The Xpeng P7 has landed in China, and is aiming squarely at the Tesla Model 3.
After analysing May wholesales in China, it’s time to detail the new locally-produced launches for the month. We are now truly back to pre-pandemic launch rhythms with no less than 11 new models making their entrance into the Chinese wholesales charts in May, the most since last November. The dial is securely right into the SUV segment, with 8 of this month’s 11 launches looking like they could potentially go off the beaten tracks. There are also 4 new EVs this month. To thoroughly understand the dynamics at play in China, make sure you consult our Exclusive Guide to all 171 active Chinese Brands – a number that has now stabilised post COVID-19.
1. Buick Encore GX (#124 – 3.546 sales)
Unveiled at last year’s Shanghai Auto Show, the Buick Encore GX took a year to appear in the wholesales charts, even though it is part of our retail data since last July. Welcome to the mysterious ways of Chinese sales figures… The Encore GX is part of GM’s aggressive push in the SUV segment alongside the renewed Buick Envision and Encore, the new Enclave and Chevrolet Trailblazer and Blazer. Under a suitably modern exterior hides a somewhat dated dash though but the arrival of the Encore GX in the charts has helped prop Buick up 13.8% in May, the brand’s first double-digit year-on-year gain in almost four years.
Buick Encore GX interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The Encore GX is priced from 155.900 to 185.900 yuan (19.600-23.400€ or US$22.000-26.200) and is yet another entrant in rather saturated segment including the likes of the VW T-Roc (135.800-203.800 yuan), Chevrolet Trailblazer (139.900-179.900 yuan), Mazda CX-4 (148.800-215.800 yuan) and Nissan Qashqai (154.900-185.900 yuan). The Qashqai regularly ranks among the 10 best-selling SUVs in China so the volume potential is maximal here, however apart from the Envision (32.396 in October 2016), Buick’s SUVs have not hit the mark, the brand being more renown for its sedans such as the Excelle, Excelle Yinlang, LaCrosse and Regal. Therefore we’d want 6.000 monthly sales to deem the Encore GX a success.
Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units
2. Mazda CX-30 (#152 – 2.701 sales)
After starting a successful career in Europe, Oceania and America notably, the Mazda CX-30 is now also produced in China where it just launched. However the structure of Mazda’s Chinese lineup puts it in a much different position than in the rest of the world. The small CX-3 crossover was indeed never produced in China, only imported and therefore overpriced and unsuccessful. The 3 remains by far Mazda’s most successful model in China while the CX-4, exclusive to this market and for which it was originally thought the CX-30 would be a replacement, is the brand’s best-selling SUV well above the CX-5 even though the latter is the brand’s best-selling vehicle worldwide.
Mazda CX-30 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
If in Europe the CX-30 has killed the CX-3, they still co-exist in Australia where the CX-30 is offered as a larger and much posher option than the CX-3. No such thing in China where the complete failure of the locally-produced CX-8 and the unique success of the CX-4 has forced Mazda to position the CX-30 as the entry SUV for the brand. A pretty drab dash devoid of any touch screen (horror!) confirms this. It is indeed priced from a sharp 129.900 to 171.900 yuan (16.300-21.600€ or US$18.300-24.200) and will compete with such blockbusters as the Honda XR-V (127.900-175.900 yuan), VW T-Roc (135.800-203.800), Toyota C-HR (141.800-180.800) and Nissan Qashqai (154.900-185.900). Launched in June 2016, the CX-4 peaked at 7.444 units in January 2017 so we’d like the CX-30 to hit 4.000 monthly sales on a regular basis.
Bar for success: 4.000 monthly units
3. Lincoln Corsair (#163 – 2.530 sales)
After launching in China as an imported brand in 2014, Lincoln is since late 2019 a local producer through a joint-venture with Changan, with two new SUVs appearing simultaneously in the wholesales charts. The first to hit local dealership is the Corsair which has graced our retail charts since December 2019 and now lands in the wholesales ladder with a significant volume which could well be a catchup of all factory sales since the start of the year. In 2019 Lincoln sold 50.509 imports in China (-13.6%), climbing to #7 overall and #3 pure importer below Lexus and Porsche. The transformation from a pure importer into a local producer can be risky in China – as Jeep is finding out right now – as it skims 15% tariffs off the price of each car but also, sometimes, an aura of “foreign-made exclusivity”. The most successful pure importer in China by far is Lexus who has no plans to start local production in the near future. On the other hand Tesla so far seems to be succeeding in the same process.
