkswagen has managed to insert a new nameplate in its range without creating a cannibalising potential given its other joint-venture, FAW-VW has the much shorter T-Roc as entry SUV. Yet this is all very confusing so as per the Tayron we’ll try and clarify the situation with dimensions. The SUV lineup of the SAIC-VW joint-venture is now composed of the 4.453m Tharu, 4.506 1st gen Tiguan, 4.712 Tiguan L and 5.039m Teramont. Across the road at FAW-VW we have the 4.318m T-Roc and the 4.589m Tayron.

VW Tharu interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

There is no price info yet for the Tharu as it is not yet officially listed but it will slide in-between the T-Roc at 139.800-209.800 yuan (US$20.200-30.300 or 17.550-26.300€) and the 1st gen Tiguan at 199.800-237.800 yuan (US$28.800-34.300 or 25.100-29.800€) which also means it will be priced at a significant premium over the Skoda Karoq (139.900-185.900) on which it is based. Therefore local automotive media pits it against the meaty end of the Chinese SUV world: the Toyota RAV4 (179.800-269.800), Honda CR-V (169.800-276.800) and Nissan X-Trail (188.800-271.300) while among Chinese fares the cheaper but larger Haval H6 (103.000-146.800) and GAC Trumpchi GS4 (89.800-151.800) would also enter into consideration. The Tharu won’t get as much attention within SAIC-VW as the Tayron should within FAW-VW simply because SAIC has its hands full already with 2 Tiguans and the Teramont, so our sales expectations are lower.

Bar for success: 12.000 monthly units

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