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China wholesales April 2020: Heavy trucks, SUVs lift market up 4.4%, ending 21 straight months of losses

Without heavy truck sales, the Chinese market would still be down in April.

New vehicle wholesales in China have bounced back even stronger than preliminary data suggested in April, up 4.4% year-on-year to 2.07 million units, bringing the year-to-date tally down -31.1% to 5.761.000 units. After February deliveries collapsed -79.1% and March was off -43.3%,  this is the first year-on-year gain for Chinese sales since June 2018, putting an end to 21 consecutive months of declines, a stretch unseen since 1990.  However strong a message this sends about how fast Chinese factory shipments were able to achieve a post-coronavirus V-shaped recovery – which will probably end up being one of only a few globally – there are two elements that dampen our enthusiasm. First, this market uptick is solely due to the strength of Commercial Vehicles sales up 31.6% to 534.000 units, a new record for April, whereas Passenger Cars remain in negative – albeit very contained – at -2.6% to 1.536.000. Second, the CAAM just announced that wholesales over the first 10 days of May are actually down -14% to 351.000 units, so the April uptick has probably a lot to do with the catching up of missed deliveries in February and March and certainly not a gage of future gains. The recovery throughout 2020 is likely to be shaky, even in China. Accordingly, we have adjusted our 2020 China forecast to -10% instead of -9% while the CAAM predicts a -15% fall this year.

Within Commercial Vehicles, heavy trucks are the star of the show at +61% year-on-year to 191.000 wholesales. Looking into the detail of Passenger Cars segments, SUVs continue to be stronger at +7.3% to 696.000 but are outsold by cars despite a -6.2% year-on-year drop to 743.000. MPVs collapse -36% to 61.000 and minivans are off -11.5% to 36.000. Year-to-date, Passenger Cars are down -35.3% to 4.433.000 while Commercial Vehicles limit their fall to -12.4% to 1.328.000. Cars (-37.2%) are back above SUVs (-29.2%) at 2.084.000 vs. 2.071.000, MPVs drop -57.7% to 197.000 and minivans are down -41.6% to 81.000. New Energy Vehicles (NEVs) continue to be in a dark spot at -26.5% to 72.000 in April, including 51.000 EVs (-28.6%), 20.000 PHEVs (-20.7%) and 73 FCEVs (x9.4). Year-to-date, NEVs are down -43.4% to 205.000 including 155.000 EVs (-44.6%), 49.000 PHEVs (-39.8%) and 280 FCEVs (+21.7%).

The launch of a new RAV4 twin, the Wildlander, helps Toyota up 23.2%.

Chinese carmakers continue to bear the brunt of the market decline so far in 2020. In April, they sold 532.000 Passenger Cars, down -9.4% year-on-year for a 34.6% share vs. 37.2% a year ago in April 2019. Year-to-date, this figure is down -39.3% to 1.689.000 units or 38.1% share vs. 40.6% over the same period in 2019. Another interesting piece of news coming from CAAM is the consolidation of the market in tough times, which is quite common: the Top 10 groups add up to 5.132m wholesales so far in 2020, down -30.7% and resulting in a 89.1% market share vs. 88.5% a year ago. Exports remain in a dire situation at -15.7% year-on-year in April to 70.000 including 55.000 Passenger Cars (-4.5%) and 15.000 Commercial Vehicles (-40.5%). YTD, exports are down -12.6% to 274.000 units including 209.000 Passenger Cars (+2.5%) and 65.000 Commercial Vehicles (-40.6%).

Buick posts its first year-on-year gain in 2 years.

