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China May 2019: Focus on the All-new models

The GAC NE Aion S has landed in China.

After analysing May wholesales in detail, we now focus on the all-new locally-produced launches for the month, so you can stay up-to-date on the fastest-evolving automotive market in the world. Note this update is based on wholesales figures, and sometimes new nameplates appear first in the retail data, that’s the intricacies of the sometimes mysterious Chinese market where manufacturers sometimes report sales late. Like in April, we have 5 new launches in May, 4 SUVs and 1 sedan – going against the most recent market trend. Make sure you also consult our Exclusive Guide to all 187 Chinese Brands.

1. Volvo XC40 (#218 – 1.476 sales)

After a discreet 7-month stint as an import model (856 sales over that period), Volvo has now launched local production of the XC40. Check out our test drive of the XC40 in Sweden and Norway here. As a result, its price  drops from 315.900-403.900 yuan (40.600-51.900€ or US$45.600-58.300) to 264.800-385.800 yuan (34.000-49.500€ or US$38.200-55.700). This enables the XC40 to avoid overlapping with the XC60 (362.900-469.900) and compete fully with the likes of the BMW X1 (276.800-369.800), Audi Q3 (271.800-359.800), Mercedes GLA (264.800-385.800) and Cadillac XT4 (259.700-391.700).

Volvo XC40 interior. Picture

The XC40 belongs to a luxury SUV segment that has traditionally been too small to be the most popular, with the BMW X1 (record of 9.984), Audi Q3 (10.580) and Mercedes GLA (8.002) performing a notch lower than the X3, Q6 and GLC respectively. Accordingly, it would be unfair to expect the XC40 to overtake the XC60 (6.296) as the Chinese-Swedish company’s best-selling SUV. However most XC40 sales will be conquest sales as the new compact SUV int replacing any existing model in Volvo’s range, so the brand, already the best performer in the Top 30 this month (+28.5%) should continue to gallop ahead in the coming months as the XC40 gears up, this despite the prolonged depression the Chinese market is enduring at the moment.

Bar for success: 4.500 monthly sales

2. Geely Star (#241 – 1.109 sales)

Even though its sales progression of the last few months (-29.9% in May) don’t show it, #1 Chinese carmaker Geely is future-proofing its success by keeping the fastest models launch rhythm in the entire industry. The sexy coupe SUV Star is indeed the brand’s 5th launch in the past 12 months alongside the Binrui, Binyue, Borui GE and Jiaji (all of which bar the GE having hit the mark), 8th when including the Lynk & Co 02 and 03 and the Geometry A. In essence Geely is releasing in 1 year as many new models as the main mass market brands such as VW, Toyota or Honda would release in 2 or 3 years. An extremely impressive feat.

Geely Star interior. Picture

The Star is hitting the market with a two-pronged attack: the combustion model with 884 sales and the New Energy one with 225, totalling 1.109. Its coupe SUV shape is the “in” look for the 2018-2019 season among Chinese carmakers, with a multitude of launches having happened in the past 10 months. Priced at 135.800-195.800 yuan (17.400-25.100€ or US$19.600-28.300), the Star is actually quite pricy, and competes with the entire width of Chinese coupe SUV currently available: from the Dongfeng Glory ix5 (99.800-149.800), Haval F7x (119.900-154.900) and Changan CS85 Coupe (119.900-169.900) to the more upmarket Lynk & Co 02 (119.800-190.800), WEY VV5 (125.800-173.000) and VV7 (169.800-188.800). Recent successful SUV launches by Geely have all easily passed the 10.000 monthly sales mark, but they were markedly cheaper (Binyue 79.800-129.800, Emgrand GS 77.800-116.800 and Boyue 99.800-159.800), so expectations should be lowered.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly sales

3. GAC NE Aion S (#287 – 668 sales)

Just fresh from its presentation at the Shanghai Auto Show where I might have misread it for a concept as its design was a lot more daring than GAC’s most recent launches, the Aion S hits the Chinese market and is chasing the Geometry A launched last month by Geely. Priced at 139.800-205.800 yuan (17.950-26.400 or US$20.200-29.700), the Aion S is both sharply designed and sharply priced, a rare combination. It even vastly undercuts the brand’s GE3 small SUV (212.800-246.500) as well as its main competitor the Geometry A (210.000-250.000).

