8.635 Baojun RM-5 were delivered to Chinese dealerships in September.
After detailing Chinese September wholesales, as is the tradition we now explore the all-new locally-produced launches for the month, so you can keep up-to-date on the fastest-evolving automotive market in the world. Note: these updates are based on wholesales figures, and sometimes new nameplates appear first in the retail data wrap-up as it was the case in August, that’s the intricacies of the sometimes unreliable Chinese market where manufacturers often report sales late. After plunging to a rare one newcomer in August, the recent Chengdu Auto Show gives a spectacular boost to the number of all-new models entering the Chinese market in September: up to 11. Make sure you also consult our Exclusive Guide to all 189 Chinese Brands to thoroughly understand the dynamics at play in China.
1. Baojun RM-5 (#66 – 8.635 sales)
In January 2019, Baojun launched a new, more premium diamond logo and brand identity to coincide with the unveiling of the RS-5 SUV. As such, the Baojun stand at the Beijing Auto Show last April was boldly focused on this attempt at lifting the brand more upmarket. The RM-5 is a very important milestone as it is the brand’s first MPV that is part of this new, more premium universe, a segment where Baojun has historically excelled with the 730 and 360. And the strikingly-designed vehicles starts with fireworks with over 8.500 wholesales for its first appearance in the charts, that’s the 4th best start of the past 3 years below the Chevrolet Monza last March (12.402), the Chery Tiggo 5X in December 2017 (10.693) and the Geely Binyue last November (10.139). The RM-5 also scores the third best start of any Baojun nameplate, below the 730 in August 2014 (12.006) and the 560 in July 2015 (9.130). That’s prestigious company as both the 730 and 560 went on to become the most successful launches in Chinese history…
Baojun RM-5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The RM-5 is priced between 86.800 and 120.800 yuan (11.000-15.300€ or US$12.300-17.100), significantly above both the 360 (56.800-80.800) and 730 (60.800-108.800), illustrating the stepup the brand is currently attempting but also matching a giant leap forward in terms of interior presentation. This move had so far failed to reap significant sales with the RS-5 SUV which only managed a best of 5.102 units, but the RM-5’s initial score seems to indicate otherwise and already places the nameplate as the third best-selling MPV in the country. It competes with the likes of the BYD Song MAX (79.900-129.900), COS Cosmos (79.900-160.800), Hanteng V7 (79.900-135.900) and Maxus G50 (86.800-156.800). In our view, the RM-5 is already above its bar for success, the trick will be to maintain this level over the long term.
Bar for success: 7.500 monthly sales
2. Jetta VS5 (#71 – 8.140 sales)
One of the most anticipated nameplates of 2019, the Jetta VS5 has now officially landed in China. Volkswagen is banking on its superhero status in China – it has been market leader for three decades – to now cater for the large swaths of the market that cannot afford a VW and instead currently opts for a Chinese brand. In essence, most Chinese car buyers would buy a VW rather than a Chinese brand if they could afford to, and Jetta is giving them that chance. Jetta models are produced in Chengdu in partnership with First Auto Works (FAW) and sold through separate, dedicated Jetta dealerships of which over 200 are planned to open by the end of the year. You can check out our Strategy piece about Jetta here. The VS5 SUV is based on the Seat Ateca and we reckon is the brand’s biggest volume potential given the lack of low-priced SUVs in its current lineup. Adequately, it is launching its career with a very impressive 8.140 wholesales.
Jetta VS5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
At the time of our Strategy piece, one big question mark was about the pricing for Jetta models which posed a dilemma for VW: price them too low and they might be too competitive with VW models and cannibalise them, price them too high and they compete with Skoda nameplates. The curtain is off, and VW has opted for cut-throat pricing for Jetta: the VS5 goes from 84.800 to 112.800 yuan (10.750-14.300€ or US$12.000-16.000), well below Skoda’s cheapest SUV, the Kamiq (105.900-126.900 yuan) and VW’s cheapest, the tiny T-Cross (127.900-159.900). With this pricing, VW has clearly put the Jetta brand in a completely different universe, to the risk of making it overly attractive and vacuum VW buyers away. Indeed, to understand how much VW is “pulling its pants down” with Jetta, the VS5 costs roughly half of its two Seat Ateca-based siblings: the Skoda Karoq (139.900-177.400) and VW Tiguan (194.800-350.800). As such, the VS5 competes with the likes of the Baojun 530 (75.800-115.800 yuan), Haval H4 (79.000-113.000), Changan CS55 (82.900-133.900), BYD Song Pro (89.800-119.800), Geely Emgrand GS (77.800-116.800) and Geely Binyue (79.800-129.800). We’d want it to reach 15.000 monthly sales regularly to call it a success.
