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China October 2019: Focus on the All-new models

The RC-3 is the third new Baojun to hit the Chinese market in two months.

After detailing Chinese October wholesales, we now explore the all-new locally-produced launches for the month as is our tradition, so you can keep up-to-date on the fastest-evolving automotive market in the world. After plunging to a rare one newcomer in August, the recent Chengdu Auto Show has given a spectacular boost to the number of all-new models entering the Chinese market: 11 in September and 9 this month. Going against the bursting of the EV bubble we have witnessed over the past quarter, 7 of these 9 new launches are EVs… Make sure you also consult our Exclusive Guide to all 189 Chinese Brands to thoroughly understand the dynamics at play in China.

1. Baojun RS-3 (#135 – 4.344 sales)

Like last month with the RM-5 with 8.635 sales, a Baojun model is the most popular new launch this month in China. This is part of a new, more premium brand identity that kick-started with the unveiling of the RS-5 SUV last January. The RS-3 could even have the greatest potential, seemingly replacing the 510 crossover yet being priced above it. Interestingly, the RS-3 already outsells the larger RS-5 by over two to one. The RS-3 is priced from 71.800 to 89.800 yuan (9.200-11.500€ or US$10.200-12.800), which places it clearly below the RS-5 (97.800-135.800) but the interior also show a potentially damaging big step down in terms of refinement.

Baojun RS-3 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Baojun is trying to go distinctly more premium with the RS-5, RM-5 and RC-6 but seems to have backtracked somewhat with this RS-3. It will enter a devilishly competitive segment already including the likes of the Changan CS35 Plus (69.900-109.900), Geely Vision SUV (68.900-105.900), MG ZS (78.800-112.800) and Chery Tiggo 5x (59.900-89.900). The Baojun 510 currently operates at around half of its year-ago volumes (12.808 in October) and the RS-3 will want to beat that to get a chance at uplifting the Baojun brand, a brand that is facing a daunting task in 2020: discontinuing its “traditional” range (510, 360, 530, 730) to give full rein to its new upmarket lineup?

Bar for success: 15.000 monthly sales

2. SOL E20X (#250 – 1200 sales)

Already in the retail rankings for almost a year, the SOL E20X rather illogically makes its entrance in the wholesales ranking much later on (blame it on the convoluted Chinese ways of reporting sales). SOL (Spanish for sun), in Mandarin 思皓 Siaho, desire to be bright, is an electric car brand dedicated to the Chinese market manufactured by a new joint-venture between JAC and Volkswagen. After much anticipation about this new electric joint-venture by China’s most popular brand, the first model officially unveiled at the Beijing Auto Show in April 2018, the E20X, is in fact a simple rebadge of the JAC iEV7S.

SOL E20X interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Volkswagen has indeed only created this brand to comply with China’s new EV laws that require a certain percentage of each carmaker’s Chinese production to be zero emission in order to avoid fines. It’s a stopgap before VW’s true EV range slides into market from 2020 onwards. As such, not much sales potential for the E20X, and it could be assumed that the 1.200 sales indicated for the month actually correspond to a few months’ worth of sales, the model having been in dealerships since Q3 2018. It is priced from 128.000 to 138.000 yuan (16.500-17.700€ or US$18.200-19.600) which is impossibly higher than the model it clones, the JAC iEV7S (93.500-119.500) and instead competes with the Beijing EX3 (123.900-163.900), JAC iEVS4 (129.500-159.500) and Chery Tiggo 3 (109.900-143.900).

Bar for success: 2.500 monthly sales

3. BYD e3 (#338 – 336 sales)

After the e1 last April and the e2 hatch last month, BYD continues to expand its range of more affordable EVs with this rather good-looking e3 sedan. Already mastering high quality, premium electric SUVs such as the Tang EV we test drove earlier this year, with this vastly expanding e-range 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, yet the price isn’t cutthroat either.

