After detailing Chinese December wholesales, we are now exploring all the new locally-produced launches for the month so you can keep up-to-the-minute on the fastest-evolving automotive market in the world. After the recent Chengdu and Guangzhou Auto Shows gave a spectacular boost to the number of all-new models entering the Chinese market (11 in September, 9 in October and 11 in November), the rhythm slows down in December with 6 new launches including 5 SUVs. Make sure you also consult our Exclusive Guide to all 180 Chinese Brands to thoroughly understand the dynamics at play in China.
1. Mercedes GLB (#146 – 3.985 sales)
Contrasting with rather shy launches so far in both Germany (138 sales) and the USA (1.173), the new Mercedes GLB hits the ground running in China with almost 4.000 wholesales or factory shipments for its appearance in the charts. Price-wise the GLB logically slides in between the GLA and GLC, with tariffs ranging from 314.800 to 354.800 yuan (US$45.800-51.600 or 41.200-46.400 €) vs. 264.800-385.800 for the GLA and 392.800-587.800 for the GLC. Although the GLB has competitors within its segment, it is the only one offering a 7-seat variant which will be a very important selling point in China – potentially the only reason the GLB was conceived in the first place, to quench the thirst of Chinese families for a posh 7-seater that doesn’t break all banks at once.
Mercedes GLB interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The GLB thus carries the 7-seat advantage over the Cadillac XT4 (259.700-391.700), Volvo XC40 (264.800-385.800), Audi Q3 (271.800-359.800) and BMW X1 (278.800-339.800), none of which can fit 7 passengers. The only true existing competitor for the GLB is the VW Tiguan L 7-seater (282.800-311.800). The GLA launched in April 2015 and is awaiting a 2nd generation, it peaked at 8.002 wholesales in January 2017 but has failed to sell more than 5.000 monthly units since September 2018. The GLC on the other hand is having the time of its life, above 10.000 monthly units without interruption since March and peaking at 13.935 in December 2018. Bigger is almost always better in China especially in the premium SUV segment, so we foresee a very fruitful career for the GLB here. We’d want at least 7.000 monthly units to call it a success.
Bar for success: 7.000 monthly units
2. Jetour X95 (#223 – 2.003 sales)
Until Jetta came around, Jetour was the most successful brand launch in Chinese history with 40.000 units in 4 months. It may well reclaim this title as Jetta is showing some early signs of fatigue at -43.3% for its 4th month selling 9.225 units vs. 13.465 for Jetour at the same stage. Moreover, Jetour is on a streak of 5 consecutive all-time record volumes, crossing the 20.000-unit milestone for the very first time this December, partly thanks to this new addition, the X95. Coming after the X70 (September 2018) and X90 (March 2019), Jetour is painstakingly making sure it improves with each model it launches and if the X70 really disappointed me when it test drove it last year, this X95 is now truly impressive with its all-digital dashboard and sophisticated exterior.
Jetour X95 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
As most Chinese carmakers are doing all they can to go up-market so that larger profits offset falling sales, the X95, priced from 99.900 to 152.900 yuan (US$14.500-22.300 or 13.100-20.000€), faces stiff competition. It includes the likes of the incredibly successful Changan CS75 Plus (106.900-154.900) but also the Dongfeng Forthing T5L (79.900-176.900), Maxus D60 (93.8000-167.800) and COS 1° (86.800-154.800). The X70 has to this day accounted for the overwhelming majority of Jetour sales, peaking at 15.553 units this month while the X90 has been slow to take off at just 2.801 this month. The X95 starts at the same level as the X90 but seems to have more differentiating features to carve itself its own niche within the brand. We want it above 5.000 monthly sales to take Jetour to the next level.
Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units
3. Dongfeng Glory iX7 (#263 – 1.258 sales)
Getting lost among the numerous sub-brands of main Chinese manufacturer Dongfeng isn’t the monopoly of amateurs, even when following the Chinese market as closely as we do here at BSCB we get confused. Glory was born Fengguang as a low-cost MPV-maker that has since expanded into SUVs with the tremendously successful Glory 580 (exported in Spain) and S560. Just when we thought we understood Glory’s new naming rule when it launched the (disappointing) iX5 coupe SUV in October 2018, Dongfeng covers its tracks again with this iX7 which is not a coupe SUV, rather a large (4.93m), powerful (231ch) 7-seater traditional SUV.