Lincoln Corsair interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The Corsair is priced from 246.800 to 345.800 yuan (31.000-43.500€ or US$34.800-48.800) and although the obvious target is the Cadillac XT4 (259.700-391.700), it will also compete with the likes of the BMW X1 (278.800-339.800), Audi Q3 (271.800-361.800) and Volvo XC40 (264.800-385.800) but also some generalist fares such as the Honda Avancier (220.000-332.800). Over the past year or so, the imported MKC and Nautilus SUVs regularly sold above 1.000 monthly units so Lincoln should expect a marked bump up with the fairly-priced Corsair. In fact keeping its initial monthly volume in the long-term would definitely be a step in the right direction for the brand.
Bar for success: 2.500 monthly units
4. Lynk & Co 05 (#188 – 2.051 sales)
Geely launched the Lynk & Co semi-premium brand in 2016, with its first opus, the 01 SUV making a splash at the Guangzhou Auto Show in October 2017. It has been a very solid sales success since, with 120.414 units in 2018 and 128.066 in 2019, but most importantly for the brand in China, Lynk & Co has eclipsed Great Wall’s WEY, a similarly-positioned marque it was squarely aiming at and that started stronger but dropped -28.3% to 100.043 Chinese wholesales in 2019. Lynk & Co has doubled down so far in 2020 with wholesales down just -12% to 41.549, now more than double that of WEY at 20.986 and -47.7% even though the Geely marque hadn’t launched any new vehicle since the 03 sedan in October 2018.
Lynk & Co 05 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Lynk & Co is counting on this very “en vogue” 05 coupe SUV to definitely tip the odds in its favour in its battle with WEY just as it prepares an expansion into Europe scheduled for 2021. Coupe SUVs are all Chinese carmakers can talk about right now, and the 05, priced from 175.800 to 235.800 yuan (22.100-29.600€ or US$24.800-33.300) will complete with recent launches such as Geely’s own Xingyue (135.800-195.800), the Haval F7x (119.900-154.900) and Changan CS85 Coupe (119.900-169.900) but also foreigners such as the Skoda Kodiaq GT (179.900-247.900). Lynk & Co has carefully orchestrated each launch so far, with the 01 (9.309), 02 (5.766) and 03 (7.245) all peaking at very respectable volumes, however the 05 seems a tad more niche and could be forgiven for not reaching such heights.
Bar for success: 4.500 monthly units
5. Cowin Xuanjie (#258 – 1.016 sales)
Like the very successful Jetour, Cowin is an accessible brand owned by the Chery Group. In April 2019 at the Shanghai Auto Show, I asked Jetour’s General Manager Mr. Li Xuey if the success of his brand meant the death of Cowin. It was a reasonable question as both marques seemed to target a similar audience, Chery decided to disinvest from Qoros but kept LCV-focused Karry and semi-premium Exeed on top of its namesake brand. Plus Cowin sales amounted to just 27.000 in 2019 vs. 139.000 for Jetour. But at the time Mr. Li Xuey said the two brands are managed and owned by two completely different entities and can definitely co-exist. There had to be something new in the works…
Cowin Xuanjie interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
…and it comes in the shape of this Xuanjie crossover delivered in a pretty neat package with sexy exteriors and a pretty plush dash complete with giant touch screen and polished materials. Especially of the cutthroat pricing of 58.900-89.900 yuan (7.400-11.300€ or US$8.300-12.700) which instantly makes it Cowin’s cheapest SUV, as the X3 sells for 63.900-68.900 yuan and the X5 for 78.900-104.900. However under this attractive skin hides a simple Chery Tiggo 5x (59.900-89.900) which sells for a fraction more. It’s a jungle out there for cheap and cheerful Chinese crossovers with potentially great volumes but a intense competition that includes the Baojun 510 (55.800-82.800 yuan), Haval M6 (66.000-82.000), Geely Vision X6 (68.900-99.900), Changan CS35 Plus (69.900-109.900) and Baojun RS-3 (71.800-89.800). Is it too little too late for this new Cowin? The X3 and X5 only sporadically passed the 1.000 monthly unit mark and the Xuanjie will have to do a lot better to ensure the survival of the brand.
Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units
6. Baojun E300 (#336 – 256 sales)
In January 2019, Baojun bet it could go upmarket and started from scratch again with a new logo, lineup and nomenclature under the name “new Baojun” (xin Baojun). 18 months and 4 new models later, the move is far from having convinced Chinese buyers, with the new Baojun lineup plateauing at only 31% of the brand’s total volume in May vs. 28% last October 2019 when the 4 new models were already in place. This just as old-timers get a second wind, such as the 530 SUV (+29%) which has since started a global career under the Chevrolet Captiva nameplate. As for the über-blockbuster 510 SUV, it is about to be exported to Latin America as the Chevrolet Groove. But perhaps the clearest indication so far that Baojun may be downgrading its upmarket intentions is the naming of its latest micro EV: the E300.
Baojun E300 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Indeed E300 doesn’t follow the new Baojun naming rules which spawned the RS-3 and RS-5 SUVs, the RC-5 sedan and the RM-5 MPV. Does this mean Baojun has given up? The next launches will tell us more about this strategy, but for now the E300 logically follows in the steps of the E100 and E200, the brand’s previous micro EV offering which had pushed design cues to pretty refreshing extremes. Love it or hate it, the E300 sure does look different, all the way up to its minimalist yet cute-as-a-button dash. For now the main target market for this type of vehicle is the big cities’ car-sharing schemes. The E300 is priced from 65.800 to 85.800 yuan (8.300-10.800€ or US$9.300-12.100) which is a logical step up on both the E100 (49.800-59.800) and E200 (54.800-64.800) and will compete against the likes of the Chery eQ1 (59.800-78.800), BYD e1 (59.900-79.900), Changan E-STAR (69.800-74.800) and Ora R1 (69.800-79.800).
Bar for success: 2.000 monthly units
7. Lincoln Aviator (#340 – 219 sales)
After the Corsair, Lincoln proposes its new Chinese flagship: the Aviator, which slots below the imported Navigator but becomes the largest locally-made vehicle by the Ford Motor Company in China. Lincoln has the potential to hit gold with the Aviator because as surprising as it sounds, among 3-row SUVs of similar size this vehicle doesn’t have much China-made competition if at all. The US marque should turn it into an advantage but it will require microscopically precise marketing given the Aviator’s price point.
Lincoln Navigator interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Indeed if the Corsair we detailed above was aiming squarely at the Cadillac XT4, Lincoln priced the Aviator from 562.000 to 762.000 yuan (70.700-95.900€ or US$79.300-107.500), which puts it in a different sphere altogether from Cadillac’s equivalent: the XT6 (419.700-549.700). Chinese buyers tend to distinguish vehicles by nationality (German, American, Japanese…) but instead the Aviator is aiming at the imported VW Touareg (569.800-819.800), Volvo XC90 (633.900-833.900), Audi Q7 (689.900-998.800), BMW X5 (699.900-849.900) and Mercedes GLE (709.800-1.353.800). All aforementioned models, despite their extravagant pricing, have been among the top-selling imports in China for quite a few years and Lincoln is banking on offering more for your bucks in that prestigious segment. Given the volumes delivered by the imported BMW X5 for example (39.000 in 2019), it’s a gamble worth taking.
Bar for success: 1.500 monthly units
8. Xpeng P7 (#350 – 192 sales)
Potentially the most intriguing new entrant this week, the P7 EV sedan is the second offering by Chinese startup Xpeng (for Xiaopeng). Founded in 2014 and initially focused on battery and infotainment R&D, Xpeng launched the G3 EV crossover in 2018 and sold 16.608 units for its first full year in 2019, making it one of a handful of Chinese startups to rack up significant volumes alongside NIO and Weltmeister. XPeng vehicles are manufactured by Haima which is an interesting twist as Haima sales have dwindled to just a trickle whereas Xpeng’s are gearing up. The P7 seems to have been created with one single goal in mind: challenging the Tesla Model 3, which is something few if any Chinese start-ups have dared do, local hero NIO included. A quick look at the silhouette of both vehicles and, even more strikingly, their dash (see below), confirms these aspirations.
