In this section of the blog, you can find information and opinions about car sales in China. Stay up-to-date with which cars are selling the best and what we think future models will do.
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China car sales analysis April 2016

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Lifan_Maiwei-SUVCar sales in China are up 8,3% in April after a 12% increase in March. With almost 1,7 million sales of locally produced models,  the market has almost doubled since 2010. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Selling Rate is 21 million in April, the first time ever the SAAR has topped 20 million units four months in a row. Year to date, the growth of the Chinese car market is 8,9% to 7,1 million units. After enjoying record shares of over 43% in January and February, local brands are down to 38,8% of sales, still slightly above the full year 2015 figure, but indicating the foreign brands are fighting back for their piece of the world’s largest car market. The impressive surge of SUVs is also slightly slowing, but still very impressive at +33,3% to 610.000 sales, while MPVs improve at half that speed with an increase of 16,7% to 182.000 sales and sedans are still down, this time losing 2,5% to 905.000 sales. The Chinese market is not only impressive in terms of volume, but also in terms of the number of models: 415 different locally produced models of passenger cars were sold in April, of which 7 all-new nameplates. When including imported models, pick-up trucks and minivans, the number will almost reach a dizzying 1.000 different nameplates.

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Haval_H6-SUVThe big event this month is the new best seller on top of the rankings. After another price cut of 10%, inspired by increasing competition from most notably the Baojun 560, the Haval H6 saw its sales surge 43% to 43.946 units, overtaking both the perennial best seller Wuling Hongguang MPV and the Volkswagen Lavida sedan, even when sales of the Gran Lavida hatchback are combined with those of the sedan. This means China’s best selling SUV is now also China’s best selling passenger car overall for the first time ever. Year-to-date, the Hongguang still holds that title, but the Great Wall SUV brand has picked up the gauntlet to challenge its dominance. The Baojun 560 in its turn is down into 9th place vs. #4 year-to-date, and is even outsold by its rival GAC Trumpchi GS4 for the first time since the 560’s launch last July.… Continue Reading …

New model introductions in China, April 2016

Automakers keep launching new models onto the Chinese market at lightning pace. After a whopping 12 new models in March, the number of newcomers stood at 7 in April. In the first four months of 2016 already 28 new models have entered the Chinese car market.

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Volkswagen_Golf_Sportsvan-MPVThe best selling newcomer in April was the Volkswagen Golf Sportsvan with 3.659 sales. In Europe, this is a competitor to the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer, which was launched in China a month earlier, but the starting price of the Sportsvan is 105.000 Yuan lower than that of the 2-Series at 131.900 Yuan vs. 236.900 Yuan (€ 17.900,- vs. € 32.200,-). With such a price differential, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see the VW selling more in its first month of sales than the BMW in its first two months. The Golf Sportsvan is sold in China with a 1.6-liter engine, a 1.2-liter turbo and two 1.4-liter turbocharged engines.

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Lifan_Maiwei-SUVPlagued brand Lifan has a desperately needed success with the launch of the Maiwei (“MyWay”), selling 2.342 units of the new 7-seater SUV in its first month, making it the best selling model for the brand by far, as none of Lifan’s other models sell over 1.000 units. The Maiwei therefore already comprises 44% of Lifan brand sales, a figure that is highly likely to grow further in coming months, a similar trend we’ve seen with so many small local manufacturers after launching an affordable SUV (it costs significantly less than the price differential between the 2-Series Active Tourer and the Golf Sportsvan in China). However, the Maiwei has been unable to stop total sales of the brand from plummeting: even with the successful launch, Lifan sales are down 63% on April 2015 (YTD: -74%), as the rest of its line-up loses almost 80%, and its other two crossovers have suffered the hardest. The Maiwei is powered by a naturally aspirated 1.5-liter four cylinder engine.… Continue Reading …

China car sales analysis March 2016

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Haval_H6_Coupe-SUVCar sales in China are back into double digit growth in March after a dip in February due to the Lunar new year celebrations. The total market grows 12% to just under 2 million sales, bringing the year-to-date total to almost 5,5 million sales, an increase of 8,8%. The share of local brands comes down from its record 44% in February to 40,5% in March, slightly above the 40,1% of the same month last year. It shouldn’t surprise anybody that SUVs and crossovers are still the fastest growing segment in China by far, at +46% to almost 690.000 sales. MPVs gain 12% to 207.000 sales, while sedans continue to slump at -3% to 1,07 million sales. No wonder 7 out of 12 new models this year are crossovers.

