The Wuling Hongguang MINI EV has landed in China and is an instant blockbuster.
Now that we have analysed Chinese August wholesales, it is time for our monthly review of the new locally-produced launches, so you can be sure to stay up-to-date on what’s the latest in the world’s largest car market. After a pause in July with just 3 new launches, as we predicted last month August sees some of the new vehicles unveiled at the Chengdu Motor Show hit the market, totalling 10 new releases. To thoroughly understand the dynamics at play on the Chinese market, make sure you regularly consult our Exclusive Guide to all 169 active Chinese Brands, updated live. Most recent developments have been the addition of Voyah, a premium brand by Dongfeng, the unveiling of a full lineup at Hengchi and the deletion of Lifan and Zotye.
1. Wuling Hongguang MINI EV (#30 – 15.000 sales)
The most successful new launch in August equates to a full-blown earthquake: the Wuling Hongguang MINI EV breaks the all-time first month volume record in China set by the Chevrolet Monza in March 2019 (12.402) by delivering 15.000 units to dealerships across the country (=wholesales). The third-placed model in this ranking and previous record-holder before the Monza is the Baojun 730 in August 2014 (12.006). A small caveat to this: the MINI EV launched on July 24 which means its August wholesales figure in fact may include some July sales. This performance actually goes beyond the new record start: the MINI EV scores the fourth largest monthly volume for any EV in China below the Beijing EU-Series at 21.963 sales in December 2019 and the Beijing EC-Series at 20.648 in October 2018 and 15.719 in November 2017, but above the Tesla Model 3 at 14.954 last June.
Wuling Hongguang MINI EV interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
What the Wuling Hongguang MINI EV is on the verge of doing – industry reports say 60.000 orders have been received for the model – is revolutionising the Chinese EV market, which was until now strongly skewed toward car-sharing fleets. The MINI EV is appealing to private customers primarily and may trigger the start of widespread acceptance of EVs in China. It is Wuling’s first foray into the EV world and true to the brand’s tradition of insanely tight pricing, it is available from 28.800 to 38.800¥ (3.600-4.850€ or US$4.240-5.730), simply making it the cheapest roadworthy EV in China and the world. It competes with (and undercuts) the likes of the Baojun E100 (49.800-59.800¥), Chery eQ1 (59.800-78.800¥), Baojun E300 (64.800-84.800¥) and Ora Black Cat (69.800-84.800¥). In terms of future performance targets, the sky is the limit for the MINI EV, and its sales evolution will set a new benchmark for the EV segment as a whole.
Bar for success: 15.000 monthly sales (already reached)
2. Baojun RC-5 (#86 – 6.047 sales)
In January 2019, Baojun launched a new, more premium diamond logo and brand identity succinctly described as “new Baojun”. Since then, the expanding “New” lineup has been co-existing with its previous, low-cost but extraordinarily successful offerings such as the 510, 530 and 730. However New Baojun models hadn’t accounted for more than 40% of the brand’s monthly volumes but the launch of the RC-5 has tipped the balance above 50% for the very first time, to 54% in August vs. 37% YTD. We’re not quite there yet, as Baojun models traditionally have strong wholesales starts before crumbling down afterwards, but as the months go by and the New Baojun lineup continues to expand, it should logically end up replacing the old range. Suffice to say the transition to a more premium image hasn’t really gone as smoothly as the brand would have hoped though. The RC-5 follows the New Baojun’s design language and is, a very rare occurrence, also available as a station wagon called RC-5W, hoping to replicate the success of the smaller 310W.
