The GAC Aion V has hit the Chinese market.
Now that we have analysed Chinese June wholesales, it is time for our monthly review of the new locally-produced launches for the month. For a second month in a row, a whopping 11 new models make their entrance in the monthly charts which confirms we are now well and truly in post-pandemic territory as we’d need to go back to last November to find a similar launch rhythm. Once again SUVs form the overwhelming majority of launches this month at 9 out of 11, and 6 new BEVs vs. 4 last month. To thoroughly understand the dynamics at play on the Chinese market, make sure you consult our Exclusive Guide to all 171 active Chinese Brands – a number that is bound to be cut down as small EV startups struggle to find funding in a challenging environment.
1. Geely Haoyue (#174 – 2.372 sales)
After its final design leaked over 6 months ago, Geely finally launches its first 7-seater SUV, the Haoyue, sporting an aggressive front and very sophisticated interior but whose tail end shape seems to have been inspired from the defunct Gleagle GX7. Nevertheless, given the lineage of blockbuster success for the majority of Geely SUVs, namely the Boyue, Binyue, Vision X6 or Emgrand GS, we have high hopes for the Haoyue.
Geely Haoyue interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
One of the Haoyue’s main attractions is its cut-throat pricing: despite offering beautifully designed cockpit complete with refined materials, the Haoyue starts a ridiculously low 103.600 yuan and doesn’t get more expensive than 139.600 yuan (12.950-17.450€ or US$14.800-19.980). This puts the Haoyue at the same price point as 5-seater blockbuster SUVs such as the Chery Tiggo 8 (88.800-155.900), Haval H6 (103.000-141.000) or Changan CS75 Plus (106.900-154.900) while offering two additional seats! The Boyue peaked at 31.207 units, the Emgrand GS at 20.087, the Binyue at 14.627 and the Vision X6 at 14.610, with all these nameplates almost always above 10.000 monthly units, so this is our benchmark for success for the Haoyue.
Bar for success: 10.000 monthly units
2. JAC Jiayue X4 (#200 – 1.849 sales)
JAC is currently in a catastrophic position at home with H1 2020 sales down -41.2% in a market down -16.7% and doesn’t seem to be in any rush to get out of it with June wholesales volumes down another -43.3% in a market up 11.6%. Having put all its eggs in the cheap EV basket with disastrous consequences once government subsidies dried up, JAC is however and like most major Chinese carmakers 100% state-owned and therefore has bottomless pockets when it comes to reinventing itself. And it did so indeed last November with the Jiayue A5 which inaugurated a new nomenclature and design language, followed by the Jiayue X7 SUV last April. It’s now the turn of the Jiayue X4 to continue building this new lineup.
JAC Jiayue X4 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Even though its design is more modern – read angular, it bears no resemblance to the two previous Jiayue offerings which is an interesting move for the brand. The X4 remains faithful to the brand’s dirt-cheap pricing (and perception) from 72.800 to 99.800 yuan (9.100€-12.500€ or US$ 10.400-14.300) but too close to the much more refined Jiayue X7 (89.800-119.800). It will compete in a small Chinese SUV segment saturated to the brim with strong sellers such as the Chery Tiggo 5x (59.900-89.900), Geely Vision X7 (68.900-99.900) and Changan CS35 Plus (69.900-109.900) and dangerously dearer than the ultra high-tech Baojun RS-3 (71.800-89.800). The A5 sedan has convinced 27.337 buyers in 8 months but the X7 hasn’t managed more than 3.533 units in 3 months vs. our bar for success of 6.000, so we are drastically lowering our expectations for the X4.
Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units
3. Ford Explorer (#204 – 1.825 sales)
Ford is slowly coming out of the most nightmarish part of its Chinese presence, having stabilised its sales over H1 2020 (+1.6%) after a debilitating stretch of 29 consecutive months of year-on-year falls between July 2017 and November 2019, culminating in a -80% year-on-year fall in December 2018. What enabled Ford to stop the rot was a surprisingly resilient Territory SUV, dubiously based on the JMC Yusheng S330 from 2016. And rightfully so, Ford is banking on an SUV revival with the Explorer, a U.S. vehicle which had never been produced in China before.
Ford Explorer interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
A slight leap of faith is that the Explorer is supposed to appeal to significantly more well-off customers than the Territory does, which is something Ford might find hard to translate into strong volumes given most of its presence in China in recent years has been on the back of a decidedly low-cost Escort sedan. This 7-seater SUV is priced from 309.800 to 399.800 yuan (38.750-50.000€ or US$44.300-57.200) and will compete with other mass market 7-seaters such as the VW Teramont (299.900-505.900) and Buick Enclave (299.900-379.900) but also smaller premium SUVs such as the Audi Q5L (387.800-498.000) or BMW X3 (389.900-479.80). The Territory peaked at 6.170 sales, we want at least half for the Explorer.
Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units
4. Beijing X7 (#228 – 1.401 sales)
In October 2019, BAIC Motor announced that all its brands (BAIC, BJEV, BAW, Senova, Hyosow, Weiwang…) would be rationalised into a single appellation: Beijing. The first nameplates to feature the new Beijing logo were the EU7 electric sedan, the X3 SUV and the U7 sedan. Now comes this X7 which impresses with an understatedly sleek and sophisticated exterior design that translates into a multi-tablet, high-tech cockpit clearly inspired from the latest Mercedes.
Beijing X7 interior.
As striking and surprising a dash this is from the traditionally very conservative and slow-moving state-owned company that Beijing is, the X7 pricing is however contained to an impossibly low 104.900-146.900 yuan (13.100-18.400€ or US$15.000-21.000). It will see it compete with the likes of the Roewe RX5 (99.800-148.800), Haval H6 (103.000-141.000), Changan CS75 Plus (106.900-154.900) or Changan UNI-T (113.900-133.900). The mid-size Chinese crossover segment is arguably the most saturated in this market and this is a double-edged sword for the X7: manage to stand out from the crowd for even a few months at launch and very significant volumes could be secured. Be too discrete and this could mean the loss of a massive opportunity to take the Beijing brand to the next level. The X3 peaked at 5.036 units, we want the X7 to follow closely to bee deemed a success.
Bar for success: 4.000 monthly units
5. VW Tayron X (#276 – 812 sales)
Uncontested leader of the Chinese car market for the past two decades, Volkswagen has finally fallen for the latest trend that has raged among Chinese carmakers for the past two years: the coupe SUV. With the Dongfeng Glory ix5 (99.800-149.800), Changan CS85 Coupe (119.900-169.900 yuan), Haval F7x (119.900-154.900), Geely Xingyue (135.800-195.800) and other Lynk & Co 05 (175.800-235.800), Chinese carmakers have been able to charge a premium for what is in fact just a different silhouette applied on existing vehicles. The opportunity was too good to miss for foreign manufacturers, and in January 2019 SAIC-VW introduced the Skoda Kodiaq GT (179.900-247.900 yuan).
VW Tayron X interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Not to be outdone, FAW-VW replies with this Tayron X priced from 236.000 to 296.000 yuan (29.550-37.100€ or US$33.800-42.400). As the segment’s true pioneers, the imported BMW X4 (455.900-585.900), Mercedes GLC Coupe (458.800-598.800) and BMW X6 (766.900-936.900) stay well out of reach of the overwhelming majority of Chinese buyers, the Tayron X is the first truly aspirational yet affordable coupe SUV to be offered in China and could only potentially compete in cachet with the Lynk & Co 05 (175.800-235.800). In other words, the Boss has now arrived in the coupe SUV segment and its success or lack thereof will decide whether this silhouette has a future as a mass market offering or is just a fad. Kodiaq and Kodiaq GT wholesales data isn’t split but Retail data shows it averaged 685 units for its first 17 months, or 37.5% of Kodiaq retail sales. A similar ratio for the Tayron X compared to the Tayron (11.600 monthly wholesales average in 2020) gives us a bar for success at 4.000 units.
Bar for success: 4.000 monthly units
6. Leap Motor T03 (#292 – 698 sales)
Leap Motor is an electric carmaker founded in 2015 and headquartered in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. Its first offering was the S01 mini sportscar (detailed further down), launched in March 2019. It seems Leap Motor is only now deciding to make wholesales data public, coinciding with the launch of its second model, this T03 hatch looking like a mix of Geely Panda and Mini Countryman.
Leap Motor T03 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
If the T03 doesn’t offer the quirkiness bordering on coolness of the S01 sportscar, it may be able to give the brands the volumes it crave to be able to survive. The cockpit features the obligatory large touchscreen albeit awkwardly positioned, and the T03 is priced at a very attractive 65.800 to 75.800 yuan (8.250-9.500€ or US$9.400-10.850), putting it in the same sandpit as 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: 1.500 monthly units
7. GAC Aion V (#334 – 328 sales)
GAC launched a new line of striking EV models, baptised Aion, at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2019. If the Aion LX crossover (229.600-349.600 yuan) has been very discrete (peak of 510 sales) due to its high price, the Aion S sedan (139.800-205.800) has been a smashing success, peaking at 8.460 units in December 2019 and adding up to over 50.000 sales in the 14 months since launch. This makes the Aion V, in essence a crossover variant of the Aion S appropriately priced from 159.600 to 239.600 yuan (19.990-30.000€ or US$22.800-34.300) the perfect candidate for yet another blockbuster status and qualifies the Aion V as the June 2020 launch with the most sales potential.