European brands

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Renault_Kadjar-SUVThe most important happening for the European brands is the launch of Renault as a local manufacturer. Although the French brand has taken its time, it shows that it understands the Chinese car market perfectly by starting off with a crossover, the Kadjar. A second SUV will follow soon to replace the imported Koleos. The Kadjar sells over 2.700 units in its first month, which is pretty impressive and not far behind the Peugeot 3008 (down 43% to just under 3.000 sales). Peugeot and Citroën continue to struggle in China as they lack crossovers and their sedan line-up is ageing. Peugeot loses 20% for the third consecutive month as all of its models lose volume and the 308S hatchback struggles to make a mark. Citroën does even worse at -24% as only the C3-XR crossover improves while the new C4 sedan can’t make up for losses of the brand’s other sedans. No bright spots for PSA? Well, DS improves 19% to a still very shy 1.355 sales.… Continue Reading …

New model introductions in China, March 2016

A flood of new models has washed ashore in China last month, with no less than 12 all-new models appearing in the ranking for the first time. 7 SUVs, of which 5 from local brands, 2 MPVs and 3 sedans/hatchbacks. So I’ve decided to split this into a separate post from the regular China car sales analysis March 2016.

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Kia_KX5-SUVThe hottest new crossover is the Kia KX5, which is the new generation Sportage in other countries, but Kia renamed it to bring it more in line with the naming strategy of the smaller KX3 crossover. Another reason to change the name is because Kia will likely continue to sell the previous version called Sportage R alongside the new KX5. The version before that is also still sold as the Sportage, but that’s likely to be discontinued soon. At 6.001 sales in its first month, the KX5 is already close to the figure of the Sportage R at 6.225 units, down from 7.382 in the same month last year. Combined sales of the three generations is up from 9.939 in March 2015 to 13.627 last month, supporting Kia’s decision to keep them alive for now.

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Renault_Kadjar-SUVThe most notable newcomer is the Renault Kadjar, marking the start of local production for the French auto maker. Renault is a latecomer to the Chinese party but is determined to succeed, and they’re following the right strategy: launching crossovers. The Kadjar is the first but it will be followed by a slightly larger SUV that will replace the Koleos. The all-new factory with Joint Venture partner Dongfeng has a first-year capacity of 150.000 units, but can easily be expanded to double that figure. Renault already has about 200 showrooms in China from which it sold the Koleos, Fluence and Latitude, imported from South-Korea, and since a few months the Captur, imported from France. The number of dealers will expand in the coming months, but sales of 2.753 units in its first month is not at all bad. For example, the Jeep Cherokee sold 2.171 locally produced units in its first month of local production and is now at over 9.000 monthly sales. I don’t expect the Kadjar to hit such a figure anytime soon, but it has hit the ground running.… Continue Reading …

China car sales analysis February 2016

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Volkswagen_Lavida-sedan-2016Car sales in China are up 3% in February to 1.348.856 units, after growing 11% in January. However, as the week-long Lunar new year holiday moves between January and February, it can influence car sales in those months. Therefore most analysts prefer to compare combined January and February sales to the year before, as it gives a more realistic picture of the direction of the market. And that direction is still up, helped by the continued tax cut on small vehicles (up to 1.6 liter engines). In the first two months of 2016, the Chinese car market has grown 7,75% to just over 3,5 million vehicles. The share of local brands continues to reach record levels, now at 44,84%, up from 39,14% in February 2015 and from the previous record of 43,29% last month. The other trend we’ve witnessed in the last year also continues: SUVs gain 55% to 1,27 million sales and MPVs add 14% to their volume to 436.000 sales, while sedans drop 13% to 1,78 million sales. If this trend continues, SUVs will outsell sedans sometime in the next year or so.

