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China January 2019: Focus on the all-new models

The Changan CS85 confirms the Chinese carmakers’ trend towards coupe SUVs.

After detailing January wholesales it is now time to study this month’s new locally-made launches so you can on the bleeding edge of the fastest-evolving new car market in the world. In a freefalling market at -15.8% but -17.7% for passenger cars, new launches keep hitting the market at breakneck speed, simply because they were conceived at a time when the market was still soaring. In fact, this month’s novelties reflect the most recent trends the Chinese market has seen in recent years: out of the 10 new nameplates hitting dealerships in January, 6 are SUVs and 3 are EVs. You can also keep track of the fast-expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 178 Chinese Brands, updated live.

1. JAC Refine S4  (#85 – 7.586 sales)

Focused on the speedy electrification of its lineup, JAC lost 13.8% in 2018 to fall below the 200.000 annual wholesales mark, as its combustion models were in desperate need of attention. The Refine S4 SUV’s timing is therefore perfect, and its spectacular initial score, over 7.500 units, shows how needed it was. In fact, it directly accounts for almost 40% of JAC wholesales in January, and single-handedly manages to reduce the brand’s fall to -5% for the month. The S4 is priced from 67.800 to 98.800 yuan (8.900-13.000€ or US$10.100-14.700), which positions it more like a virtual replacement for the S3 (62.800-88.800) than the S5 (89.500-139.500).

JAC Refine S4 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

The S4 enters an overcrowded small Chinese SUV segment that includes the Baojun 510 (54.800-77.800), Chery Tiggo 5x (65.900-104.900), Changan CS35 Plus (69.900-104.900) and Geely Binyue (78.800-118.800). JAC used to have the Refine S3 as an absolute blockbuster: it ranked third best-selling SUV in China in 2016, but hasn’t sold over 10.000 units since January 2017 after hitting a personal best of 26.439 in December 2016. These levels seem to be firmly a thing of the past for any JAC SUV but a five-digit figure reached consistently would put the S4 on the map.

Bar for success: 10.000 monthly units

2. Dongfeng Fengxing T5 (#147 – 3.456 sales)

This is another good-looking SUV from Dongfeng, this time from the Fengxing subsidiary. Oddly, its arrival seems to have signed the death warrant of the production of the remainder of the Dongfeng Fengxing SUV lineup bar the SX6 but including the XV, X3, X5 and X6, the latter two looking suspiciously familiar with the T5. Yes, even for an inquisitive observer it’s a maze navigating the Dongfeng lineup…The Fengxing T5 is priced from 84.900 to 135.900 yuan (11.100-17.800€ or US$12.600-20.200) compared to 66.900-86.900 for the Fengxing X3, 79.900-86.900 for the XV, 79.900-138.800 for the X5 and 84.900-109.900 for the X6.

Dongfeng Fengxing T5 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

Given the X5 and X6 are less than two years old, it would be a bold move – but not unheard of – by Dongfeng Fengxing to replace its entire SUV lineup (bar the SX6) with this T5 which plays in the same sandpit as the Dongfeng Fengshen AX7 (89.800-131.800) and competes with such blockbusters as the Changan CS55 (84.900-133.900), Chery Tiggo 8 (98.800-142.800), Geely Boyue (98.800-161.800) and Haval H6 (102.000-146.800). Given the Fengxing SUV was imploding -80% last November, 3.500 units straight from launch is a very encouraging performance indeed by the T5 but we would want to lift this score to at least 6.000 to feel we have a success in our hands if indeed the T5 is due to replace the SUV whose personal best stands at 14.766.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

3. Ora R1 (#220 – 1.649 sales)

Only four months after launching the iQ coupe SUV, Great Wall’s new EV brand, Ora, hits the market with the R1 electric mini hatch that bears a striking resemblance to the Smart Forfour. I was very disappointed by the iQ’s interior at its presentation at the Beijing Auto Show in April 2018, and at the time the R1 was only teased and its doors closed, before an official presentation at the Guangzhou Auto Show last November. But interior shots (see below) aren’t doing anything to change my mind, and give us a pretty good hint as to why Great Wall decided to launch a new, separate brand to sell what in essence are low-cost EVs: in order not to hurt the Haval and WEY’s brand image that the company wants to premiumise as much as possible.

