* See the May 2016 Top 396 All China-made models and Top 70 brands here *
With the light vehicle market up a very dynamic 11% in May, the constant flow of new models hitting Chinese dealership isn’t about to slow down. Another illustration this month: no less than nine all-new China-made nameplates make their first appearance in the ranking, five of them having just been unveiled at last April’s Beijing Auto Show. As is the tradition each month, BSCB puts a laser focus on these new entries to keep you informed about the largest car market in the world as if you lived there. Characteristically, the six most popular all-new models this month are SUVs, followed by two MPVs and one sedan, and 6 are Chinese vs. 2 foreigners. The message: the Chinese SUV sales surge isn’t about to cool down either.
1. FAW Xenia R7 (#133 – 3.931 sales)
China’s very first automaker – First Automotive Works or FAW – is struggling at home with light vehicle sales down 32% so far in 2016. Only the Besturn B30 sedan has managed to pull decent sales figures, so a small crossover is just what the doctor ordered for the brand, and also an instant hit: the Xenia R7, which impressed me at the Beijing Auto with its interior quality, almost hits the 4.000 sales mark for is first appearance in the charts. This is already almost as much as where another FAW small crossover, the Junpai D60, peaked at: 4.154 units in January 2015. In fact, a stretch sales target should be the larger FAW Besturn X80 with a personal best of 8.199 sales in October 2014 but down to a paltry 1.367 this month. At 4.30m long and priced between 69.800 and 86.900 yuan (US$10.700 – 13.300), the Xenia R7 competes in price with the larger Baojun 560 and the smaller Changan CS35 and may have a hard time finding its place among the plethora of Chinese crossovers already on the market. FAW got us used to sell their cars at some of the lowest prices in the market so this Xenia R7 is a step-up which – albeit justified by an aggressive design, current technology and interior quality – may need a little convincing.
Bar for success: 6.000 monthly sales
2. Land Rover Discovery Sport (#136 – 3.842 sales)
After finally reporting their overall Chinese sales last month, Jaguar Land Rover now gives us locally-produced models monthly sales data. Although launched in late October 2015, we only now get access to Land Rover Discovery Sport figures, and they are excellent. The Discovery Sport manages to attract almost 4.000 monthly buyers a mere 6 months after launch. This compares with 10.708 for the Audi Q5, the segment leader and reference in China and present here for much longer. This is also more than any other imported luxury SUV, corresponding to roughly 50.000 annual units, it compares with 39.300 BMW X5 in 2015, 39.000 Toyota Prado and 27.800 Porsche Macan. The decision by Jaguar Land Rover to start producing locally was a good one then. Despite producing locally at lower cost, Land Rover is selling the Discovery Sport in China at prices almost 50% higher than in the U.S., ranging from 368.000 to 518.000 yuan (US$56.300-79.200) vs. $38,450-46,950 in the U.S., meaning the cheapest Chinese variant is $10.000 dearer than the most expensive U.S. variant!
Bar for success: 4.000 monthly sales
3. Dongfeng Fengguang 580 (#156 – 3.022 sales)
Playing a big part in propelling Dongfeng to #2 in my list of the Most impressive Chinese carmakers at the Beijing Auto Show 2016, the Fengguang 580 ticks absolutely all boxes in the current Chinese market conditions. Its exterior and interior designs are leaps and bounds above what the brand has given us so far in the segment (think Fengguang 330-360), the dashboard console features a large touch screen and the connectivity is optimal: full smartphone integration, satellite navigation, a wifi hot spot and permanent 4G internet. Plus, it’s a seven seater. All this for an almost impossibly low price ranging between 72.900 and 99.999 yuan (US$ 11.100 – 15.300). At 4.68m long and powered by a 1.5L turbocharged 4-cyl petrol engine, the Fengguang 580 smartly leaves the similarly-sized Dongfeng Fengshen AX7 in a different price range altogether (115.700 – 149.700 yuan) and competes full-frontal with the very successful but a lot more basic Changan CX70 and BAIC Huansu S3. This could be a true blockbuster for Dongfeng.
Bar for success: 7.000 monthly sales
4. BAIC Senova X35 (#158 – 3.003 sales)
Beijing Auto is expanding the Senova SUV lineup at lightning speed: after the X65 in February 2015 (personal best: 3.971 sales), the X25 last October (10.593) and the X55 last December (6.492), here comes the X35. At 4.30m long and powered by a 1.5L petrol engine, the Senova X35 is priced between 70.000 and 90.000 yuan (US$10.700 – 13.800) and thus competes with the FAW Xenia R7 described above. The Senova sub-brand is however a lot more familiar to Chinese consumers and its relative refinement is understood, enabling the model to justify these prices, a tad on the high end for a Chinese carmaker. Its commercial start, above 3.000 units, is already good but it should go much higher to really please BAIC.