Bar for success: 15.000 monthly sales
3. Baojun RC-6 (#112 – 5.337 sales)
The newly revamped and more premium Baojun is launching a two-pronged attack on the Chinese market this month with the RM-5 MPV joined by the RC-6 sedan, also boasting a surprisingly striking design. Sedans have never been Baojun’s forte, with the 630, its very first nameplate, quickly fading into the background after reaching 10.220 sales in December 2013 and not crossing the 4.000 monthly unit mark since May 2014 (6.908). At 5.337 wholesales, the initial score of the RC-6 therefore already makes it Baojun’s most successful sedan in over 5 years and, if, maintained in the long term, could finally establish the brand in the favoured sedan segment in China. It’s fair to say Baojun is playing all its cards well, with a very modern interior featuring a large digital tile a-la-Mercedes A-Class, definitely something we weren’t expecting for such a low-priced vehicle.
Baojun RC-6 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Indeed the RC-6 is priced from 84.800 to 123.800 yuan (10.750-15.700€ or US$12.000-17.500), here too worlds apart from the 630 pricing (59.800-74.800), a testimony to Baojun’s upmarket aspirations. This puts it in the same sandpit as such blockbusters as the Roewe i5 (68.900-115.900), Geely Emgrand GL (78.800-121.800), BYD Qin Pro (79.800-115.900) and Changan Raeton CC (84.900-135.900). Is this where Baojun fits now? We’d want the RC-5 to remain at this level long-term to call it a success, but somehow I can’t shake the feeling that this initial volume is artificially boosted by demo vehicles and won’t stand the test of time… If it does though, Baojun would become a true generalist in China, with success in all segments (sedan, 310 hatch, 310SW station wagon, 730 and 360 MPV and 560, 510 and 530 SUV).
Bar for success: 5.000 monthly sales
4. Dongfeng Fengshen Hyun (#166 – 3.271 sales)
Dongfeng (-25.6%) is struggling so far this year, losing a lot more ground than the market (-10.3%) despite the arrival of a few new fares such as the Fengxing T5 SUV, and therefore is in desperate need of a lot more new metal. The Hyun does make an exterior design statement, with Peugeot-inspired front bumper lighting rods, but the interior is a slightly different story, already looking somewhat aged compared to what Baojun is now displaying for example. At the same time, it’s in line with Dongfeng’s recent releases such as the Fengon ix5 and new gen Aeolus AX7 we test drove earlier this year.
Dongfeng Fengshen Hyun interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The Hyun’s saving grace is probably its cut-throat pricing: from 69.900 to 100.900 yuan (8.900-12.800€ or US$9.900-14.300), putting it in the same competitive mix as the Roewe i5 (68.900-115.900), Changan Eado (69.900-103.900), Chery Arrizo GX (75.900-113.900) and Geely Binrui (75.800-110.800). These are proper blockbusters and big shoes to fill, especially given Dongfeng sedans have never been successful, with only one lonely month above 5.000 units across its entire lineup by the Fengshen A60 in January 2016. In this context, the Hyun’s inaugural month is already spectacular but could also be artificially inflated by initial dealership orders. As is already the case with the Baojun RM-5 and RC-6 this month, remaining at this level would be mission accomplished for the Hyun.