Dongfeng Glory iX7 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The Glory iX7 is priced from 125.900 to 215.900 (US$18.300-31.400 or 16.500-28.200€) which is, let’s not shy away from it, very expensive for a Dongfeng. The iX7 is here too trying to pull Dongfeng into more fertile profit-making pastures. Except that so far, Chinese customers have almost exclusively lapped up dirt-cheap fares such as the 580 (80.900-123.000) and S560 (65.900-96.900) while the overpriced iX5 (99.000-139.800) has sold under 1.200 monthly units over the entire 2nd Half of 2019. With its pricing, the iX7 is pretending to fight with the likes of the BYD Tang (129.900-169.900), Changan CS95 (165.900-213.900), Haval H7 (142.000-180.000) and Exeed TX (135.900-175.900) which seem out of reach semi-premium propositions compared to it. Dongfeng will need a drastic price cut to rally the masses.
Bar for success: 2.500 monthly units
4. Zedriv GC (#346 – 456 sales)
Presenting for the first time at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2019, Zedriv is an electric vehicle brand by Sinomach. Its website boasts the establishment in just six months of four research and development bases in Beijing, Nanjing, Europe and North America and aims at “becoming the winner of the new energy automobile market in China in three to five years”.
Zedriv GC interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
For now, the GC hatch timidly hits the market is what is likely a rushed factory shipment in order to meet CO2 targets. Priced from 68.800 to 83.800 yuan (US$10.000-12.200 or 8.995-10.950€), the GC is one of the cheaper 4-door EV options currently available in the Chinese market, and will compete with the likes of the Changan Benben EV (49.800-81.800), Hanteng e+ (59.800-69.800), JMEV EV3 (66.800-83.800), Ora R1 (69.800-79.800) and Beijing EC3 (73.800-79.800). Almost entirely dependent on government subsidies, Zedriv will need to overdeliver to get noticed, and we don’t see it happening for now.
Bar for success: 2.500 monthly units
5. Zedriv GX5 (#396 – 156 sales)
Launched simultaneously with the GC hatch, the GX5 mini crossover is Zedriv’s second offering. It starts even lower and is priced significantly higher: from 115.800 to 139.800 yuan (US$16.900-20.300 or 15.100-18.300€), making it compete with the likes of the GAC Trumpchi GE3 (129.800-139.800) and SOL E20X (128.000-138.000).
Zedriv GX5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Confusingly, if the GC’s interior was cute and sweet to suit its main clientele of young female city slickers, the more expensive GX5’s dash is drab, grey and old-fashioned (see above). If the GC’s task to stand out in an overcrowded cheap EV segment seemed arduous, Zedriv has set itself for failure with the GX5 which will require significant improvements to get noticed.
Bar for success: 1.000 monthly units
6. Luxgen URX (#401 – 110 sales)
Taiwanese manufacturer Luxgen is in dire straits both at home where it is down -58.6% to less than 4.000 sales and in China: -79.2% to less than 2.000 wholesales in 2019. launched simultaneously in Taiwan (37 units) and China (110) with similar discretion, the URX appears the be the model of the last chance for the brand. Its design is surprisingly attractive for a manufacturer that has always been seen as a little offbeat, but the mountain to overcome is immense and the segment it enters, yet filled with potential, is also overcrowded and ultra-competitive.
Luxgen URX interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Sticking a vertical iPad on its dash is sure to attract the attention of younger buyers but the overall quality remains dubious. Although it is available as a 7-seater, the URX also appears too expensive at 143.600-155.600 yuan (US$20.900-22.600 or 18.800-20.300€). This forces it to compete with much more trendy alternatives such as the Changan CS75 Plus (106.900-154.900) or Haval F7 (111.000-153.700). Luxgen needs all the oxygen it can get, but the URX is unlikely to provide any. Halve the price and we can start talking.
Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units
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