GAC NE Aion S interior. Picture

In fact, it should be able to also steal sales from the Roewe Ei5 (128.800-158.800), BYD Qin Pro (136.900-299.900) and BAIC BJEV EU5 (129.900-161.900). Alongside its crossover equivalent the Aion LX scheduled to launch before the end of the year, GAC NE (for New Energy) has slammed its fist on the New Energy table, introducing two very appealing offers in the segment that have the potential to transform GAC into a big EV player in China. Sales should logically follow, and if the GE3 has peaked at a weak 1.749 units, the Aion S would be deemed a success from 2.500 units onwards but could potentially reach much higher levels.

Bar for success: 2.500 monthly sales

4. Hongqi HS5 (#303 – 546 sales)

Hongqi, owned by FAW, is China’s only true luxury brand. After vegetating for decades with insignificant volumes as the Communist Part’s official car, it has been lifted to never-seen before volume heights in 2018 (26.665 wholesales) thanks to the launch of the relatively mass H5 sedan based on the Mazda6. It’s now time for SUVs, and the charge is coming fast and furious: after the E-HS3 (record 1.804 this month), here is the HS5, with the HS7 due soon. Fittingly, Hongqi broke its all-time monthly volume record in May at 6.463, that’s significantly more than the “mothership” FAW (4.260).

Hongqi HS5 interior. Picture

The HS5 is priced from 183.800 to 249.800 yuan (23.600-32.100€ or US$26.500-36.050) which is very expensive for a Chinese SUV of this size but in line with the brand’s prestige. For comparison the Hongqi H5 sedan costs from 146.800 to 190.800 yuan. The HS5’s price will see it compete with mostly foreign SUVs such as the Mitsubishi Outlander (159.800-225.800), Honda CR-V (169.800-276.800), Toyota RAV4 (176.800-264.800), VW Tayron (185.900-313.900) and Nissan X-Trail (188.800-271.300), a very tough ask even in China. The HS5 will need to be vastly superior to these models to woo the Chinese clientele, which doesn’t seem to be the case unfortunately, so it will rely on the brand image to attract buyers, something the H5 has managed to do somewhat.

Bar for success: 2.000 monthly sales

5. Jinbei Viewpoint (#349 – 273 sales)

The Viewpoint is the first launch by the “new” Jinbei, now under Renault-Brilliance control. It marks a rare entry into the SUV world for the brand which has earned its success by producing under licence various generations of Toyota Hiace vans. Just as Renault is freefalling in the Chinese sales charts (-80% in May) with no launch in the past 3 years, the French manufacturer at least kept its wits about the Viewpoint, launching it as a low-cost 7-seater, the only positioning where Jinbei has chances of success.

Jinbei Viewpoint interior. Picture

Looking very similar to a modern, extended Dongfeng (Renault’s joint-venture partner in China) or Ssangyong, the Viewpoint is priced at cutthroat levels: from 75.900 to 102.900 yuan (9.700-13.200€ or US$10.900-14.850), making it one of the cheapest 7-seat SUVs on the Chinese market. It competes with the likes of the Chana CX70 (76.900), Dongfeng Fengxing T5L (79.900-149.900), Jetour X90 (79.900-141.900), Chery Tiggo 8 (88.800-155.900) or COS 1° (93.800-145.800). In terms of sales predictions, apart from the Granse MPV (7.000 wholesales os far in 2019), no other Jinbei passenger car is really standing out, so 1.500 units per month should be a good, modest target for the Viewpoint.

Bar for success: 1.500 monthly sales

Previous month: China April 2019: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago: China May 2018: Focus on the All-new models

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