After discussing the 2018 China car sales ranking by brand, let’s zoom in on which models were the movers and shakers of the past year. And the Chinese car market is not only one of the most diverse with no less than 575 different nameplates in our ranking up from 531 in 2017 and 502 in 2016, but also one of the most dynamic, with big movements up and down the ranking. Of these 575 nameplates, 114 were newly introduced in 2018 and another 111 set new annual sales records. Four cars sell well over 400.000 units, another five sell over 300.000, a total of 21 cars sell more than 200.000 units in 2018 and no fewer than 72 sold over 100.000 each last year. And there’s a new leader on top of the charts, but surprisingly it’s not a crossover as we might have expected.
After five years on top of the ranking, the Wuling Hongguang is knocked off its throne and the Nissan Sylphy is now China’s best selling car with over 480.000 sales. In 2017, the Sylphy (known as Sentra or Pulsar in other markets) was in fifth place overall and third place among sedans, but in 2018 it stormed to the top. Keep in mind that we split sales figures of the Volkswagen Lavida sedan and Gran Lavida hatchback/wagon, otherwise this couple would have been in first place with 503.825 sales combined. The top-10 exists of six sedans, three crossovers and one MPV. The Haval H6 fends off the Baojun 510 to remain the best selling crossover in China with the Volkswagen Tiguan in third place, #9 overall. Volkswagen has no less than five models in the top-10 but apart from the Lavida in third place, all are second half. The Sylphy is also the best performer in the top-10 with an 18,9% gain, followed by the Toyota Corolla with an 11,2% gain. Worst performers are the Tiguan, H6 and Hongguan, all with declines of just over 10%. The #4 of 2017 Buick Excelle GT is kicked out of the top-10 into 11th place and the #8 of 2017 GAC Trumpchi GS4 is down to 15th place in 2018.
Best performers in the top-50 are the updated Hyundai ix35 (#49) with sales up fourfold and the Toyota Camry (#31), more than doubling its sales of the previous year thanks to a new generation. For both models this is not their highest annual sales figure in China, though. Hyundai Elantra Lingdong (#20) improves 81,5%, the Audi A4L (#29) adds 45,2% and the Chevrolet Cavalier (#13) gains 33,1% as these three do set new sales records. 2018 wasn’t a good year for the Ford Escort (#37, down 47,2%), Changan CS75 (#47, -41,5%) and Baojun 310 (#36, -31%). The Audi A6L has long been the luxury sedan of choice in China, especially since high-placed government officials used to be driven in them, but its rivals closed the gap in 2018. The A6L is in 35th place, up 6,7%, but the BMW 5-Series L is up 21,8% into #39 and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class L is up 28,7% into 40th place. The BMW 5-Series briefly knocked the A6 off its throne in 2016, but the E-Class has always been far behind, until now.
In the second half of the top-100, the ix35’s sister model Kia Sportage R (#89) is the big winner with sales more than doubling after the brand gave the aging model some new sheetmetal. The Buick Regal (aka Opel/Vauxhall/Holden Insignia) gains 62,9% thanks to the new generation. It’s back above 100.000 sales as the previous model did in 2014 and 2015. The Cadillac XTS large sedan sets a new sales record with a 56,1% gain into #99, which also means it sells almost four times as many units in China than in the US. The American brand has another model storming up the charts: the XT5 crossover is up 29,1% into #84. Other notable winners are the Hyundai ix25 (#88), back up 55,1% after a disastrous 2017, and the Mitsubishi Outlander, up 24,7% to enter the top-70. The best selling EV in China is still the BAIC EC180 at #79 with over 90.000 sales, up 16,1%.
Models in trouble are the Ford Focus (#97, -61,3%), Baojun 730 (#65, -59,5%), Haval H2 (#67, -50,6%) and Kia K3 (#87, -44%). The latter’s losses are partially made up by gains from the KX Cross (#101, +138,4%) and Stonic (#235), as customer switch from sedans to crossovers. Also struggling in 2018 are the Dongfeng Fengguang 580 (#66, -37%) and Buick LaCrosse (#95, -30%). The Focus peaked at over 400.000 sales in 2013 but is down to just 66.000 sales in 2018 as the new generation just arrived in showrooms. Will the Focus regain some of its former glory in 2019? I think it will be very difficult.
Further down the ranking, BYD Tang (#106) is a big winner with sales up fourfold thanks to the new generation, but that’s a bit tricky because the petrol-powered version used to be calles BYD S7 but now also falls under the Tang monnicker. Still, sales are up 62,6% for the PHEV and ICE versions combined. Sales of the Qoros 5 SUV (#137) are suddenly up fourfold as well after two years of marginal sales. The Hawtai Santa Fe crossover (#120) is also up almost fourfold and that same brand’s electric citycar EV160 (#196) is up more than 150%). Staying with electric cars, the BAIC EU-Series electric sedan (#166) benefits from a redesign and is up almost threefold and the JMCE200 is up by 145,5% to #156. The BYD e5 (#138) almost doubles its sales andso does the JAC IEV line (#119). The ICE version of the EU-Series, the Beijing Senova D50 (#238) also more than doubles its sales but still sells less than its electric counterpart.
No fewer than 114 new nameplates were launched in 2018, and the best performers among them were the Baojun 530 at #60 with 116.300 sales in 11 months and the Baojun 360 with 106.000 sales in 8 months of sales. Further down, the Roewe i5 lands at #98 with 66.500 sales in 10 months, the Chery Tiggo 8 at #128 with 50.500 sales in 7 months, the Volkswagen T-Roc at #131 with 49.300 sales in 7 months, the Haval H4 at #147 with 43.000 sales in 10 months and the Jetour X70 at #155 with 40.000 sales in just four months.
Most promising newcomers are the Baojun 360 with average monthly sales of 13.262, the Geely Binyue (#222) with an average of 11.681 monthly sales, the Baojun 530 with 10.575 monthly average, the Jetour X70 with 10.002 monthly average, the Haval F7 (#258) with 8.555 monthly average and the Geely Binrui (#183) with 8.271 average monthly sales. Also worth mentioning are the Hyundai La Festa (#220) with 7.990 average sales per month for the Koreans’ first stylish sedan-coupe, the Volkswagen Tharu (#214) with 6.218 average monthly sales and its sibling Volkswagen Tayron (#237) with 5.059 average monthly sales now that the VW brand is finally playing catch-up and adding crossovers to its line-up.
China models ranking 2018
Please note these figures are for locally produced models only (unless stated otherwise), they exclude imported cars, which make up only a small portion of sales in China.
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