Bar for success: 3.000 monthly sales
5. Jetta VA3 (#174 – 2.940 sales)
Alongside the VS5 SUV, Jetta has launched as planned its new VW Jetta-based sedan, the VA3. In our Jetta Strategy piece last May, we pointed out that launching a sedan is a lot riskier for Jetta than a SUV lineup given Volkswagen’s reliance on this segment with almost 1.4 million sales in 2018. Also, the cheaper it is priced the more prone to cannibalisation of the VW range this new Jetta is, which could destabilise the brand. Back in May, we predicted the VA3 to start around 60.000 to 65.000 yuan, and Jetta seemed to have listed to us, with official pricing going from 65.800 to 92.800 yuan (8.300-11.800€ or US$9.300-13.100). This makes the VA3 the Volkswagen Group’s cheapest sedan in China, a title previously held by the Skoda Rapid (71.900-106.400 yuan). However a few things have changed since the official Jetta brand launch at the Beijing Auto Show last April…
Jetta VA3 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Firstly, as opposed to Volkswagen’s original declarations, it doesn’t look like the VW Jetta will survive the Jetta VA3, with wholesales coming to a complete stop over the past few months: from 15.384 in April (-23.6%) to 2.321 in July (-91.6%) to a mere 162 in September (-99.4%). Given the FAW-VW Jetta is/was the cheapest VW-branded sedan available (81.100-108.800 yuan), deleting it would make room for the VA3 to fully flourish but also takes a very significant bite off VW sales (the Jetta sold 327.685 units in 2018). A tough decision VW seems to have made without advertising it at all…
Secondly, the the interior of the car looks a lot worse than the model presented at the Beijing Auto Show with no touch screen and shiny low-quality plastics that haven’t been seen even in a Chinese car since the Lifans of five years ago. How Volkswagen thinks it’s ok to keep releasing cars with such poor interiors is linked to their outrageous sales domination, as we have seen when test driving the VW Lavida earlier this year. So as sad as it is, this miserable interior shouldn’t be a deal breaker for potential buyers who will only be too happy to swap their Chinese sedan for a bargain-priced VW. The VA3’s main competitors are local blockbusters such as the Chery Arrizo 5/GX (59.900-113.900), Roewe i5 (68.900-115.900), Geely Emgrand (69.800-98.800 yuan) and Changan Eado (69.900-103.900) as well as smaller foreign models such as the Chevrolet Sail (63.900-79.900) or Toyota Vios (68.800-111.800).
As for its bar for success, if the deletion of the VW Jetta is confirmed that means the VA3 will need to sell on average 27.000 monthly units to just compensate for lost VW Jetta sales, which currently seems like an unsurmountable task.
Bar for success: 20.000 monthly sales
6. Chevrolet Trailblazer (#203 – 2.087 sales)
Part of Chevrolet’s much needed renaissance in China alongside the recent Onix and Monza sedans and the Tracker SUV, the Trailblazer – which will also shortly launch at home in the US – seems like the model with the most potential given it’s entering the incredibly successful mid-size SUV segment. Although satisfying, the interior does seem a tad dated already yet features a decent-sized touch screen.
Chevrolet Trailblazer interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The Trailblazer is priced from 139.900 to 179.900 yuan (17.700-22.800€ or US$19.800-25.500) and slots a clear notch below the Equinox (174.900-245.900). It competes with the likes of the Ford Territory (109.800-168.800), VW T-Roc (135.800-203.800), Nissan Qashqai (154.900-185.900) and the yet-to-be-released Buick Encore GX (155.900-185.900). Looking at the aforementioned average volumes and high scores – 19.099 for the Qashqai, 15.043 for the T-Roc and 6.170 for the Territory, but keeping in mind the other Chevrolet SUVs have punched a notch below – 7.697 for the Equinox and 6.937 for the Trax, we’d want the Trailblazer to eclipse 6.000 wholesales to deem it a success.
Bar for success: 6.000 monthly sales
7. BYD e2 (#204 – 2.078 sales)
BYD is on a new launch frenzy: only two months after the Song Pro SUV, here is the e2 small electric SUV that adds to the “e” range alongside the e1 launched last April and the long-running e5. Already mastering high quality, premium electric SUVs such as the Tang EV we test drove earlier this year, with the e1 and now e2 BYD is trying its luck at small EV hatches. The proposition and target market is a lot different, as shown by the rather bare interiors.
BYD e2 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The e2 is priced from 89.800 to 119.800 yuan (11.400-15.200€ or US$12.700-16.900) which is quite attractive for an EV and enables it to compete with the likes of the Chery Arrizo 5e (109.800-129.800), JMEV E160 (95.800-98.800), Lite (110.800-126.800) and Zotye Z500 (113.900-125.900). Given the lack of success of the e1 so far (best of 1.762), the task will be arduous for the e2 on which BYD can’t rely as a volume-model. It is also somewhat at odds with the brand image BYD has been building over the past two years with its new design direction and truly performing electric SUV…
Bar for success: 3.500 monthly sales.
