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China Wholesales First Quarter 2019: Sedans reclaim supremacy in market down -11.3% yet showing signs of recovery

14 of the 17 best-selling nameplates in China in 2019 so far are sedans vs. just 9 a year ago. The Roewe i5 ranks #2 Chinese sedan.

The year started pretty atrociously for wholesales in China but the market could now be on the mend: from January down -15.8% and February down -13.7%, March shows clear signs of improvement at -5.2% which is the slowest decline since August 2018. All-in-all Q1 wholesales are down -11.3% to 6.372.400 units, the drop being softened by sturdy commercial vehicles sales up 2.2% to 1.109.500 while passenger cars skid down -13.7% to 5.262.800. In the passenger car detail, minivans (-6.9% to 98.500) unusually fare the best, with sedans + hatches (-12.1% to 2.515.600) and SUVs (-14.2% to 2.278.900) in tow while MPVs (-22.4% to 369.800) implode. The one island of growth remains New Energy vehicles more than doubling their wholesales year-on-year at +110% to 299.000 including 227.000 EVs (+121%), 72.000 PHEVs (+79.1%) and 273 FCV. Looking at passenger car sales by brand of origin, three nationalities are hit hard over the period: the Chinese down -20.7% to 2.185.500 units and 41.5% share vs. 46.2% over Q1 2018, the Americans down -24.7% to 497.000 and 9.4% share vs. 11.1% and it’s impossible not to see a potential negative impact from the trade war initiated by the Trump administration and finally the French in perdition at -60.3% to 41.100 units and 0.8% share vs. 1.7%.

A slew of 4 all-new SUVs launched in the past 10 months enable VW to contain its loss in 2019.

Brand leader Volkswagen (-10.6%) almost exactly matches the market and still sells over double the volume of any other carmaker present in the country, however its entire lineup bar the Lavida (+21.3%) and Jetta (+1.5%) loses at least -12% year-on-year, with the C-Trek (-76.6%), Touran (-60.7%), Magotan (-45.9%), Phideon (-44.3%), Golf (-43.4%), Tiguan (-34.5%) and Teramont (-29.8%) all hit full frontal. What saves the german carmaker from an abysmal loss so far in 2019 is its late but extremely aggressive SUV assault, with the Tharu (24.671), T-Roc (22.673), Tayron (21.168) and T-Cross (2.930) all hitting the mark. Honda (+11.2%) and Toyota (+14.4%) stun with double-digit gains and both advance one spot on Q1 2018 to dislodge Geely (-8.1%) from the podium. The Fit (+84.4%), CR-V (+64%), Crider (+43.8%), Civic (+33.6%) and Accord (+14.9%) push Honda while the Yaris L Sedan (+53.2%), Levin (+49.5%), Yaris L (+41.6%), Prado (+24.5%), Camry (+21%) and Highlander (+13.3%) propel Toyota while Geely relies on the new Binyue (35.422), Binrui (26.519), Borui GE (4.869) and Jiaji (3.085) to avoid a double-digit fall.

Toyota lodges the largest year-on-year gain in the Top 10 at +14.4% in a passenger car market down 6.9%.

After a difficult 2017 (-9%) and 2018 (-9.8%), Haval (+14.1%) bounces back in 2019 and signs the 2nd largest year-on-year gain of all Top 10 brands thanks to the success of the new F7 (40.234) and F5 (10.616) as well as the coming of age of the M6 (+158.9%) more than compensating for a fatigued H6 (-20.2%). Mercedes (+13.6%) lunges forward 6 spots vs. Q1 2018 to brilliantly break into the Top 10, snapping the premium lead above BMW (+28.2%) in even greater shape whereas Audi (-18%) sinks to #3. The GLC (+18.3%) and E-Class L (+15%) help Mercedes while the new X3 (23.949) and the 3 Series L (+21.7%) nudge BMW up while Audi can only count on a timid new Q2L (5.876). Quite strikingly, the only additional gainers in the Top 30 brands are BYD (+4.5%) and Kia (+0.7%).

Jetour is the runaway success of the past 12 months among new brand launches.

At #32, Jetour (29.086) is an unexpected smash hit, celebrating 50.000 sales in its first 5 months in market and I will dig a lot deeper into this success during a special coverage of the Shanghai Auto Show 2019. Bestune (14.773), Ora (14.096), COS (6.615), Dorcen (4.456), Nio (3.813) and Weltmeister (2.123) are the next best-selling new brand launches (<12 months). Xpeng (+3047.4%), Traum (+241.7%) and SWM (65.9%) also advance fast. At the other end of the scale, Soueast (-78.5%), FAW (-77%), Renault (-72%), Brilliance (-65.1%), Ford (-63.6%), Peugeot (-58.3%), Zotye (-57.1%), Citroen (-56.9%), Lifan (-51.6%), Land Rover (-51%), Mazda (-49.4%), Jeep (-41%), GAC Trumpchi (-40.7%), Dongfeng (-40%) and WEY (-38%) are among the worst-performing brands in China in Q1 2019.

The VW Lavida is the best-selling nameplate in China so far this year.

Over in the models ranking, the VW Lavida (+21.3%) cements its domination ahead of the Nissan Sylphy (+22.3%), confirming the FY2018 Top 2 but it’s interesting to note that one year ago in Q1 2018 these two nameplates only ranked #4 and #6 respectively, a testimony to how fast the trend has fallen back onto ye-olde sedan. Below, the Wuling Hongguang (-31%), Haval H6 (-20.2%) and Toyota Corolla (-15.5%) all take a significant hit while the Buick Excelle GT (+22%), VW Jetta (+1.5%) and Santana (-12.1%) make it 6 sedans in the Top 8 (4 in Q1 2018), a figure that climbs to 14 in the Top 17 vs. only 9 a year ago, thanks to surges by the Roewe i5 (+7697.2%), Toyota Levin (+49.5%), Honda Civic (+33.6%) and Accord (+14.9%) while at the same time blockbuster SUVs such as the GAC Trumpchi GS4 (-71.7%), Baojun 510 (-65.9%), Roewe RX5 (-56.8%) and VW Tiguan (-34.5%) all implode.

The Haval F7 is the most successful new nameplate.

The Haval F7 (#30) is the best-selling new nameplate launch (<12 months) over Q1 2019, distancing the Geely Binyue (#38), Jetour X70 (#55), Geely Binrui (#57), Hyundai La Festa (#61), Baojun 360 (#62), VW Tharu (#63), Chery Tiggo 8 (#64), BMW X3 (#69), VW T-Roc (#73) and VW Tayron (#81), that’s a mammoth 11 in the Top 100, with an additional 86 entering the China-made market over the past 12 months or an average of over 8 new launches every month, a breakneck evolution we cover in our monthly updates titled “Focus on the all-new models”.

Previous post: China Wholesales March 2019: Market decline thaws to -5.2%, lowest rate and first single-digit since last August

One year ago: China Wholesales March 2018: Hyundai and Chevrolet shine in market back up 4.7%

Full Q1 2019 Top 93 All China-made brands and Top 560 All-models vs. full Q1 2018 figures below.

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