Ora R1 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn
The R1 is priced from 114.800 to 137.800 yuan before government subsidies, 59.800 to 77.800 after (7.800-10.200€ or US$8.900-11.600), which places it safely out of cannibalisation range from the larger iQ (188.800-210.500). The R1 competes with small EVs such as the BYD Yuan (79.900-99.900), JAC iEV6E (118.500-158.800) and Changan Benben (95.800-144.800). As this is a new brand, volume predictions are tough but the R1’s initial score beats any of the first four months of the iQ which incidentally also breaks its volume record this month at 2.036. We’d like double the current volume to consider the R1 a success.
Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

4. Ford Territory (#235 – 1.516 sales)

Similarly to Peugeot (-44.1%), Jeep (-38.6%), Renault (-30.6%) and Citroen (-66% in both November and December 2018), Ford (-54.5%) has fallen by the wayside as suddenly as unexpectedly in 2018. Even more depressing: the situation has gotten worse as the months came by to reach a crisis-level -80% in December, only to get marginally better last month at -66.3%. Desperate times call for desperate measures: the American carmaker has decided to rebadge one of its Chinese partners’ SUV, the JMC Yusheng S330, into the new… Ford Territory.

Ford Territory interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

This is a very questionable decision given the Yusheng S330 itself is far from being a blockbuster, with a personal best of just 1.859 sales in June 2017 and having disappeared from the wholesales charts since October 2017. We still find it in the retail rankings where it only managed one four-digit sales month in 2018 after a peak at 1.819 in December 2017. But Ford will welcome any additional volume it can get, and at 1.516 it is already doing better than the S330 has in the past 12 months. It is priced between 109.800 and 167.800 yuan (14.400-22.000€ or US$16.300-25.000) which puts it 24% above the Yusheng S330 (88.800-140.800), safely below the Ford Escape (169.800-249.800) and competing against the Honda XR-V (127.800-162.800) and Nissan Qashqai (139.800-189.800) but also the much larger Hyundai ix35 (119.900-161.900) and Kia Sportage (119.900-189.800). We want 5.000 sales a month to call the Territory a success.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

5. Changan CS85 (#281 – 865 sales)

There’s a new cool kid in town inside most Chinese brands: coupe SUVs once pioneered to the jeers of car fanatics by the BMW X6 then X4, to such great success that Mercedes followed with the GLC and GLE Coupe and Audi most recently with the Q8. Venucia was the first Chinese manufacturer to follow suit with the T90 (109.800-154.800 yuan), then the Borgward BX6 (182.800-199.800) arrived, then the Dongfeng Glory ix5 (99.800-149.800). More details (in Chinese) on the local coupe crossover tsunami here.

Changan CS85 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

It is now the turn of Changan to join the race with the CS85 priced at 149.900 to 171.900 yuan (19.700-22.500€ or US$22.300-25.600), a significant premium over the CS75 (79.800-184.800). In the next few months we will see the coupe SUV trend spread further with the Bisu T7, Haval F7x, WEY VV7x and Geely codename “FY11”. Changan sales drop significantly above the CS75 (previous best 26.581) with the CS95 only managing a peak of 4.401 within 3 months of its launch back in January 2017, so perspectives for the CS85 are wide open, and the brand may choose to use it as a halo rather than a sales blockbuster.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

6. Baojun RS-5 (#288 – 821 sales)

Continuing on a breakneck speed of launches, Baojun offers us now the RS-5 which is its third new nameplate in the past 12 months after the 530 SUV (February 2018) and 360 MPV (May 2018). However this is one to set apart from the rest of the Baojun lineup as the manufacturer has announced it is attempting to push the brand to a more premium universe. As such, the RS-5 inaugurates a new alternate logo for Baojun that will be featured on more upmarket offerings, while the current logo will be maintained on the existing lineup. The RS-5 is therefore the first Baojun model to deserve the new logo. Even though it already appears in the wholesales ranking with 821 sales – mostly demonstrators – the RS-5 isn’t officially in market yet and thus doesn’t yet have a listed price, but we anticipate a very competitive starting price under 90.000 yuan (11.800€ or US$13.400).