In the brands ranking, Volkswagen (-12.8%) is not out of the woods yet, enduring a 4th consecutive double-digit decline as strong sales of Bora (+26.3%), Lamando (+19.4%), Magotan (+11.9%), Tayron (+11.1%), Tharu (+5.6%), Golf (+1.1%) and Tacqua (record 3.656) fail to compensate for freefalls by the C-Trek (-65.3%), T-Cross (-63.6%), Polo (-50.1%), Santana (-38.9%), Phideon (-38%), Sagitar (-25.7%), Teramont (-21.8%) and CC (-19.6%). Strikingly the rest of the Top 7 brands are all in positive in April. Honda (+9.6%) is back to the 2nd spot it held over FY2019, thanks to the Civic (+86.3%), CR-V (+85.4%), Vezel (+63.2%), Crider (+10.3%) and new Breeze (11.012). Toyota (+23.2%) posts the largest gain in the Top 6 now that the RAV4 (+51.3%), Levin (+34.3%) and Corolla (+2.9%) reap the benefits of new generations, added to a new RAV4 twin, the Wildlander (4.289) and solid showings by the Vios FS (+19.2%), Avalon (+15.9%), C-HR (+14.5%), Camry (+9.8%) and IZOA (+4.1%). Geely (+1.4%) only edges up with the Binrui (+40.9%), Emgrand GS (+40.4%), Vision X6 (+37.8%), Emgrand (+30.3%), Boyue (+6.7%) and new Icon (record 2.565) all performing well as Nissan (+0.8%) closes the Top 5 in positive thanks to the Sylphy (+38.7%) and  Qashqai (+21.6%).

Hongqi breaks its volume record for the 9th time in the past 12 months.

Buick (+8%) is up a whopping 7 spots on March to land at #6 overall, putting an end to an excruciating 24 straight month of year-on-year declines (since April 2018) and scoring its largest gain since October 2016. This is due to catchup sales of the Excelle Yinlang (+143.2%) and may be short-lived however. Changan (+45.1%) signs the best improvement in the Top 10 – and Top 25 – thanks to the CS75 (+161.6%), CS35 (+25.3%) and CS55 (+19.9%), all renewed recently, as well as the Eado (+126.7%) and Raeton CC (+170.8%). Audi (+37.9%), BMW (+18.1%) and Mercedes (+14.2%) all show splendid health, grouped around the #10 spot, while further down Hongqi (+170.2%) manages to break its all-time volume record for the 9th time in the past 12 months (!) at 14.519 wholesales and COS (+2748.9%), NIO (+109.2%), Bestune (+96.6%), SWM (+70.9%), Land Rover (+69.9%), Volvo (+34.9%), Mazda (+25.8%), Dongfeng (+14.8%) and Lynk & Co (+11.6%) also shine. Jetta (14.415) remains the most successful recent launch above Tesla (3.635), LI (record 2.622), VGV (1.521), Zedriv (221) and Levdeo (174).

Model-wise, the Nissan Sylphy (+38.7%) reclaims the top spot for the 5th time in the past 9 months, widening the gap over the VW Lavida (2.5%) to over 10.000 units YTD. The Sylphy has never topped the annual Chinese wholesales charts and 2020 could well be its year. The Toyota Corolla (+2.9%) is back up to #3 as per YTD while the Buick Excelle Yinlang (+143.2%), VW Bora (+26.3%) and Honda Civic (+86.3%) ensure the Top 6 is 100% sedans and the Geely Emgrand (+30.3%) and Toyota Levin (+34.3%) make it 8 in the Top 10 which is a little paradoxical as the segment is down whereas SUVs, whose best-seller the Haval H6 (-14.4%) ranks 7th, are up. Strong performers near the top include the Audi A6L (+125.7%) and Haval M6 (+50.9%). The best-selling recent launch is the BYD Song Pro (#28) above the Honda Breeze (#42), COS X7 (#46), Hongqi HS5 (#52), Jetta VS5 (#74), JAC Jiayue A5 (#82), Ford Escape (#90), Mercedes GLB (#97), Toyota Wildlander (#98) and Jetta VS7 (#99).

Previous post: China wholesales April 2020: Market up 0.9%, first year-on-year gain since June 2018 as post-virus recovery is confirmed

Previous month: China wholesales March 2020: Mercedes (-3.8%), BMW (-12.9%), Toyota (-23%) lead market recovery (-43.3%)

One year ago: China wholesales April 2019: Honda (+23.1%), Toyota (+22.2%), BMW (+31.3%) stun in market back in hell (-14.6%)

Full April 2020 Top 93 All China-made brands and Top 440 All-models below.

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