8. Soueast DX5 (#301 – 629 sales)
Soueast is in total perdition in 2019 with sales imploding -67.1% so far. The need of new metal is most pressing and the DX5 can’t come quick enough, slotting between the successful DX3 and DX7. But launching a new model alone is not a guarantee for the brand’s return to good fortune as the DX5 is battling in one of the most crowded segments on the Chinese market.
Soueast DX5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The DX5 is priced from 69.900 to 99.900 yuan (8.900-12.700€ or US$9.900-14.100), and will try and steal sales away from the likes of the Roewe RX3 (69.800-110.800 yuan), Changan CS35 Plus (69.900-109.900), Geely Vision SUV (69.900-105.900) and MG ZS (78.800-112.800). Launched in December 2016, the DX3 spent its first 16 months entirely above 5.000 monthly units, hitting a record 13.589 in January 2018, but hasn’t reached that milestone since March 2018 and is down to 1.352 this month. As for the DX7 it launched in August 2015, had its first 18 months above 4.000 monthly units, hitting 9.531 in October 2016, but has been below 3.000 sales since February 2018, falling to a mere 304 this month. In this context, it’s hard to predict anything over 3.500 units for the DX5.
Bar for success: 3.500 monthly sales.
9. SWM G05 (#316 – 500 sales)
Under this new nameplate in fact hides a vigorous facelift of the SWM X7 with new front bumpers and an interior featuring a Tesla-inspire rectangular touch screen. These are nice touches but can’t prevent SWM to freefall -24.5% in September in a market down a mere -5.2%. Indeed apart from the strikingly-designed G01 (2.900 sales in September), no SWM nameplate has managed to raise the needle in the past couple of years, and this shy facelift isn’t likely to cut it.
SWM G05 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The G05 is priced from 69.900 to 103.900 yuan (8.900-13.200€ or US$9.900-14.700), putting it in the same sandpit as large yet cheap SUVs such as the incredibly successful Jetour X70 (69.900-122.900), the Dongfeng Fengguang SX6 (59.900-94.900), Baojun 530 (75.800-115.800) and Bisu T5 (72.900-104.900). The SWM X7 personal best of 7.168, symbolic of SWM’s much better times in 2016-2017 seems totally out of reach, as is the G01’s high mark of 4.786. SWM has let the Chinese SUV market distance it and it will be very hard to reverse gears.
Bar for success: 2.500 monthly sales.
10. BMW X2 (#356 – 286 sales)
BMW is selling the X2 in China as an import since November 2018, having racked up 18.617 sales since with the model hovering around the 10th imported spot since the start of 2019. It is now time to gear up to local production, with the promise of (slightly) cheaper prices and vastly improved sales figures. How much so is the million dollar question here.
BMW X2 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The China-made X2 is priced from 266.800 to 329.800 yuan (33.800-41.800€ or US$37.700-46.700), a tiny 5% cut on the imported model priced from 281.800 to 369.800 yuan – that’s much less than the tariff difference – which seems to indicate BMW is confident enough to over-price its local model. The X2 also starts only 3.6% below the larger X1 (276.800-369.800) and competes with the Audi Q3 (271.800-359.800), Mercedes GLA (264.800-385.800) and Cadillac XT4 (259.700-391.700). Given how closely-priced it is from the imported variant that hit a record of 2.387 sales in January, the high marks of the Q3 (10.580) and GLA (8.002) seem totally out of reach, and the locally-made X2 shouldn’t aim at more than half these scores.
Bar for success: 5.000 monthly sales.
11. COS X7 (#388 – 130 sales)
After launching the 1° in June 2018, COS which is a new brand by Chana Oshan, has followed up with a flurry of rather unsuccessful fares: the Cosmos MPV and Kosai 3 and 5 SUV. Paradoxically, it is now that the most enticing nameplate enters stage, the X7, but the poor performance of the previous launches doesn’t bode well for its own career.
COS X7 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The X7 is priced from 79.900 to 119.900 yuan (10.100-15.200€ or US$11.300-17.000), logically slotting between the Kosai 5 (69.900-82.900) and the 1° (86.800-154.800) and competing with the Jetour X70 (69.900-122.900), Baojun 530 (75.800-115.800) and Bisu T5 (72.900-104.900). Although a miracle remains possible, the lukewarm welcome reserved to COS’s existing nameplates mean we’re not expecting the X7 to set the Chinese sales charts on fire, and we believe its bar for success – equivalent to the 1°’s best months – has little chance of being achieved.
Bar for success: 2.500 monthly sales.