The T99 is the third Bestune nameplate to be launched in one year.
After exploring Chinese November wholesales, we can now follow the tradition of detailing the all-new locally-produced launches for the month. This way you can keep up-to-the-minute on the fastest-evolving automotive market in the world. The recent Chengdu and Guangzhou Auto Shows have given a spectacular boost to the number of all-new models entering the Chinese market: 11 in September, 9 in October and 11 again this month. SUV’s are the only Passenger Car segment currently growing and the list of November launches can only cement this trend: 8 out of 11 belong to this segment. Make sure you also consult our Exclusive Guide to all 187 Chinese Brands to thoroughly understand the dynamics at play in China.
1. Cadillac CT5 (#173 – 2.955 sales)
Launched simultaneously in the USA and China, the Cadillac CT5 is a high potential nameplate for Cadillac on the Chinese market. Although it technically replaces the CTS, the latter has never been locally produced in China and therefore never been a significant seller. Instead, the 4.92m-long CT5 slides in between the 4.73m-long ATS-L and 5.10m-long XTS, all three nameplates being priced similarly. The CT5 is available from 279.700 to 339.700 yuan (35.900-43.600€ or US$39.900-48.500), to be compared with 273.800-428.800 for the ATS-L and 299.900-352.900 for the XTS.
Cadillac CT5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
When it becomes truly interesting for Cadillac is the fact that most premium similarly-sized sedans are huge sellers for their respective manufacturers: cue the Audi A4L (286.800-401.800), Mercedes C-Class L (307.800-474.800), BMW 3 Series L (293.900-409.900), Lexus ES (290.000-483.000), Volvo S60 (249.800-379.900) and Jaguar XEL (281.800-414.800). The ATS-L peaked at 5.919 and the XTS at 7.641 so we’d want the CT5 to reach at least 5.000 monthly units to be deemed a success. It could go much higher though, and if so, would unlock unheard-of volumes for Cadillac in China.
Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units
2. Bestune T99 (#174 – 2.949 sales)
As we discovered in our Shanghai Auto Show interview of Mr. Dong Wanfu, FAW Group Deputy Car Sales, FAW is now distancing itself from the FAW brand, having launched instead a new passenger car label: Bestune. After reaching a very solid 60.000 wholesales in 13 months with the T77 (November 2018) and T33 (August 2019), here is the marque’s new flagship: the T99 which shares some elements with the Hongqi HS5. It features the new brand signature: vertical bumper LEDs. The T99 is priced from 149.900 to 189.900 yuan (19.300-24.400€ or US$21.400-27.100), which is starting to be a little steep for what is in effect a 5-seater from a nascent brand.
Bestune T99 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
For comparison, the T33 is at 69.800-99.800 and the T77 at 89.800-136.800, so although the T99 doesn’t interject at all with the T77’s pricing – which will prevent any cannibalism – it does seem a tad steep. The first month of wholesales is proving me wrong though. The T77 will compete with the Roewe RX5 MAX (118.800-189.800), BYD Tang (129.900-169.900), Changan CS95 (165.900-213.900) and WEY VV7 (169.800-188.800) but also – and this is where its task might prove unsurmountable: with most best-selling foreign SUVs: the Honda CR-V (169.800-276.800), Toyota RAV4 (174.800-264.800), VW Tayron (185.900-313.900) and Nissan X-Trail (188.800-273.300). The T77 peaked at 7.686 and the T33 at 2.100, but we’d want the T99 above 3.000 to give Bestune a chance at surviving in the long term.
Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units
3. Buick Enclave (#200 – 2.455 sales)
Even though it is in less of a desperate situation as Chevrolet (-50.4%), Buick (-26.3% in November) is also in need of a good sales kick in the backend. The cascade of new models displayed at the Shanghai Auto Show last April is slowly starting to trickle down into the sales charts, such as this Enclave SUV, a nameplate already present in North America since 2006 but making its first appearance in China as a local product. The Chinese Enclave is in fact shorter than the American one whose 2nd generation was launched in 2017.
Buick Enclave interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
It isn’t cheap: from 299.900 to 379.900 yuan (38.500-48.800€ or US$48.800-54.300), especially as it only offer a small and old-school dashboard screen. The Enclaves competes with mid-high-end SUVs such as the Beijing BJ80 (298.000-398.000), VW Teramont X (316.900-488.900), Cadillac XT5 (329.700-469.700) and Mercedes GLB (314.800-354.800). Its sales potential is rather difficult to evaluate as the only truly successful Buick SUV so far is the Envision (189.900-279.900), which hit a record 32.296 but has been under 20.000 since May 2018, while the smaller Encore (125.900-155.900) hit a record 9.052 but has been under 5.000 since January 2017. We’d want at least 5.000 to call it a hit.
Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units
4. JAC Jiayue A5 (#209 – 2.147 sales)
Only four years ago, JAC was among the 10 most popular Chinese brands at home (#10 in 2015) with the Refine S3 selling 200.000 annual units to rank #3 best-selling SUV that year. The carmaker has since fallen into oblivion and won’t hit 140.000 wholesales for the entire brand in 2019, as it was hit two successive blows: the crumbling down of Chinese SUV sales from June 2018 and the end of EV government subsidies, an area where JAC had focused all its energy in recent years. It’s now back to square one for the brand with this mass market sedan inaugurating a new design language albeit very strongly inspired by the latest Ford Focus…
JAC Jiayue A5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The Jiayue A5 is priced from 84.800 to 115.800 yuan (10.900-14.900€ or US$12.100-16.500) and comes with a simple yet modern interior featuring the obligatory giant vertical touch screen which is sure to impress potential buyers – mostly in rural areas where the brand is most popular. It hits right where the money is in China, competing with such uber-blockbusters as the Changan Eado (71.900-103.900), Geely Binrui (75.800-110.800), Chery Arrizo GX (75.900-113.900) and Geely Emgrand GL (78.800-121.800), simply some of the overall best-sellers in the segment. The A5 plays in the right sandpit, but does JAC still have the muscle to produce a hit? It needs it. The only other sedan in its lineup, the Heyue, hasn’t reached 2.000 monthly sales since July 2015, and the A5 instantly crosses this milestone but these are wholesales, so the next few months will show a more realistic picture.
