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.
The 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.
Plagued 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.
After launching the CT6 sedan earlier this year, Cadillac is accelerating its growth potential with the all-new XT5 crossover, its first locally produced crossover in China, which starts at 359.900 Yuan (€ 48.900,-). With 1.863 sales in its first month it sells more than the CT6 has sold in its first four months combined, but still lags the ATS-L and XTS sedans. However, I expect the XT5 to become Cadillac’s best selling model in the coming months. The two newcomers help Cadillac as a brand more than double its sales volume on last year, when it had only two locally produced models. Chinese buyers of the XT5 have a choice of two versions of the same 2-liter turbocharged engine.
Great Wall’s SUV brand Haval keeps expanding its line-up to continue its quest of becoming the world’s largest SUV brand by challenging Jeep and Land Rover. In April, Haval launched the H7 with a price tag starting at 149.800 Yuan (€ 20.400,-), filling the gap between the brand’s best seller H6 (sub-100.000 Yuan) and top-of-the line H8 and H9 models (over 200.000 Yuan). The H7 is powered by a direct injection turbocharged 2-liter engine pumping out 170 kW (230hp). In its first month of sales, the Haval H7 sold 1.290 units, which didn’t have an earth-shaking impact on total brand sales, which were up 19% to 67.021 units, of which almost two thirds came from the H6.
Nissan has started local production of its renewed large sedan Maxima, which competes directly with the Ford Taurus and the Buick LaCrosse in a segment which is non-existent in Europe, struggling in the US but still very relevant in China. With 1.158 sales in its first month, the Maxima outsells the Ford which has an exceptionally weak month at just 403 deliveries, compared to 3.759 in March. The LaCrosse sold 5.092 units in April and will be the target for the Maxima, although it will be difficult to reach that kind of figures. Its 2.5-liter four cylinder engine makes the Maxima less powerful than its competitors, but its starting price of 234.800 Yuan (€ 31.900), makes it also slightly more affordable than them. Still, its aggressive, sporty design needs to prove if it’s a boon or a bust in this conservative segment.
Prior to the launch of the all-new, China-only Citroën C6 to this same large sedan segment in September, the French automaker’s Joint Venture partner Dongfeng has started sales of its Fengshen A9 on the same platform. That means it has the same 204 hp 1.8-liter “THP” turbocharged engine and a very similar exterior design, although the C6 will have a distinguished front end and a much fancier interior. At 179.700 Yuan (€ 24.500,-), the A9 is by far the most expensive sedan in the Dongfeng line-up, but still cheaper than the upcoming C6, which is expected to start above 200.000 Yuan, and the Maxima. A DS9 version of the same car is expected as well in the second half of 2017. Dongfeng sold just 148 units in the first month of sales.
The final newcomer this month is the civilian version of the Beijing Auto BJ80 series, whose front and side views somewhat remind of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Even though Daimler owns a share in BAIC Motor, that doesn’t mean they have given their approval to this copycat design. In fact, they’ve tried to get the car banned, but apparently were unsuccessful as the first 10 units of the car were sold in April. Compared to the military version (called BJ80J), the BJ80C has alloy wheels, a chrome grille and other details, and a more luxurious interior. It is powered by a 2.3-liter turbocharged engine with 250hp, which originates from the Saab brand, as SAIC bought the rights to a few platforms and engines after the bankruptcy of the Swedish brand.