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China Retail First Quarter 2019: VW Lavida, Nissan Sylphy in control, Haval and Honda surge ahead in market edging down just -0.6%

The successful launch of the F7 enables Haval to post the largest gain in the Top 13.

There are clear signs of recovery when looking at Retail sales in China over the First Quarter 2019, down just -0.6% to 5.116.711 for our selection of models including some LCVs such as microvans and pickups. This newfound stability hides major monthly discrepancies with a pre-Lunar New Year holiday rush at +27.5% in January, a holiday hangover in February down 34.4% and a contained -5.3% loss in March. In any case, it’s a much better hold than Wholesales down -11.3%, which means dealership stocks are being absorbed into the market.

Quite strikingly, 5 of the Top 6 best-selling brands are in positive and 4 manage a double-digit year-on-year gain which is no mean feat in the current context. Leader Volkswagen (+8.5%) is the only one in the single-digits, pushed up by the formidable arrival of a slew of successful SUVs: the Tharu (25.000 sales), T-Roc (23.000) and Tayron (16.000) as well as solid showings by the Lavida (+27.8%), Jetta (+17.4%), Golf (+13.1%), Bora (+9.6%) and Passat (+3.5%). Honda (+24.7%) is on fire thanks to the simultaneous surge of the CR-V (+124%), Fit (+71.4%), Civic (+52.8%) and Crider (+47.6%) and the arrival of the Inspire. Toyota (+16.7%) also shines very bright, surfing of the landing of the tandem IZOA (14.000) and C-HR (12.000) and success of the Yaris L Sedan (+72%), Yaris L (+61.1%), Highlander (+42.6%), Prado (+37.8%), Levin (+26.9%) and Camry (+23.2%).

On the back of a couple of years of continuous double-digit gains, #1 Chinese carmaker Geely (-4.4%) takes a relatively logical breather and drops two spots on Q1 2018 to #4 with still over 300.000 retail sales, a very impressive feat and the brand hasn’t slowed down on its insane launch rhythm but the arrival of the Binyue (28.000), Binrui (21.000) and Jiaji (1.000) aren’t able to compensate for the painful falls of most of its lineup starting with the Vision (-32%), Boyue (-29.9%), Emgrand GL (-27.5%), Vision SUV (-20.9%) and Emgrand GS (-19.3%). Below, Nissan (+11.7%) impresses thanks to the Sylphy (+44%), Qashqai (+22.7%), Tiida (+8.8%) and X-Trail (+7.2%) but it’s Haval (+25.7%) that quite surprisingly posts the largest gain in the Top 13 thanks to a bullseye launch for the F7 (25.000) and to a lesser extent the F5 (11.000) and H4 (9.000), the M6 (+94.2%) and a solid hold by its best-seller the H6 (-1.9%). The rest of the Top 10 brands is in negative with Baojun (-31.1%) hit the hardest while Buick (-9.2%), Wuling (-6%) and Hyundai (-1.4%) resist better.

Just outside the Top 10, Mercedes (+14%) is able to brilliantly overtake Audi (+3.1%) to take the lead of the premium game with BMW (+54.9%) catching up so fast it actually lodges the largest year-on-year gain in the Top 10 just above BYD (+47.3%) bolstered by a new, aggressively designed EV lineup. Hongqi (+717.5%), Qoros (+343.2%), Borgward (+62.3%), Lynk & Co (+60.7%), Jinbei (+60.1%), JMC (+56.7%), Volvo (+28.1%), Roewe (+24%), Chery (+19.6%) and Kia (+14.7%) also do well in the Top 50. Jetour (#36), Bestune (#43), Weltmeister (#64) and COS (#75) are the most successful new brand launches over the period. It’s a Quarter to forget for Zotye (-73.4%), Haima (-68.4%), Renault (-62.8%), Soueast (-58.9%), Land Rover (-54.7%), Peugeot (-53.4%), Leopaard (-49.7%), WEY (-49.7%), Ford (-44.6%), FAW (-42.4), Citroen (-40.2%) and BAIC (-39.1%).

In the models ranking we witness a complete reshuffle compared to a year ago, illustrating the move away from SUVs in particular. If over Q1 2018 the Baojun 510 (-45.8%) was a very impressive leader, it has fallen down to #11 this year. Instead, we have two sedans sporting stunning double-digit gains in the lead: the VW Lavida (+27.8%) and Nissan Sylphy (+44%), distancing the Wuling Hongguang (-11.2%) and Haval H6 (-1.9%). There’s only one SUV in the remainder of the top 10 – the VW Tiguan (-14.5%) staying at #9, all the rest are sedans: the VW Jetta (+17.6%) and Bora (+9.6%) posting the only gains however. The Roewe i5 (#33) is the most popular new launch (<12 months) and the only one in the Top 50, comfortably ahead of the Baojun 360 (#54), Geely Binyue (#57), Haval F7 (#65), VW Tharu (#66) and BMW X3 (#68).

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

Previous Retail post: China Retail March 2019: Honda (+30.5%), BMW (+80%), BYD (+59.7%) fly off in market down a subdued -5.3%

One year ago: China Retail March 2018: Toyota Corolla surprise leader

Q1 2019 Top 105 All-brands and Top 735 All-models below.

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