Bar for success: 4.000 monthly units
5. Honda Breeze (#230 – 1.734 sales)
Under this new nameplate hides in fact the GAC-Honda counterpart of the Dongfeng-Honda CR-V. It took almost a decade, but GAC finally got a mid-size SUV which segment-best sales potential, replicating previous tandems between the two Honda joint-ventures, such as the Honda Vezel/XR-V, Avancier/UR-V, Envix/Crider and Gienia/Greiz.
Honda Breeze interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Logically, the Breeze is priced almost identically to the CR-V at 169.800-252.800 (21.800-32.500€ or US$24.300-36.100) vs. 169.800-276.800 and will compete with the likes of the Toyota RAV4 (174.800-264.800), VW Tayron (185.900-313.900) and Nissan X-Trail (188.800-273.300). As if to show who’s boss, the CR-V just hit its highest monthly volume in almost 7 years in November (24.492) and 2nd highest in history (record of 25.000 in April 2013). GAC should aim at at least 8.500 units on a regular basis to feel vindicated.
Bar for success: 8.500 monthly units
6. VGV U70 (#230 – 1.734 sales)
VGV is a new brand by Weichai Automobile that replaces the failed Enranger. The letters VGV bizarrely stand for Weichai Group Vehicle. Don’t ask… As such, the large SUV and pickup Enranger planned in 2017 but had to cancel due to poor sales performance can now see the light of day. First off the starting blocks is this reasonably good-looking SUV offering 5- or 7-seat versions. It is very sharply priced between 69.900 and 112.900 yuan (9.000-14.500€ or US$10.000-16.100).
VGV U70 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
This means it will compete with the Jetour X70 (69.900-122.900), COS X7 (77.700-117.700), Baojun 530 (75.800-115.800) and Jetta VS5 (84.800-112.800). I feel there is always room on the Chinese market for cheap sexy SUVs and the success of the aforementioned competitors is here to prove me right. VGV does have skeletons in its closet in the form of a disliked Enranger brand but is doing all it can to distance itself from it even though it is exactly the same company. The almost 1.000 wholesales is a very good start given none of the Enranger nameplates had sold over 1.000 monthly units since June 2017, we’d want at least double that to give Weichai a second change.
Bar for success: 2.500 monthly units
7. VW Tacqua (#284 – 871 sales)
It looks like a VW T-Cross, but it’s called Tacqua. The trick: if the T-Cross is manufactured by the SAIC-VW joint-venture, FAW-VW logically demanded its own and it was baptised Tacqua. A tandem solution very common in China, cue the Bora/Lavida, Tiguan/Tayron, T-Roc/Tharu, Sagitar/Lamando, now-defunct Jetta/Santana and Passat/Magotan double-acts. However FAW-VW is trying to undercut its SAIC-VW counterpart here with the Tacqua priced between 114.900 and 159.900 yuan (14.800-20.500€ or US$16.400-22.800) vs. 127.900-159.900 for the T-Cross.
VW Tacqua interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Like the T-Cross, the Tacqua will compete in the same sandpit as the Honda Vezel/XR-V tandem (127.800-176.800) the Toyota C-HR/IZOA tandem (141.800-180.800), the Skoda Kamiq (105.900-139.900), Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross (129.800-185.800) and I’ll also throw in the similarly-sized but vastly more zippy and disconcertingly cheaper Geely Binyue (79.800-129.800). The VW T-Cross is still gearing up after a March launch, hitting a record 7.922 units just this month. Although it is currently the least popular VW SUV (because frankly, overpriced), VW magic in China means it does have the potential to hit five-digit volumes in the coming year. FAW-VW will want at least 60% of that to feel content.
Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units
8. Mercedes EQC (#379 – 160 sales)
In between a very slow European and an arrival in North America postpone to late next year, the Mercedes EQC made-in-China has landed. This is the start of a momentous shift for the German premium brand and a first feeler of the potential of Merc-branded EVs in China. Arriving at a time of slim pickings regarding EV government subsidies actually plays in the EQC’s advantage, because let’s be honest: if you can afford it, you won’t know what a subsidy is anyway.
Mercedes EQC interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The EQC is priced from 579.800 to 622.800 yuan (74.500-80.000€ or US$82.800-88.900), and the current reality is the green premium SUV universe remains very intimate, so competition is scarce. It will come under the shape of one local: the Volvo XC60 PHEV (527.900-585.900), and a handful of imports such as the Jaguar i-Pace (630.800-716.800), Tesla Model X (790.900-890.100) or Porsche Cayenne E-hybrid (923.000-1.012.000). If in a good month the Model X can muster 1.500 sales (record at 2.402), there’s no reason why the much cheaper but equally classy EQC couldn’t.
Bar for success: 1.500 monthly units
Also new for November: the GAC Toyota iA5 (865) which is a rebadge of the GAC Aion S, the Venucia e30 (65 sales) a rebadge of the Renault City K-ZE and the FAW Senia R8 (17 sales), a facelift of the Senia R7.
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One year ago: China November 2018: Focus on the All-new models