The Volkswagen Lavida (excluding Gran Lavida) is the only import brand model in the top-5 and trails the perennial leader Wuling Hongguang by a mere 338 units in February, but is still way behind in the first two months. The Haval H6 is under continued pressure from the Baojun 560 for the title of China’s best selling SUV, while the GAC Trumpchi GS4 moves into third place of that segment and 10th overall, making it 5 Chinese models in the top-10. The renewed Buick Excelle XT and GT are the fastest growing models in the top-10 and the Buick Envision is the fastest gainer in the top-20.… Continue Reading …

China car sales analysis January 2016

Chinese car sales pick up their double digit growth in 2016, with an 11% increase in January to 2.164.779 units, a January record and the first time January sales top 2 million units. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate (SAAR) is up to a record 24 million sales. The shift away from cars and into crossovers and MPVs continues in 2016 with sedan sales down 8% to 1.113.039 units, compared to an increase of 23,2% for MPVs for a total of 264.531, and SUVs up an amazing 68,4% to 795.654 sales. Chinese brands continue to make inroads in their domestic market, at a moment when their exports are starting to stagnate. The share of Chinese brands at home is up to a record 43,3%, up from an average of 38,1% in 2015. Even accounting for Chinese brands under partial foreign ownership (most notably SAIC-GM’s local brand Baojun), the domestic automakers reach a record share.

GM-WuLing-HongguangGeneral Motors is on a winning streak in China, thanks to a great understanding of the needs in the marketplace and its focus on the still growing rural parts of China now that the Tier 1 cities and coastal areas have matured and growth has stalled. The Wuling Hongguang MPV from is SAIC-GM Joint Venture keeps the title of best selling passenger car in China by a large margin, as it enjoys 70.000+ sales for the sixth time in its three years on the market. The JV’s other brand Baojun multiplies its January 2015 sales by 2,5 to top 80.000 sales for the second straight month, and thus for the second time ever. Two of its models sold more than 40.000 units in January, while before last December none of its vehicles had ever reached that figure.… Continue Reading …

Best selling Buick is no longer a decade-old Daewoo

Buick_Park_Avenue-US-car-sales-statisticsMost Americans think of Buick as an all-American brand, best known for its large comfortable luxoboats that mostly appealed to senior citizens in the US and Canada. What they don’t know is that besides the 220.000 cars a year in the US and another 17.000 or so in Canada, Buick produces and sells over a million cars a year in China. Well, perhaps thanks to the UAW protests over GM’s plan to import the Envision SUV into the US from China, some more people are starting to become aware of that fact now.

So what kind of vehicles does Buick sell in China? A few models are quite similar to those in the US, like the Regal, LaCrosse, Encore and Verano, although the latter is a bit confusing, as the US Verano is called the Excelle GT in China, while the model that’s sold in China as the Buick Verano (Weilang in Chinese) is a China-only model positioned between the US Verano (Excelle GT) and the Regal. There’s also a hatchback version available, the Excelle XT, which is a rebadged Opel/Vauxhall Astra.

Buick_Excelle-ChinaBesides the Weilang, Buick offers three more China-only models, the GL8 MPV, the Envision SUV and the Excelle. The latter has been Buick’s most successful nameplate in the world for almost a decade, with more than 2,5 million sales since its launch in 2003. You read that right, Buick still sells a compact sedan that was first introduced 13 years ago. To make matters worse, the Excelle isn’t actually a real Buick, it’s a rebadged Daewoo Nubira, which has been sold in the US as the Suzuki Forenza from 2003 to 2009.… Continue Reading …

China car sales analysis Full Year 2015

Auto-sales-statistics-China-Volkswagen_Gran_Santana-hatchbackCar sales in China increased 8,7% in 2015 to top 20 million units for the first time ever, as the tax break on small vehicles in Q4 helped to double the 4,3% increase in the first three quarters, after an unprecedented three consecutive months of declines from June to August. This was a result of the slowing economy and a stock market crisis, which has taken away a potential 500.000 car sales, according to analysts from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Car purchase limits in 7 major cities due to congestion and subsequent air quality concerns have also cost a potential 2 million vehicle sales. As a result, 2015 is the second consecutive year that the Chines car market grows slower than the year before, and with tax break having ended on December 31st, this year may prove to be a difficult year again, unless the government pulls another subsidy rabbit out of their hat.

