The Chinese car market is one of the most diverse, with over 400 different locally produced passenger cars from over 70 domestic and foreign brands, which increases to more than 1.000 models including imported vehicles, minivans, pickups and commercial vehicles. In June just 2 new models were introduced, but July marks a return to the familiar launch cadence with no less than 7 new models, including an all-new brand, the second new brand in 2016 and the third in the past 12 months, after Qiteng in January and Enranger last July. This month marks the addition of 3 domestic SUVs, 2 sedans and one MPV. We’ve already discussed the overall July 2016 sales figures for China, below we’ll introduce those newly introduced models for this month.
The highly anticipated resurrection of the Borgward brand has materialized with sales of the BX7 SUV starting in China this July. For those who haven’t heard of Borgward before: this is a former German luxury brand that ceased operations in the 1960s. It’s most famous model is the Isabella, which was produced from 1954 till the end of the company. In 2005 Christian Borgward, the grandson of the original founder started making plans to restore the brand to its former glory. Fast forward a decade and although Christian is the president of the company, its owner is 100% Chinese: Beiqi Foton Motor, a subsidiary of BAIC (Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation), one of China’s largest automotive manufacturers. Surprisingly, Foton Motor is the commercial vehicle division of BAIC, making anything from heavy trucks, light trucks, pickups, SUVs, vans and MPVs to pickups. Unsurprisingly, Borgward tries to capitalize on its heritage, not bothered by the fact that it’s largely unknown to its prospective buyers, especially those in China, but the brand expects its image to benefit from the emphasis on its German roots, in a similar way Qoros also tried to flaunt its German design and technology.
At least Borgward seems off to a more successful start than Qoros, selling 4.079 units in the introduction month of its first modern vehicle, the BX7 which is based on the platform of the BAIC Senova X65. However, we’ll have to wait and see how this volume develops in the coming months, as first month “sales” are mostly deliveries to the dealers, and if they don’t sell enough of them, they’re not going to re-order and sales will drop within the next few months.
Upon introduction, the BX7 is available with a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine wiht 224hp, built by Foton with Mitsubishi technology. A 3-liter turbocharged V6 will follow later, including a plug-in hybrid version of that same engine, which promises a combined output of 400hp and an EV range of 55 km. Prices start at 169.800 Yuan (€ 22.900,- / US$ 25,600). The BX7 is 4.713mm long, 1.911mm wide and 1.694mm tall with a wheelbase of 2.760.
Chery Cowin X3
Chery is backtracking on its strategy to consolidate its many subbrands under the Chery brand, and is launching Cowin as a stand-alone brand aimed at young car buyers in second and third tier cities, looking for affordable and somewhat trendy cars as their first automobile purchase. This is a booming market in China, and a low-priced, modern looking SUV is exactly the right product for the targeted demographic. Chery will develop new, stand-alone vehicles under the Cowin brand, but also redesign existing Chery vehicles to be sold with a Cowin badge. The Cowin X3 SUV is technically based on the Tiggo 3 SUV.
The X3 SUV is powered by a 1,6-liter four-cylinder engine with 127hp mated to either a manual or automatic gearbox, both 5-speed and both powering the front wheels only. A more modern 1,4-liter turbocharged engine and a plugin-hybrid are expected to follow later. The dimensions are 4.335/1.795/1.665mm, with a 2.530mm wheelbase. True to its budget-brand status, the X3 is competitively priced from 66.600 Yuan (€ 8.990,- / US$10,000), just below the Tiggo. What’s even more impressive is that at such a price, Chery hasn’t saved on the goodies: the X3 comes with a huge 10.1 inch screen with impressive graphics in the center console and another 7 inch screen between the dials. No wonder they immediately sold 3.744 units in its first month of sales.
Despite being one of the largest car manufacturers in China, producing cars for both Volkswagen and General Motors, SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp.) has been very late to the SUV party with their own Roewe (Rover) brand, having had only the unsuccessful and ungainly SsangYong Kyron-clone Roewe W5. Now the brand is on the offensive with the Roewe RX5, based on the SAIC scalable platform of the already relatively successful MG GS. The design is very modern and clean, with 24 LED matrix headlights, and offering a 10.4 inch infotainment screen in the center console. Power comes from the same engines as the GS: starting with a 1,5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 169hp mated to a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual clutch transmission, powering the front wheels. The next step up is a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 220hp mated to a 6-speed DCT and optional 4-wheel drive. A plug-in hybrid version is expected to arrive later. The exterior dimensions are 4.545/1.855/1.719mm with a wheelbase of 2.700mm. Prices start at 99.800 Yuan (€ 13.500,- / US$15,000).
