The GAC Aion Y launches this month in China.
After exploring China wholesales for April, it is now time to go through the all-new new locally-produced launches for the month, as our “New Models” series returns. This time we have 6 new models hitting the wholesales charts, among them 3 EVs and 4 SUVs – and 2 EV SUVs – confirming the current long-term sales trends in the Chinese market favouring such vehicles. To thoroughly understand the dynamics at play in China, make sure you consult our Exclusive Guide to all 175 active Chinese Brands.
1. Toyota Allion (#128 – 3.995 sales)
The Chinese market is so large that it allows room for a much more precise segmentation than is normally the case. In this context, the launch of the Toyota Allion, essentially a long wheelbase version of the Toyota Corolla, could make some sense. However the wheelbase is only extended by 50 mm which would be barely noticeable in the rear seats. The Allion is manufactured by the FAW-Toyota joint venture which also sells the Corolla, and the difficulty here will be to try and prevent cannibalisation of Corolla sales.
Toyota Allion interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The Toyota Allion is priced between 142.800 and 179.800 yuan (US$22.200-28.000 or 18.200-22.900€) compared to the Corolla at 109.800-159.800 yuan. The Allion is one of the first vehicles (if not the first) in its category to offer an extended version of an existing model so it still competes with standard variants by other brands, such as the Lynk & Co 03 (113.800-248.800), Honda Civic (119.900-169.900), Mazda3 Axela (115.900-189.900), VW Sagitar (129.900-192.900), VW Lamando (149.900-186.900) and Buick Verano (152.900-182.900). In terms of sales potential, the Allion starts its career on a good note at almost 4.000 wholesales, and we would need around 6.000 to make this extended wheelbase game worthwhile, however we must keep an eye on the Corolla which dropped by -22.8% this month. A consistent fall in the next few months could indicate Allion cannibalisation.
Bar for success: 6.000 monthly sales
2. GAC Aion Y (#184 – 2.000 sales)
GAC launched the Aion sub-brand to sell rather sophisticated EVs. The Aion Y is a compact SUV, the fourth iteration of the sub-brand and by far the cheapest so far. It is aimed at a younger audience with marketing for the vehicle showing it with bright orange stripes and graffiti background (see top image in this article). GAC says the top variant has 600 km range. The dashboard is very simple but classy, featuring two screens, a rotary gearshift dial and a touch of orange.
GAC Aion Y interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The Aion Y is priced between 104.600 and 148.600 yuan (US$16.300 – 23.100 or 13.300-18.900€). This is to be compared with the Aion S sedan at 139.800-205.800 yuan, the Aion V SUV at 177.600-239.600 and the Aion LX SUV at 229.600-349.600. Its pricing positions the Aion Y against the likes of the BYD Yuan EV (89-900-139.900), Neta U (99.800-179.800) and Geely Emgrand GSe (109.900-159.900). The sales benchmark for the Aion Y should be the Aion S sedan, the closest-priced Aion model as the Aion V and LX remain niche. The S peaked at 8.460 units in December 2019 and has been below 6.100 ever since. We’d want 4.000 units on a regular basis for the Y to take the Aion sub-brand to the next level.
Bar for success: 4.000 monthly sales
3. R Marvel R (#306 – 597 sales)
In March 2020, SAIC Motor launched a new mid-level EV brand, R (R汽车), with its first model being the ER6 sedan. The Marvel R is the brand’s first SUV, and the ES33 coupe SUV, the brand’s flagship, will launch in 2022. All R models use Roewe platforms. R reuses the Marvel nameplate which was first penned by the Roewe Marvel X. The Marvel R already features on the MG Europe website as it will be sold globally as an MG model. So many different brands! The centre console is a spectacular 19.4 inch interactive touchscreen, similarly positioned as the one in the Tesla Model S and including a rotary gearshift dial at the bottom.
R Marvel R interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The Marvel R is priced from 219.800 to 259.800 yuan (US$34.200-40.400 or 28.000-33.100 €) which means it will compete with the likes of the BYD Tang EV (189.800-314.800 yuan), VW ID.4 X (199.900-272.900), Arcfox αT (241.900-319.900) and Seres SF5 (216.800-246.800). As far as sales prospects, this mix of pricing and mass appeal is uncharted territory for Roewe and SAIC, as the cheaper R ER6 (162.800-200.800) only peaked at 1.124 units in October 2020, hardly making the new R brand a success. We’d want the Marvel R to perform much higher in order to give R a chance at surviving.