Xpeng P7 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn Tesla Model 3 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Priced between 229.900 and 349.000 yuan (28.800-43.900€ or US$32.400-49.200), the P7 starts roughly only 20% lower than the Tesla Model 3 (291.800-419.800) which is either very courageous or fatally pretentious for a brand so little known as Xpeng. Xpeng shows what it’s made of with the P7 when talking maximum range: 706 km for the 249.900 P7 model vs. 668 km for the 366.550 Tesla Model 3. Now we’re talking. Like the Model 3, Xpeng could also steal some sales from such combustion superstars as the BMW 3 Series (293.900-409.900), Audi A4L (305.800-396.800) and Mercedes C-Class (307.800-474.800), but the P7 really does only seem to exist in order challenge Tesla’s hegemony on the luxury EV sedan segment. A difficult task for a Chinese brand, but not impossible: although from a much lower price point, the GAC Aion S (139.800-205.800) has managed to rack up 46.642 wholesales in just one year…
Bar for success: 2.500 monthly units
9. Citroen C3L (#384 – 83 sales)
French manufacturers have had a particularly hard time in recent years, with Citroen falling from 320.000 annual Chinese sales in 2014 to just 50.000 in 2019. Even its latest SUVs the C4 Aircross and C5 Aircross have been absolute flops even though they sell strongly in Europe – the C3 Aircross has an extended wheelbase and is sold as the C4 Aircross in China. It’s back to basics therefore for the PSA Group here and this modest C3 sedan exclusive to China (for now?) with SUV looks a la Renault Logan Stepway and baptised C3L is a first attempt at getting back on track. The C3L is scheduled to replace the C-Elysee here although the latter bounces back up above 3.000 wholesales this month.
Citroen C3L interior.
Given its predicament in this market, Citroen really has almost nothing to lose anymore and this cheap sedan featuring the obligatory large touchscreen is as good a guess as anything to try and woo the Chinese consumer back into the brand’s numerous showrooms. It is priced between 84.900 and 105.900 yuan (10.700-13.300€ or US$12.000-14.900) which will put it against the likes of the Roewe i5 (68.900-115.900), Geely Emgrand GS (77.800-115.800), Chevrolet Onix (79.900-99.900) or VW Polo sedan (86.900-115.900). The C-Elysee regularly sold over 10.000 monthly units in 2014-2015, peaking at 12.324 in December 2014 but permanently falling below 5.000 after April 2017. Good value sedans used to be what Citroen excelled at in China, so can the C3L revive long-gone fortunes?
Bar for success: 4.000 monthly units
10. Weltmeister EX6 (#386 – 82 sales)
Similarly to Xpeng, Weltmeister (German for world champion) is one of only a handful of Chinese EV startups that have managed significant volumes at home (15.587 in 2019) and is now launching its second model in market. Founded in 2016 and after kick starting sales of its first SUV, the EX5, in January 2019, Weltmeister is finally welcoming the EX6 in the wholesales charts. Finally, because this vehicle was originally presented at the Beijing Auto Show in April 2018. It is much larger than the EX5 and its minimalist dash features a very impressive giant vertical touchscreen similar to that of the Tesla Model S and X.
Weltmeister EX6 interior. Picture Autohome.com.cn
The EX6 is very reasonably priced between 189.900 and 239.900 yuan (23.900-30.200€ or US$26.800-33.800), ensuring it doesn’t disturb the smaller EX5 (149.800-198.800 yuan). It will compete with the likes of the Maxus Euniq 6 (165.800-235.000 yuan), BYD Song Pro (169.800-219.800), Aiways U5 (197.900-292.100) and combustion SUVs such as the WEY VV7 (219.800-239.800). The EX5 managed to sell over 1.000 units during 13 of the 16 months since its launch in January 2019, peaking at 2.056. Given its price, the EX6 will have a hard time doing better, yet this is necessary to take Weltmeister to the next level.
Bar for success: 2.000 monthly units
11. Hycan 007 (#407 – 22 sales)
The last entrant for May is by a new Chinese EV brand: Hycan, which is a joint-venture between GAC and NIO. Hycan was introduced in May 2019 and after a teaser in December of the same year, the 007 SUV kick-starts its career only 12 months after the reveal of the brand. A super-fast turnaround made possible thanks to GAC and NIO’s resources as well as cooperation with battery supplier CATL and companies like Huawei and Bosch. The Hycan brand is positioned halfway between the mainstream GAC and premium NIO brands, which seemed like a good idea back in 2019 but perhaps not so much now, given GAC’s new and successful Aion EV lineup.
Hycan 007 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Indeed the 007 is priced between 259.800 and 400.000 yuan (32.700-50.300€ or US$36.600-56.400) which, although roughly 25% lower than the NIO ES6 (358.000-518.000 yuan), goes right against the GAC Aion LX (229.600-349.600). Alarm bells ringing right there. The 007 will also compete with the likes of the BYD Tang EV (238.400-377.900) and Denza X (289.800-357.800). Looking at the scores of the NIO ES6 (max 2.907), a marque that already has a Tesla-like cult following in China, and the GAC Aion LX (max 510), we are tempted to assign a 1.500 sales target to the 007.
Bar for success: 1.500 monthly units