BYD e3 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

And so far it hasn’t worked extremely well for BYD, with the e1 peaking at 1.762 units and the e2 up to just 2.151 units this month. The e3 interior is in line with the rest of the e lineup, with a clean, minimalistic yet uninspiring interface. The e3 is priced from 103.800 to 164.800 yuan (13.300-21.200€ or   US$14.800-23.500) and competes with the Changan Eado EV (129.9800-139.900), Beijing EU-Series (129.800), Roewe Ei5 (128.800-158.800) and Venucia D60EV (137.800-153.800).

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly sales

4. GAC NE Aion LX (#342 – 323 sales)

At the latest Shanghai Auto Show in April, GAC unveiled two ready-looking impressive EV models under the new Aion EV sub-brand: the S sedan and the LX SUV. The Aion S hit dealerships last May and sold over 18.000 units since, breaking its volume record every month to lift it to 4.217 in October. An instant blockbuster in a segment GAC had only tipped its toe before with the GS4 and GE3 EVs. Although on paper and based on its format the LX SUV carries even greater potential, its price will hamper it.

GAC NE Aion LX interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

While the Aion S sedan is priced from 139.800 to 205.800 yuan (18.000-26.450€ or US$19.900-29.300), the LX may be pushing the bar a tad too high at 249.600-349.600 yuan (32.100-44.900€ or US$35.500-49.800), putting it against other “elite” Chinese electric SUVs such as the Roewe Marvel X (268.800-308.800), BYD Tang EV (229.900-359.900), LI One (328.800) and foreigners such as the VW Tiguan L EV (315.800-325.800). Given the success of the Tang EV, if GAC manages to pass the up-pricing test with the LX, it will position the brand as a worthy competitor to BYD.

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly sales

5. Ciimo X-NV (#346 – 296 sales)

Under this new name hides an EV version of the Honda HR-V, also sold under the Everus VE-1 name. After resuscitating the Everus brand to sell EVs through its joint venture with GAC, Honda has indeed also resuscitated the Ciimo brand to sell EVs through its joint venture with Dongfeng. The XN-V is its first nameplate.

Ciimo XN-V interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The X-NV is priced from 169.800 to 179.800 yuan (21.800-23.100€ or US$24.200-25.600) compared to a much larger span of 159.800-225.800 for the Everus VE-1. It competes with the Soueast DX3 EV (171.500-191.500), GAC NE GE3 (154.800-180.800) and Hyundai Encino EV (172.800-198.800). It is unclear how much of a long-term strategy the resuscitation of the Everus and Ciimo brands is, as Honda should probably launch EVs under its namesake brand instead. In this context it is difficult to set sales targets but we don’t expect volumes to be significant.

Bar for success: 1.500 monthly sales

6. Renault Captur (#347 – 262 sales)

As is also the case for its compatriots Peugeot, Citroen and DS, Renault sales have been imploding out of control over the past couple of years: -73% so far in 2019 and -62.6% in October. The fact of the matter is the brand’s locally-produced lineup has been composed of just two nameplates, the Koleos and Kadjar, pretty much ever since launching in China. So the arrival of not just one but two Renault nameplates on the Chinese market is a significant event, but that doesn’t mean Renault fortunes will be overturned overnight. On paper the Captur seems tailored-made for China, but given the Renault brand has become almost inexistent in this market, it has no choice but position the Captur significantly lower than it would in Europe for example.

Renault Captur interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

As such, it is priced between 99.800 and 144.800 yuan (12.800-18.600€ or  US$14.200-20.600) which is a staggering 30% lower than in France for example where it starts at 18.200€. Renault’s upmarket ambitions at home are squashed in China but this is a necessary measure to try and attract Chinese buyers back into the brand. The Captur therefore competes with the likes of the Nissan Kicks (99.800-138.800), Chevrolet Tracker (99.900-139.900), Hyundai ix25 (105.800-152.800) and Skoda Kamiq (105.9000-128.400). The Renault Kadjar peaked at 4.006 units in October 2016 and the Koleos at 5.620 in January 2018, but it would probably be unrealistic to expect the same levels from the Captur straight away, such has been the implosion of Renault’s sales and visibility over the past 18 months. For reference there were only four French nameplates selling over 1.000 units in China in October: the Peugeot 4008 (1.790), Citroen C5 Aircross (1.337), Peugeot 308 (1.287) and 408 (1.222).