GAC Aion V interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The cockpit is a regal to the eyes and wouldn’t be astray in vehicles twice or three times its price. The Aion V costs roughly 15% more than the Aion S and 30% less than the Aion LX – in our view right in the sweet spot – and competes with the likes of the Weltmeister EX5 (139.800-198.800), Xpeng G3 (146.800-199.800), Neta U (139.800-199.800) and BYD Song Pro EV (179.800-219.800). Although its bar for success is set at 4.500 monthly units, the Aion V has the potential to go much higher, challenge BYD’s domination and reputation in the electric SUV segment and definitely establish GAC as a major EV player.
Bar for success: 4.500 monthly units
8. Aiways U5 (#354 – 207 sales)
Attentive BSCB readers would already be very familiar with the Aiways U5, described in our Exclusive Guide to all 171 active Chinese Brands and singled out in our 2019 Shanghai Auto Show review due to its exquisite materials and über-luxurious glovebox. Since, the U5 has made headlines in September 2019 with a world record for the longest road trip by an electric vehicle: 15.000 km from Xian in China to the Frankfurt Motor Show. In May 2020, Always announced it sold 500 units of the U5 to the licensee of Hertz rental cars in Corsica, a French island in the mediterranean, its largest export volume so far. It has indeed unofficially appeared in the June 2020 French sales ranking. After landing in the Chinese retail charts last January, the U5 is now officially included in the Chinese wholesales data.
Aiways U5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The U5 establishes itself among the more premium electric Chinese SUVs with a pricing from 197.900 to 292.100 yuan (24.800-36.600€ or US$28.300-41.800) and competes with the likes of the BYD Song Pro EV (179.800-219.800), Weltmeister EX6 (189.900-239.900), WEY VV7 PHEV (219.800-239.800), BYD Tang EV (297.900-377.900) and possibly the LI One (328.000) but remains a notch below the NIO ES6 (358.000-518.000). The U5 already benefits from copious amounts of publicity at home but needs to translate this into hard volumes, the way fellow Chinese EV startups NIO (43.216), Weltmeister (23.273), Xpeng (21.675) and LI (9.500) have done since 2018. We’d want at least 2.000 monthly units to give Aiways a chance at long-term survival.
Bar for success: 2.000 monthly units
9. Levdeo i9 (#355 – 202 sales)
Not much information has leaked out on this i9 which is in fact a rebadged Yema T60 EV. Levdeo only recently started officially communicating wholesales data so it is unclear whether this month’s figure is only for June or an accumulated total since launch. The i9 is priced from 115.800 to 139.900 yuan (14.500-17.500€ or US$16.600-20.000) and is by far the brand’s most expensive offering so far. It competes with the likes of the JMEV EX5 (89.800-132.800), Zedriv GX5 (115.800-139.800) and SOL E20X (128.000-138.000).
Bar for success: 700 monthly units
10. Leap Motor S01 (#359 – 181 sales)
Even though it was unveiled in 2017 and is on sale in China since March 2019, this is the first appearance in the wholesales charts for the quirky Leap Motor S01, heralded as the first Chinese mini sportscar EV. With a vague air of Peugeot e-Legend concept (the modernised version of the 504 coupe), the S01 has carved itself a unique niche in China but sales seem to be tentative at best.
Leap Motor S01 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Priced from 119.900 to 149.900 yuan (15.000-18.800€ or US$17.150-21.450), the S01 isn’t exactly cheap in China and features in the same price range as various models including the VW Lavida PHEV (148.900), BYD Qin (129.900-174.800) or Ora IQ (114.800-124.800), all benefiting from either some brand cachet or the support of a large group (Great Wall Motors) in the case of Ora. All luxuries Leap Motor doesn’t have, and we’d need it to peak into the four-digit figures and maintain an 800-unit average to give the Leap Motor brand any hope of survival in the long term.
Bar for success: 800 monthly units
11. Geometry C (#407 – 44 sales)
At the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2019, Geely took the questionable decision to create a separate brand, Geometry, to launch EV models. Its first opus then was the A sedan which ended up being a complete failure with a peak of 2.456 units last November, just 63 (-96.4%) in June and a paltry total of 13.783 in 15 months. Undeterred, Geely starts again, this time with a Binyue-sized crossover called C that sports exactly the same bland nose and a similarly uncluttered dash.
Geometry C interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The C is priced at 139.800 yuan (17.500€ or US$20.000) which places it in the line of fire of the Weltmeister EX5 (139.800-198.800), Neta U (139.800-199.800) and Xpeng G3 (146.800-199.800). Given the atrocious reception given to the A sedan, it’s difficult to imagine a different fate for the C, but as China’s best-selling domestic carmaker Geely is resourceful and although the C looks exactly like you would expect an A crossover to look, we’re going to assume they have learnt from their mistakes and can make this a success. It would have to sell upwards of 4.000 monthly units regularly to be labelled as such.
Bar for success: 4.000 monthly units
Previous month: China new models May 2020: Xpeng P7 and Hycan 007 hit the market
One year ago: China new models June 2019: Hongqi HS5 and NIO ES6 land