Bar for success: 3.000 monthly sales
4. Letin Mango (#337 – 336 sales)
Letin, previously known as Levdeo, is a Low Speed EV specialist. LSEVs are mini EVs that don’t require a permit and aren’t allowed on the highways. Levdeo renamed itself Letin in August 2020 and introduced the new Mango which only makes its appearance in the wholesales charts now. Letin’s other models are the i3 and i5 hatches and the i9 SUV. The Mango is a very basic four-door EV aimed at a female target market. The exterior shape reminds of an Indian Suzuki Alto, and despite such cut-throat pricing (see below), the dashboard still features two screens and a mango-coloured belt connecting the air vents.
Letin Mango interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The Mango’s trump card is its price: from a minuscule 29.800 to 54.900 yuan (US$4.600 – 8.500 or 3.800-7.000€). This makes it compete with the Wuling Hongguang MINI EV (28.800-43.600 yuan) and Changan Benben E-Star (29.800-74.800). It is also both the cheapest and most modern Letin model, with the i3 (49.800-62.800), i5 (75.800) and i9 (115.800-139.900) all priced significantly higher. To-date, Letin models have failed to deliver significant volumes, with the i3 peaking at 1.005 units in December 2019 but under 100 monthly units so far this year and the i5 peaking at 868 also in December 2019 but below 110 since last October. We’d need the Mango to regularly beat these two peaks to give the brand some traction.
Bar for success: 1.500 monthly sales
5. Beijing Off-road BJ30 (#377 – 144 sales)
Beijing Auto was renamed Beijing Off-road when BAIC launched its new “Beijing” brand in 2020. The BJ series of rugged vehicles currently on sale, notably the BJ40, have built a solid reputation of capable off-roaders and can often be spotted in sand dune terrain in remote parts of China alongside the Toyota Prado, Land Cruiser and Haval H9. The BJ models mimic Jeeps in their design. The new BJ30 is in fact a facelifted version of the BJ20 which was never successful, it was unveiled at the Guangzhou Auto Show in November 2020. It is front wheel drive only and therefore only destined to urban life, powered by a 1.5L, 150 hp turbocharged gasoline engine mated to a 6-speed manual transmission or a CVT.
Beijing BJ30 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
The BJ30 is priced from 105.800 to 125.800 yuan (US$ 16.500-19.600 or 13.500-16.000€) which is the soft spot of the SUV segment in China, meaning it faces as much competition as is possible. The closest rugged offer to the BJ30 is the Haval Big Dog (119.900-162.900 yuan) which is a great success so far. Other competitors include Beijing’s very own X7 (104.900-146.900 yuan), the Haval H6 (98.000-154.900), Bestune T55 (98.900-126.900) and Changan CS75 Plus (106.900-154.900). As for sales prospects, given the BJ40 peaked at 3.586 sales in December 2018 and usually sits between 1.400 and 2.200 units, BJ30 expectations shouldn’t be too high and we’d want regular stints at 1.500 sales or above to call it a success.
Bar for success: 1.500 monthly sales
6. VW Talagon (#434 – 3 sales)
Unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show in April, the VW Talagon is a three-row, six or seven-seat SUV manufactured through the FAW-VW joint venture. At 5.15m long, this is Volkswgen’s largest SUV to-date above the Teramont (5.05m) and Touareg (4.80m) but smaller than the Viloran MPV (5.35m). The Talagon, Teramont and Viloran are all based on the same MQB platform. Note SAIC-VW produces both the Teramont and Viloran and therefore FAW-VW needed its own large SUV which is now a ticked box.
VW Talagon interior. Picture autohome.com.cn
There is no pricing yet for the Talagon but it is expected to start around 300.000 yuan (US$46.700 or 38.200€). It competes with the likes of the Ford Explorer (309.800-399.800), Buick Enclave (299.900-379.900) and VW’s own Teramont (282.000-372.000 yuan) but also smaller luxury SUVs such as the Audi Q5L (387.800-498.000) or BMW X3 (389.900-479.80). Its shape and spaciousness also make it an alternative for higher-end MPVs such as the Buick GL8 (232.900-529.900) and VW’s own Viloran (286.800-399.800). In terms of sales prospects, VW will want the Talagon to perform more like the Teramont (peak of 11.238 in November 2017) than the Viloran (3.815 record in September 2020) which has failed to convince the masses so far. We’ll set the bar for success a little less than halfway between these two scores at 6.000.
Bar for success: 6.000 monthly sales