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China new models March 2020: Changan UNI-T arrives

The Changan UNI-T has landed in China.

As a teaser to our upcoming March wholesales update, we are going through the new locally-produced launches for the month. With the industry frozen in place for most of February, the new launches remain few (just 3 this month) and, most strikingly, very low on volumes. We have two Chinese and one American and one EV and two combustion models. To thoroughly understand the dynamics at play in China, make sure you consult our Exclusive Guide to all 167 active Chinese Brands – a number that is starting to fall as the “first winter of the auto industry” and COVID-19 claim their first victims.1. Roewe Clever (#356 – 97 sales)Yet another mini EV is hitting the Chinese market, this time with an “interesting” name: clever. The Clever has a NEDC cruising range of 260 km, which doesn’t really confine it to the city centres but almost. It is priced at 59.999 yuan (7.800€ or US$8.475) and will compete with the likes of the Baojun E100 (49.800-59.800), Baojun E200 (54.800-64.800), Beijing EC-Series (55.800) and Changan Benben EV (49.800-81.800).

Roewe Clever interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The mini EV segment has filled up over the years, to such an extent that some manufacturers that have solely focused on this segment have already gone bankrupt, such as Zhi Dou. So saying that it’s a saturated segment is an understatement, and another drawback is that it’s being kept alive relatively artificially by ride share companies. Launching another lookalike is risky, especially as Roewe already failed with the e50 that never broke the 500 monthly unit mark, its record being 463 in August 2016.Bar for success: 1.000 monthly units2. Changan UNI-T (#375 – 60 sales)Changan builds on its recent design progress (CS75 Plus) to launch a more compact, accessible SUV that has the potential to be another blockbuster for the brand. The front grille is polarising to say the least, it pushes the brand’s recent design cue to the extreme but although it does look like an EV, it is combustion-only for now, which should actually help it volume-wise.

Changan UNI-T interior. Picture Changan.
It looks like UNI will be used by Changan as a sub-brand, with more models coming up shortly, which would explain why it is sized almost identically to the recent Changan CS55 Plus (4.50m), which could be a cannibalising issue for the brand in the coming months. The UNI-T price hasn’t been disclosed just yet, but its size (4.51m), exterior design boldness and a very visible leap in interior quality (see above) position the UNI-T against the Haval H4 (73.900-115.000), Lynk & Co 01 (152.800-200.800) and WEY VV5 (125.800-147.800).Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units3. Cadillac CT4 (#438 – 2 sales)Cadillac continues to aggressively launch its new models in sync with the U.S. and the CT4 lands in China on the same month it does in the U.S. It follows the CT5 launched last November which already hit 4.693 sales in January. The CT4 is priced from 239.700 to 259.700 yuan (31.100-33.700€ or  US$33.800-36.700), which could pit it against the Honda Accord (179.800-259.800), Toyota Camry (179.800-279.800), VW Magotan (186.100-309.900) and Buick Lacrosse (229.800-289.800), although these are not premium offerings.

Cadillac CT4 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Instead, Cadillac could be smart targeting dearer but comparable premium models in a two-pronged approached with the Cadillac CT5 (279.700-339.700), aiming at the Mercedes A-Class sedan (211.800-299.800), Audi A4L (286.700-401.800), BMW 3 Series L (286.800-401.800) and Mercedes C-Class L (307.800-474.800). Its predecessor, the Cadillac ATS-L, peaked at 5.919 sales in October 2017, so we’d want at least 5.000 to call the CT4 a success.Bar for success: 5.000 monthly unitsPrevious month: China new models February 2020: Local Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Menlo landOne year ago: China March 2019: Focus on the All-new models
This Post Has 4 Comments
    1. Read it. Fine analysis. Two remarks: It’s likely Renault would have decided similar (i.e. discontinuation) if the French brand sold, say, 150.000 units in 2019. Why? Because the Alliance recently decided to operate along the ‘Leader-Follower’ principle. Nissan sells >1,2 mio vehicles p/a in China, therefore it will lead in that nation. Renault will focus on Europe and LatAm. Mits on SE Asia and Australia.
      Another issue: Matt suggests Dacia models (Duster in particular) could have been a slam dunk in rural parts of China. Wish that was true. I am not sure though if such would have materialized: Duster failed in India, and sells below expectations in LatAm. Granted, till now, Renault / Dacia doesn’t take car buyers in the latter 2 regions overly serious: It still offers the first Duster edition. But for some reason, Renault’s Dacia models has only ‘modest’ traction outside Europe, Brazil, Colombia and MENA.

      1. Thanks Rick – I have travelled to China every year over the past decade and I can tell you that the less urbanised regions of the country are screaming for something like the Duster that has both serious capabilities and the “prestigiousness” of a European badge. For comparison I would instead look at Russia where the Duster has been the #1 or #2 SUV ever since it launched, and despite the fact the 2nd generation hasn’t even reached it.
        Also, I wouldn’t say the Duster sells below expectations in LatAm, keep in mind there’s a pickup version the Oroch counted separately that sells almost as much, sometimes more.

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