As you’ll know when you’ve followed the Chinese car market on this blog, SUVs are the main reason for this boost, as Chinese car buyers have shied away from sedans. Sales of crossovers and SUVs soared 52% to 6,22 million units, and MPVs increased 10% to 2,11 million sales, while sedans slumped 5,3% to 11,72 million sales.

The share of foreign brands in the Chinese market has  shrunk by 4,2 percentage points, a landslide change in such a huge market, as it means that foreign car brands only added 338.000 units of volume last year for an increase of 2,8%, while the local Chinese automakers added over 1,45 million units of volume for an increase of 23,3%.… Continue Reading …

China car sales analysis December 2015

Auto-sales-statistics-China-BAIC-Senova_X25-SUVChina car sales are up 21,5% in December 2015 to 2.389.313 units, which makes it the third year in a row that December is the biggest month of the year in China. However, we have to note that the volume was artificially boosted by the government temporary tax cut on small vehicles (engines smaller than 1,6 liters) in Q4. Still, the Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate of 23,7 million units was the highest of the year, and in fact the highest ever recorded in China. However, as the tax cut from 10% to 5% has been suspended on January 1st, we can expect a backfire effect in January.

Chinese brands have benefited the most from both the tax cut and the switch from sedans to crossovers, as the share of local brands has never been as high as in December, at more than 40%. It has to be noted that Chinese brands traditionally score better in the last month of the year compared to their foreign competitors. For example Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. or BAIC, has sold almost 17% of its total 2015 volume of its BAW, Huansu, Senova and Weiwang subbrands in December, scoring a nice 8th place in the brand ranking, compared to 15th overall.… Continue Reading …

Disappointments of 2015 and 2016: China

A new year is always a nice opportunity to reflect on the past year and in our case, that means looking at which cars have sold disappointingly in 2015 and which do we expect to disappoint in 2016. We’ll also look at which cars or brands have surprised from a sales volume point of view in a separate article. We’ve already covered the surprises and disappointments in Europe, now let’s take a look at the Chinese car market.

Which cars had disappointing sales in 2015:


Auto-sales-statistics-China-Qoros_3-sedanThe Chinese-Israeli brand just doesn’t seam to gain any traction. Sure, sales have doubled in 2015, but that’s thanks to the addition of a second model, the Qoros 3 City SUV, and the increase comes from a low base of just 6.700 units in 2014. But that means the brand is still at less than 10% of its capacity and its initial goal of 150.000 annual sales.

As I’ve written before, Qoros has positioned itself in a difficult niche, trying to lure image-conscious Chinese buyers away from import brands by focusing its marketing on its European designers and engineers, but as a new brand it simply doesn’t have the status nor the heritage to compete with established import brands. Because of this “premium” strategy, Qoros also doesn’t appeal to budget-conscious buyers of domestic brands, for whom Qoros doesn’t offer enough value for money.

Qoros_5_SUV-car-sales-figures-China-september-2015In 2016 the brand will launch a third model, the Qoros 5 SUV, but it really needs to get its marketing straight and set the price of the new model sharp. First build brand awareness, then a loyal customer base by selling high-quality products for a non-premium price and when its brand image rises as a result of customer experiences, so may their prices, but that will take years. There’s no shortcut.

Enranger, the brand launched in July by Weichai Auto, quickly expanded to two models in its first year and in its first 5 months of sales Enranger has already sold more vehicles than Qoros in the 11 months of its second year.

Continue Reading …