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly sales

7. Renault City K-ZE (#349 – 258 sales)

Alongside the Captur, a second Renault nameplates hits the Chinese charts in October: the City K-ZE unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show last April. If it looks familiar, that’s because it is based on the Renault Kwid currently sold in India, Southern Africa and Latin America. Except it is fully electric. But the biggest surprise the K-ZE brings is its price… At 61.800 to 71.800 yuan (7.900-9.200€ or US$8.800-10.200), the K-ZE could well be the most affordable foreign-branded EV manufactured in China.

Renault City K-ZE interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

It is also sold as the Venucia e30 for a similar tariff (61.800-74.800) and competes with the likes of the JAC iEV6E (54.500-75.500), Ora R1 (71.800-79.9800) and JAC iEV7 (83.500-89.500). Invading a turf which has until now been strictly secured by Chinese manufacturers may seem risky – let alone its impact on the Renault brand image – but the French carmaker is in such desperate need of sales success in China that the move is understandable. Whether Chinese buyers will bite is another story.

Bar for success: 1.500 monthly sales

8. Levdeo i3 (#355 – 216 sales)

Levdeo Electric Drive Company, or Levdeo (雷丁), is an EV manufacturer founded in 2015. It has built its success on the production of LSEVs (Low Speed EVs) that aren’t allowed on highways. The brand makes its first appearance in the wholesales ranking with the i3 hatch, in fact the new name for an existing model that used to be called the S50. The engines are small (34 hp) and the performances limited but Levdeo’s experience is already being utilised by much larger manufacturers, such as FAW who rebadges the Levdeo V60, becoming the FAW BingGo.

Levdeo i3 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Almost exclusively popular in the Chinese countryside as demonstrated during my visit to Zhongwei in the Ningxia province, Levdeo’s lineup trump card is its price: the i3 is available for 49.800 to 62.800 yuan (6.400-8.100€ or US$7.100-8.900) and yet it features a surprisingly modern central console. It therefore competes with smaller EVs such as the Baojun E100 (49.800-59.800), Zhidou D2 (49.800-59.800) and Baojun F200 (54.800-64.800).

Bar for success: 1.000 monthly sales

9. Levdeo i5 (#374 – 157 sales)

Alongside the i3 hatch, Levdeo also unleashes the i5 sedan into the Chinese wholesales charts this month. It is significantly more expensive at 75.800 yuan (9.750€ or US$10.800) and competes with the likes of the JAC iEV6E (54.500-75.500), Ora R1 (71.800-79.800) and iEV7 (83.500-89.500).

Levdeo i5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

But the aforementioned Renault City K-ZE (61.800-71.800) vastly undercuts it which seems completely illogical and either bodes pretty badly for the i5’s chances of success, or shows the lengths to which Renault has to go to try and snare precious customers…

Bar for success: 1.000 monthly sales

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

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

This Post Has One Comment
  1. Challenging times for Renault. This week, Interim CEO mrs Delbos hinted some markets could be discontinued. Whether the all important and worlds biggest market is one of them is unclear yet unlikely. What is clear however is that Renault’s current design language with the Captur and Clio is much stronger than the overly generic Chinese newcomers featured it this topic. The Renault K-ZE fortunes might be limited, I am afraid. Unless a recent government directive brings aid: Since new car sales stagnate in many of the 10+ mio cities, rural / remote areas have become important to maintain growth. Given income will be lower outside metropolitan areas. the Kwid EV could benefit. Quite ironic, b/c cities suffer most from air pollution.

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