The Chevrolet Menlo has landed in China.
As a teaser to our upcoming February wholesales update, we can detail today the new locally-produced launches for the month, a very peculiar time in China when the entire automotive industry shut down. As such it’s even surprising that we have two launches in February, down from 6 in both December and January. Both are EVs, and both are American-born. To thoroughly understand the dynamics at play in China, make sure you consult our Exclusive Guide to all 167 active Chinese Brands – a whopping 13 less than this time last month as the “first winter of the auto industry” and the Coronavirus claim its first victims.
1. Tesla Model 3 (#4 – 3.900 sales)
The much-hyped construction of Tesla’s Shanghai Gigafactory in just one year has now spawned its first fruits, and they are spectacular in the depleted context, with almost 4.000 wholesales earning the Model 3 a 4th place overall in February. However, as we are now used to Elon Musk’s theatrics and strategically-placed sales volumes, these are in fact January ex-factory shipments conveniently reported as February wholesales, as the factory was closed most of the month and couldn’t possibly spit out such a large volume. In fact, due to the Coronavirus outbreak, closure of the Shanghai factory at the end of January and supply chain issues, Tesla used the 2.5 version processor instead of the 3.0 processor that Chinese users expected to find in their vehicles. This led to mass complaints in March, and Tesla promised to upgrade the hardware free of charge once the supply chain is restored.
Tesla Model 3 interior. Picture authome.com.cn
The Model 3 has been sold in China as an import since March 2019. Producing the vehicle locally triggers a 10% cut of the starting price, going from 363.900-509.900 yuan for the imported version (47.600-66.700€ or US$ XXX) to a single price of 323.800 yuan (42.300€ or US$ XXX). As of today, the Model 3 doesn’t have any direct EV competitors, as the Polestar 2 (298.000-418.000 yuan) will come online in a few months and the Porsche Taycan (1.148.000-1.798.000 yuan) is in a different price universe altogher. Instead, it’s aiming at best-selling premium combustion sedans in the country such as the Audi A4L (286.800-401.800), BMW 3 Series (293.900-409.900) and Mercedes C-Class (307.800-474.800), and could also steal customers away from the Honda Accord (179.800-259.800), Toyota Camry (179.800-279.800) and VW Magotan GTE (186.100-309.900). Model 3 imports totalled 32.651 units in 11 months with a peak of 4.989 in November, that’s an average of 3.000 monthly sales so Tesla should reasonably expect a lot better.
Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units
2. Chevrolet Menlo (#264 – 64 sales)
Facing freefalling sales, General Motors is on a SUV launching spree in China, with the Trailblazer, new Tracker, Buick Enclave, new Encore and Encore GX all hitting dealerships in recent months. The Menlo SUV may not achieve high volumes but it’s the brand’s first EV to be produced locally, using the same technology as the Buick Velite 6.
Chevrolet Menlo interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
It is priced from 159.900 to 179.900 yuan (20.900-23.500€ or US$ XXX ), in line with the Buick Velite 6 (165.800-199.800), and very attractive for any foreign-branded EV in China. As such it will compete with the likes of the Roewe Ei5 (128.800-160.800), GAC Aion S (139.800-205.800) and BYD Song Pro (136.900-206.900). The Buick Velite 6 only achieved low volumes so far (8.513 units in a year), and there’s no reason to believe the Menlo will be any more successful, except perhaps its allure, which looks more like an SUV even though it is categorised as a sedan in China. Yet this is what Chevrolet needs to call it a success.
Bar for success: 2.000 monthly units
Previous month: China new models January 2020: Geely Icon and LI One arrive
One year ago: China February 2019: Focus on the all-new models