Baojun RC-5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The RC-5 is priced between 59.800 and 112.800¥ (7.500-14.100€ or US$8.800-16.650) and, true to the New Baojun DNA, offers striking exterior design and outstanding interior quality for the price. It competes with the likes of the Roewe i5 (68.900-115.900¥), Geely Emgrand (69.800-98.800¥), Changan Eado (72.900-103.900¥) and Geely Binrui (75.800-110.800¥), all best-sellers in the segment. To-date, New Baojun models have started strong but couldn’t match their predecessors’ blockbuster status. The RS-5 launched with 821 sales in January 2019, peaked at 5.102 in April 2019 but has fallen below 1.400 units since November 2019. The RM-5 and RC-5 launched with 8.635 and 5.337 units respectively in September 2019 and never went higher, the RS-3 launched with 4.344 wholesales in October 2019 and peaked at 11.150 in December and the E300 hasn’t managed more than 1.568 monthly units. Encouragingly, the RS-3 reached its 2nd largest ever volume this month at 8.291 and the RM-5 scored its first 3.000+ month in 2020. In this context, with 6.000-launch month the RC-5 is in the upper section of the New Baojun lineup but it will need to grow, or at least stay at that level, to be considered a success.
Bar for success: 8.000 monthly sales
3. Hongqi H9 (#237 – 1.318 sales)
FAW’s luxury brand Hongqi is one of the most spectacular recent success stories in China, with the brand clocking up an incredible 15 all-time monthly volume records in the past 18 months, lifting that figure from 5.302 in March 2019 to 21.020 in August 2020. This spectacular surge was primarily enabled by two new high-volume models: the HS5 SUV (record 10.721) and H5 sedan (record 7.335), with the larger H7 sedan hitting a record 4.648 units in January 2019 but falling below 1.100 ever since, and the HS7 peaking at just 898 units this month. The H9 is the brand’s new flagship and its launch volume, at 1.318, is already impressive. We’d want double that regularly to call the H9 a game-changer.
Hongqi H9 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The Hongqi H9 is priced between 309.800 and 539.800¥ (38.750-67.500€ or US$45.750-79.750) and at 5137mm long it is one of the largest luxury vehicles every built by a Chinese company. It has no Chinese competitor and will compete with a large array of foreign luxury models spanning two distinct segments: 4850-4950mm sedans such as the Lexus ES (290.000-483.000¥), BMW 3 Series L (293.900-409.900¥), Audi A4L (305.800-396.800¥) and Mercedes C-Class L (307.800-474.800¥) and similarly-sized foreigners such as the Volvo S90 (372.900-505.900¥), Cadillac CT6 (379.700-527.700¥), Audi A6L (409.800-653.800¥), BMW 5 Series L (426.900-549.900¥) and Mercedes E-Class L (429.800-623.800¥).
Bar for success: 2.500 monthly sales
4. Qoros 7 (#324 – 436 sales)
Originally a Chery joint-venture designed as a premium “European” brand, Qoros failed to meet its volume targets both locally and internationally, with a European launch abandoned after a ghastly, single-digit sales result in Slovakia. Chery disinvested in 2017, leaving a controlling stake to Baoneng Investment Group, a Chinese conglomerate which started as a vegetable retailer before diversifying into real estate, health care, insurance, auto financing and more recently EV manufacturing. Qoros hadn’t launched any true new model in over 4 years: since the 5 SUV in March 2016, so this is a renaissance of sorts. Although Baoneng made much fanfare about transforming Qoros into a premium EV maker, this new 7 SUV is well and truly ICE, powered by a choice between a 204hp 1.6T or 231hp 1.8T engine. It is a breath of fresh air for a carmaker that hasn’t sold over 2.000 monthly units since October 2019, launching a new, rather pleasing design language.
Qoros 7 interior
The Qoros 7 is priced between 109.800 and 161.800¥ (13.700-20.200€ or US$16.200-23.900) and enters the most popular and saturated SUV segment in China. This could go both ways: it stands out from the crowd and finds itself a solid volume month after month or it is outspoken and fails to attract even a small flow of customers. The competition is both tried and tested and extremely successful, including the Geely Boyue (88.800-156.800¥), BYD Song Pro (89.800-119.800¥), Haval H6 (98.000-141.000¥), Roewe RX5 (99.800-139.800¥) and Changan CS75 Plus (106.900-154.900¥). For Qoros to have a shot at surviving as a brand, we’d want the 7 to hit at least 2.000 monthly sales and stay there. This could then pave the way for the launch of additional models in the lineup.