New Baojun logo and RS-5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

This would still place it safely above the 530 (75.800-115.800) and would enable it to undercut competitors such as the Roewe RX5 (99.800-188.800), Haval H6 (102.000-146.800) and Haval F7 (109.000-149.900), but its sight could (should) also be set on foreigners such as the Nissan Qashqai (139.800-189.800) or even Toyota RAV4 (179.800-269.800). Peak volumes reached by the Baojun 360 (18.943) and 530 (17.003) have been achieved at the price of very heavy cannibalisation of the 730 and 510 respectively, while the latter in turn killed the 560. It is therefore important for Baojun to place the RS-5 in a silo and aim it at non-Baojun owners to secure it a safe space within the range. We therefore don’t expect sky high volumes just yet for this first attempt by the brand at a more upmarket vehicle.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

7. COS Cosmos (#309 – 603 sales)

6 months after the 1° SUV unveiled last April at the Beijing Auto Show and launched last June, Chana Oshan’s new brand COS doubles its lineup with this large MPV called Cosmos, or rather COSmos as the inscription on the steering wheel suggests. Under a rather bland exterior design, the 1° impressed me with its interior quality and the Cosmos is playing exactly the same game: conservative exterior and plush interiors aimed at a penny-pinching rural clientele.

COS Cosmos interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The Cosmos is priced between 96.800 and 129.800 yuan (12.700-17.000 or US$14.400-19.300) which makes it the exact MPV equivalent of the 1° (93.800-145.800). The Cosmos however enters a much less crowded segment – but dwindling down sales-wise, competing with the BYD Song MAX (79.900-129.900), Maxus G50 (91.800-123.800), GAC Trumpchi GM6 (109.800-159.800) and Buick GL6 (141.900-168.900). It’s a difficult proposition that Huasong has failed to fructify a few years back, and the reserved welcome given to the 1° (peak of 2.025 sales this month) compared to Jetour (13.646 sales last month), doesn’t bode well for the Cosmos.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

8. Sitech DEV 1 (#313 – 576 sales)

Sitech (in Mandarin 新特 Xinte), is a new EV brand launched in January 2018 by FAW, whose Changchun factory it uses. The DEV 1 is its first offering, it was unveiled at the Beijing Auto Show last April and is reminiscent of another recent EV launch, the Dearcc EV10. While its interior featured a 10-inch touch screen at the Auto Show, it seems to have disappeared from the final version, but we hope that the face-recognition system to enter and start has remained – even techy brands such as Tesla don’t offer this option.

Sitech DEV 1 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The DEV 1 is priced from 139.900 to 164.900 yuan but 61.900-77.900 after government subsidies (8.100-10.200€ or US$20.800-24.500). It competes with the likes of the Neta N01 (59.800-69.800), the aforementioned Ora R1 (114.800-137.800), JAC iEV6E (118.500-158.800) and Yudo π1 (137.800-179.800). New brands volumes are always hard to predict, but we’ll want the DEV 1 to reach at least 2.500 units to warrant for a 2nd model in the lineup.Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

9. Chana Oshan Nio II (#403 – 99 sales)Chana Oshan has decided not to use its new brand COS to launch its first micro EV, the Niou II, but rather the Chana brand and logo. This launch will enable Changan to be eligible for more EV credits as it vies to compete for the favours or car-sharing schemes that remain the main customers for such tiny EV cars.

Chana Oshan Niou II interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Chana has spent quite a lot of time designing both the exterior, surprisingly classy for its shape, and the interior, adequately flashy and retro. The Niou II is priced from 88.800 to 100.800 yuan, a range that drops to a tiny 44.800 to 56.800 yuan after government subsidies (5.900-7.450€ or US$6.700-8.450). It competes with the Zotye E200 (69.900), Baojun E100 (93.900-109.900), E200 (108.000-118.000) and Chery eQ1 (134.100-144.100). Changan won’t be targeting volumes with the Niou II, as its first appearance confirms with less than 100 sales off the starting blocks. We want at least 2.000.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

10. Yema T60 (#442 – 24 sales)

Yema bought the tooling to manufacture the old Austin Montego and Maestro in 2002 and based all its models on this platform for the following decade or so, only now starting to launch specific models. The T60 is its smallest SUV to-date, and still has no listed price as it isn’t officially in market yet.

Yema T60 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

We anticipate it will compete with the likes of the Chery Tiggo 3x (49.900-62.900), Baojun 510 (54.800-77.800 yuan) and Geely Binyue (78.800-118.800). The brand’s two other SUVs, the T70 (1.225) and T80 (986) have peaked around the 1.000 unit mark over the past 12 months so we won’t be expecting too much more from the T60.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

Previous month: China December 2018: Focus on the all-new models

One year ago: China January 2018: Focus on the all-new models

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