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

Usually in freefall, Beijing Auto (+39.1%) signs the largest year-on-year gain in the Top 30 in March.

Although China wholesales endure a 9th consecutive month of year-on-year decline in March – a stint unseen since 1990, the signs of recovery shown by our exclusive coverage of China retail sales up 1% over the first two months of 2019 are now progressively trickling up to wholesales data. Indeed at -5.2% year-on-year to 2.52 million units in March, this is the first single-digit drop and smallest decline since August 2018 (-4.6%), indicating the market could already be bottoming out. This means we have before our eyes the first clear sign of potential recovery for China wholesales in over six months. Once more the market drop is softened by sturdy commercial vehicle sales up 2.4% to 500.600 units just as passenger cars drop -6.9% to 2.019.400. Looking at passenger cars in detail, hatches + sedans are down -7.5% to 949.300, SUVs down -5.8% to 867.800, MPVs down -14.1% to 151.600 and minivans up a surprising 14.1% to 50.700. Year-to-date figures will be covered in a separate update.

New Energy sales continue to soar at +85.4% this month to 126.000 including 96.000 EVs (+83.4%), 30.000 PHEVs (+91.5%) and 86 FCVs, up 42-fold. Looking at passenger car sales by brand of origin, the Chinese continue to suffer at -16.4% to 833.300 and 41.3% vs. 45.9% in March 2018. Below German brands almost immobile at +0.2% to 432.500 and 21.4% share vs. 19.9% a year ago, it’s the Japanese that shine a bright light at +14.9% to 412.000 and 20.4% share vs. 16.5% in March 2018. Americans dive down -21.3% to 178.900 and 8.9% share vs. 10.5% but it’s the French that are once again hit the hardest at -58.5% year-on-year to just 17.300 units and 0.9% share vs. 1.9%. Finally, Korean brands surge 31.8% to 128.500 units and 6.4% share vs. 4.5% a year ago, however this figure isn’t validated in our data where it only amounts to 92.500.

The VW T-Roc scores its first five-digit wholesales month in China.

Brand-wise, Volkswagen (-4.3%) once again manages to contain its fall thanks to its fast expanding new SUV lineup composed of the T-Roc (first five-digit month at 10.009), Tharu (9.542), Tayron (9.141) and now T-Cross (2.940) as well as strong scores by the Jetta (+48.8%) and Lavida (+16.3%) however the C-Trek (-76.4%), Touran (-71.1%), Magotan (-42%), Phideon (-40.3%), Tiguan (-34.7%), Golf (-25.8%), Lamando (-24%), Teramont (-21.9%), Sagitar (-21.1%) and Polo (-19.9%) are all in difficulty. In 2nd place, nothing seems to be able to stop the fantastic procession of Honda (+38.1%) surfing on staggering improvements by the CR-V (+1724.2%), Fit (+147.3%), Accord (+47.4%), XR-V (+28.6%), Crider (+26%) and Civic (+19.2%), most benefitting from a new generation compared to a year ago. At #3 and #5 respectively, Toyota (+9.3%) and Nissan (+8.3%) confirm the Japanese are the team to beat at the moment in China. Toyota benefits from strong showings by the Yaris L (+54.4%), Yaris L Sedan (+31.1%), Levin (+22%) and Prado (+20.1%) while the contribution of the new C-HR/IZOA tandem (7.852) is getting slimmer but the promising Avalon (2.132) lands. As for Nissan, a large part of its performance is due to an outstanding month by its hero nameplates the Sylphy sedan (+19.7%) showing incredible stamina just as the new generation got unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show and the X-Trail (+33%) leaping up to #2 SUV in the country and breaking a new volume record at 23.623. The Tiida (+58.4%), Lannia (+37.8%) and Kicks (+14%) also shine.

At #4, Geely (+2.8%) scores its first year-on-year gain since last September, helped by the new Binyue SUV (12.693), Binrui sedan (8.017) and Jiaji MPV (3.085) as well as solid holds by the Boyue (+2%), Emgrand (+0.5%) and Vision SUV (+0.1%). Further down in the Top 10, Haval (+17.8%) stuns with its largest gain so far this year with the success of the new F7 (14.512), M6 (+135.1%) and H4 (+113.4%) more than compensating for the fall of its perennial best-seller the H6 (-18.8%). After 8 cunsecutuivemonths of double-digit declines, Beijing Auto takes the industry by surprise with a splendid 39% gain in March to over 55.000 wholesales, pushed by the success of the EU-Series EV (12.983), Senova D50 sedan (+130.6%) and Zhixing SUV (2.199). In the remainder of the Top 10, Changan (-21.9%), Buick (-8.8%) and Hyundai (-8.5%) fall markedly faster than the market.

Great Wall’s new EV brand Ora is starting to make waves: over 7.000 wholesales in March.

Beyond the Top 10, BMW (+34.1%) and Mercedes (+28.1%) post sensational gains, BYD (+8.6%) continues to march ahead while towards the tail end of the ranking Xpeng (+4086.7%), Traum (+408.5%), Jinbei (+134.4%), Cowin (+81.9%), Hawtai (+66.8%), Changhe (+38.4%), Maxus (+24.9%) and SWM (+23.2%) make themselves noticed. Jetour (11.929) remains by far the most popular brand launch of the past 12 months in China while Great Wall’s EV brand Ora (7.031) smashes its volume record to overtake Bestune (3.512). Weltmeister (1.706), COS (1.555), Nio (1.356), Dorcen (1.096) and Neta (1.003) follow. In the naughty corner, among foreigners we have Luxgen (-93.8%), Renault (-78%), Suzuki (-74.5%), Mazda (-68%), Borgward (-66.9%), Citroen (-63.5%), Ford (-52.7%), Jeep (-50.6%), Peugeot (-49.2%) and the poor-performing Chinese include Qoros (-95.3%), Lifan (-94.5%), Haima (-92.4%), Bisu (-86.1%), Zhi Dou (-78.4%), FAW (-77.1%), Soueast (-75.7%), Brilliance (-73.8%), Karry (-64.3%), Zotye (-54.7%), Baojun (-50.9%), Dongfeng (-43.8%), Leopaard (-41.5%) and GAC Trumpchi (-37.7%).

The VW Lavida (+16.3%) and Nissan Sylphy (+19.7%) top the March models ranking above the Wuling Hongguang (-22%), Haval H6 (-18.8%) and Toyota Corolla (-12.1%), with the Buick Excelle GT (+20.2%) and Nissan X-Trail (+33%) posting the largest gains in the Top 10. Honda places the Civic, Accord and CR-V in the Top 15 while the Roewe i5 (+2447.9%) celebrate one year in market inside the Top 20. The Haval F7 (#28) is the best-selling new nameplate (<12 months) ahead of the Geely Binyue (#40), Chevrolet Monza (#41) all-new for March which we will cover in a separate update, Jetour X70 (#55), VW T-Roc (#59), Tharu (#63), Tayron (#66), BMW X3 (#68), Chery Tiggo 8 (#69), Geely Binrui (#75), Hyundai La Festa (#88) and Baojun 360 (#91) while the Ford Territory is up 29 spots to #102. The Kia Sportage (+734.2%), BYD Tang (+2455.5%), Yuan (+424.9%) and BMW 3 Series L (+54.2%) also stand out.

Previous month: China Wholesales February 2019: Toyota, Haval, Mercedes, BMW strong in 8th straight market decline (-13.8%)

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

Full March 2019 Top 87 All China-made brands and Top 478 All China-made models below.

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