Bar for success: 2.000 monthly sales
5. Seres SF5 (#402 – 59 sales)
Already present in our retail sales charts, the Seres SF5 makes its entrance in the Chinese wholesales data in August and therefore qualifies for a new model entry. Previously known as SF Motors, Seres is a subsidiary of Sokon, itself one of the many Dongfeng divisions. Headquartered in Santa Clara, California in the Silicon Valley, it was founded in January 2016 and is one of many Chinese automotive startups specialising in electric vehicles. In September 2016, Tesla co-founder Martin Eberhard was hired as Strategic Advisor, he is now Chief Scientist. The company owns the AM General Commercial Assembly Plant in Mishawaka, Indiana, that used to build Hummers and has a targeted initial annual capacity of 50.000 units. Added to this are 150.000 annual units in China through Sokon facilities. The SF5 coupe SUV is the brand’s first vehicle.
Seres SF5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
It is priced between 249.000 and 339.000¥ (31.150-42.400€ or US$36.800-50.100), placing it squarely into the luxury Chinese SUV segment where it will compete with the likes of the GAC Aion LX (229.600-349.600¥), BYD Tang (236.800-377.900¥), Roewe MARVEL X (268.800-308.800¥) and LI One (328.000¥). As for every new brand, it is difficult to set a benchmark for success but we’d like at least 1.500 to 2.000 monthly sales to give Seres a chance at long-term survival and follow in the (short) tracks of NIO, Xpeng and LI among Chinese EV start-ups that have so far survived both the slashing of EV government subsidies and the Covid crisis.
Bar for success: 2.000 monthly sales
6. Arcfox αT (#417 – 26 sales)
Arcfox is a brand by Beijing Auto dedicated to upmarket electric vehicles. After displaying an impressive supercar concept at the Beijing Auto Show in April 2016, the carmaker’s first production vehicle, the Lite, was then packed up and allocated its own brand called… Lite, leaving Arcfox without any vehicle. Over the past two years, Arcfox has displayed two hypercars in various Auto Shows, as well as the ECF SUV concept. The ECF was the inspiration behind this αT, or Alpha T. Arcfox plays it relatively safe indeed for its second attempt at hitting the mainstream Chinese market, yeti premium SUV being the car of choice for all new Chinese EV startups (NIO ES8, LI One, Hycan 007, Enovate ME7, Seres SF5, etc).
Arcfox αT interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
Note Arc stands for Arctic, symbolising “the ultimate world” according to the carmaker, while Fox symbolises “the fox’s cleverness and dexterity, representing a smart brand personality.” A little over-reaching, but why not. The αT is priced at 280.000¥ (35.000€ or US$41.350), therefore playing in the same sandpit as the aforementioned Seres SF5 (249.000-339.000¥) and, logically, the same competitive set including the GAC Aion LX (229.600-349.600¥), BYD Tang (236.800-377.900¥), Roewe MARVEL X (268.800-308.800¥) and LI One (328.000¥). We’ll allocate the same bar for success – in this case bar for survival – as Seres.
Bar for success: 2.000 monthly sales
August also saw the arrival of four additional new nameplates in the wholesales charts. The Cowin E5 EV with 111 is in fact a rebadged Chery Arrizo 5e, the Sokon S413 with 91 sales is a rebadged Dongfeng Glory E3, the Dongfeng Glory E1 with 84 sales is a rebadged Renault City K-ZE / Venucia e30 and the Fukang e-Elysee with 32 sales is a Citroen C-Eysee EV.
Previous month: China new models July 2020: BYD Han and Ora White Cat land