Bar for success: 8.000 monthly sales
5. Geely Emgrand GS (#167 – 2.800 sales)
It took a little while, but Geely is now truly entering the SUV segment with very attractive offerings and the manufacturer isn’t doing things in half: only two months after launching the Boyue which has already accumulated 11.069 deliveries, Geely gets the Emgrand GS into market with a solid 2.800 sales for its first month. Built on Geely’s FE platform, which is developed with Volvo technical support and at 4.40m long, the GS is priced between 77.800 and 108.800 yuan (US$11.900 – 16.600), slotting nicely below the 4.52m Boyue (98.800-157.800 yuan).
The GS interior quality was one of the elements that made me choose Geely as the Most impressive Chinese carmaker at the Beijing Auto Show 2016. Volvo’s influence is palpable in many aspects of the car which offers real value for money to the Chinese car buyer. A 10.000 monthly sales score seems a reasonable bar for success as far as the GS is concerned, but the attention to detail the brand has displayed with it should be able to lift it further up. The only element that could hamper its sales is its hatchback format, traditionally harder to sell to a Chinese audience. But the Emgrand GS has “European market” written all over it. Will Geely finally make the plunge?
Bar for success: 10.000 monthly sales
6. Range Rover Evoque (#211 – 1.636 sales)
Just as the Land Rover Discovery Sport detailed above, the Range Rover Evoque makes its first appearance in the China-made sales ranking this month even though it launched back in February 2015. And just like for its stablemate, JLR is applying larger-than-life markups to the Evoque’s Chinese pricing – a whopping 61% compared to the starting U.S. price: from 448.000 to 582.800 yuan (US$68.500 – 89.100) vs. $42.470 – 61.770 in the U.S. The smaller sales figure is still respectable but has probably been impacted by the arrival a year ago of a clone by Landwind, the X7, priced at almost a quarter of the price from 129.800 – 147.800 yuan (US$19.900 – 22.600). Although Landwind doesn’t communicate sales by model, the X7 has lifted the brand from a mere 1.833 units in May 2015 to a peak of 10.001 deliveries last March, and accounts for the overwhelming majority of the 61.740 sales Landwind has accumulated over the past 12 months. It is undeniable that the Landwind X7 has hurt the commercial success of the Range Rover Evoque, and for this reason JLR has filed this month a legal action against Chinese automaker Jiangling Motors, the owner of the Landwind brand, for allegedly copying the Evoque.
Bar for success: 4.000 monthly sales
7. Haima V70 (#230 – 1.152 sales)
Haima is coming late to the MPV race and with a design that seems dated already, although the mark of Luciano D’Ambrosio. Offering 6 or 7 seating positions, the V70 is 4.75m long, has two engine options (2.0L and 1.5T) and is priced between 79.800 and 129.800 yuan (US$ 12.200 – 19.200), neither cheap nor expensive and therefore in some kind of no man’s land for a Chinese manufacturer as buyers may prefer a foreign brand. Haima has been struggling to sell anything other than the S5 crossover lately, but thanks to it the brand is up 18% so far in 2016. Entering the MPV arena a few years too late and facing some very accomplished performers such as Changan make this a difficult task for Haima.
Bar for success: 2.500 monthly sales
8. Mercedes V-Class (#271 – 628 sales)
This is the V-Class we know in Europe, aka the Metris in the U.S., manufactured in China by Fujian Benz, a subsidiary of Beijing Benz. Mercedes is selling the standard 5.14m variant as well as a 5.37m LWB. The pricing, between 489.000 and 618.000 yuan (US$ 74.800 – 94.500) reserve the V-Class to a very exclusive elite and 5-star hotels, and is here too grossly exaggerated compared to a humble U.S. pricing going from $29.945 to $33.495. Yes you have read right, we’re looking at a 182% markup at equal production cost, and with the China production cost standing well below the U.S. one, closer to 200-250% markup. Neither the Viano nor the Vito venture very often above 500 monthly sales in China so doubling that amount would be a significant achievement already for the V-Class.
Bar for success: 1.000 monthly sales
9. GAC Trumpchi GA8 (#331 – 215 sales)
The last new entrant this month is by a brand that has distinguished itself with the tremendous success of its Trumpchi GS4 SUV, appearing in the overall Top 10 for the past two months. Making no secret of wanting to enter the U.S. market in the next few years, GAC has requested the help of its Chinese joint-venture partner FCA Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in doing so. The GA8 is the brand’s new flagship, and although it’s not headed for registering much of a mark on the Chinese market, this is precisely the type of format that could give GAC the best chances at succeeding on American shores. The GA8 has two engine options: either a 2.0T 4-cyl. with 188hp or a 1.8T with 177hp, both mated to a seven-speed DCT. It is over 5m long and priced between 169.800 and 299.800 yuan (US$ 26.000 – 45.800). In China, it competes with the Dongfeng Aeolus A9, Geely GC9, Zotye Z700 and Roewe 950. Were it to come to the U.S., it would need to shave off a few thousand bucks to be a reasonable alternative to the best-sellers Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, ranging between $23,000 and $35.000. See what GAC did there?
Bar for success: 1.500 monthly sales