In its introduction month, the RX5 sold 1.620 copies, which beats the first month of its sibling MG GS at 1.500 units in March 2015. The latter peaked at 6.700 sales, a figures the RX5 should be able to beat handily.
Chery Cowin V3
Chery did not only launch an SUV under the Cowin brand in July, it simultaneously started sales of the Cowin V3 MPV, which has a similar front-end and grille, showing the new corporate grille for Cowin. The V3 is marketed as a crossover and does have more of a two-box design than most MPVs in this class, but we’re still not falling for it. This is an obvious rival to cars like the Dongfeng Fengguang 360 and China’s best selling vehicle the Wuling Hongguang. It offers seven seats in a three-row configuration and has a similar 10.1 inch infotainment screen in the center console at its SUV sibling Cowin X3. The screen between the dials is a bit smaller at 4.2 inch. Despite having to haul more passengers than the X3, the Cowin V3 offers less power from older (thus cheaper) technology, as power comes from a 1,5-liter four-cylinder engine, pumping out 109hp, mated to a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic. Exterior dimensions: 4.606/1.790/1.750mm, with a 2.765mm wheelbase. Prices start below those of its SUV sibling, at 62.800 Yuan (€ 8.500,- / US$9,500). In its first month of sales, 1.296 copies of the Cowin V3 were sold, about a third of the X3, proving the popularity of SUVs in China.
Luxgen is one of the smaller players in China, it is a brand of Yulon Motor of Taiwan and its cars for the Chinese market are produced by a Joint Venture with Dongfeng Motor. Of its 4-vehicle line-up, the most popular model by a large margin is the U6 SUV, followed by the Luxgen 5 midsized sedan. Now the brand has launched a compact sedan below the 5, unsurprisingly called Luxgen 3. Prices start at 59.800 Yuan (€ 8.000,- / US$ 9,000), and it will compete in one of the most fiercely competitive segments in China, which spells trouble for a model from a brand with low recognition and (at least in the beginning) an old-fashioned powertrain. At least the interior looks pretty modern, with a 9 inch touch screen in the center console, although we’ve seen above that even larger screens are being fitted by domestic automakers these days. The design is a bit busy, with sharp creases along the sides, a dip in the side-window line and a high rear-end. The Luxgen 3 is powered by a non-turbo Dongfeng 1,6-liter four-cylinder engine with 124hp, mated to a 5-speed manual or a CVT. Luxgen promises a 1,5-liter turbo engine and a hybrid will follow later. Dimensions are 4.551/1.783/1.551mm, with a wheelbase of 2.620mm. Sales started in July with a meagre 47 units, but bear in mind the larger Luxgen 5 peaked at just over 2.000 monthly sales, a figure the 3 should try to improve upon.
Earlier this year Volkswagen ended production of its flagship sedan Phaeton. And since China was the only market where the Phaeton actually sold well, VW decided there was room for yet another sedan, positioned between the former flagship and the mid-sized duo Passat and Magotan (Euro-Passat). So instead of giving priority to filling the huge demand for SUVs and crossovers in China, they’ve developed a sedan on the stretched MLB-platform of the Audi A6L, which is produced by SAIC-Volkswagen for the local market only. The VW Phideon is powered by either a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 225hp or a 3-liter turbocharged V6 with 300hp, both paired to a 7-speed double clutch gearbox and the V6 powering all four wheels. The line-up may be expanded with a hybrid powertrain later. Dimensions are 5.074/1.893/1.489mm with a wheelbase of 3.009mm. The interior is typically Volkswagen: nice quality of materials, but the design is very unsurprising, not frivolous or advanced and definately not setting any new trends.
Prices range from 359.000 Yuan (€ 48.500,- / US$54,100) to as high at 670.000 Yuan (€ 90.500,- / US$101,000), which is indeed nicely between the Passat/Magotan (190.000-340.000 Yuan) and the Phaeton (760.000-1,88 million Yuan). For comparison, an Audi A6L with a 272hp 3.0 TSI costs 520.000 Yuan. In its first month just 28 sales of the Phideon were registered, which is not representative for its potential. We don’t have exact sales figures of the Phaeton available, since that car was imported and we only get statistics of locally produced models, but the brand should be aiming at 1.000-1.500 monthly sales for the Phideon.