By now you’re used to my monthly updates on European car sales, and from now on I’ll be keeping you up-to-date on monthly car sales in China as well. You can also use the dropdown menu at the top right of this website to find brand-specific and model-specific auto sales in China of every model and brand since 2003. Keep in mind, the data I use is only comprised of locally produced models and excludes imported models.
After showing double-digit growth for decades, the growth of the Chinese car market seems to have slowed down in 2015. Mind you, this doesn’t indicate the market is shrinking, it merely indicates the growth rate is tempering to a more modest speed. However, after growing 13,55% in the first quarter of 2015, April growth has thawed to only 8,1%, almost half the growth rate of last April and a record low for the once-booming Chinese car market. When including imported models, the picture is even bleaker: +3,7% in April.
And while domestic carmakers have been losing market share at home for a few years now, April 2015 marks a slowdown of both imports and of foreign models locally built by the Joint Ventures the foreign carmakers have set up with their local partners. This phenomenon can be explained by two trends: Once booming sales in large metropolis areas like Shanghai and Beijing have slowed down as governments have restricted the number of license plates they’ll issue in order to curb the ever-increasing air pollution in their cities. Car buyers in these tier-1 and even tier-2 cities are very status-conscious and prefer the premium image of a foreign brand. Thanks to a growing importance of mainland China, including the still-booming tier-3 and tier-4 cities and the rural areas, so are the fortunes of local auto brands, which benefit from lower prices and established dealer networks in those areas.
Another reason is the quick reaction of local manufacturers to the current SUV- and crossover boom. Local brands have developed an impressive number of new midsized and small crossovers at lightning speed and they’re scooped up by consumers as soon as they’re introduced to the market. Meanwhile, foreign carmakers, most notably Volkswagen and Toyota, have lagged a quick response to this trend and are now facing market share losses. Only Hyundai–Kia with their ix25 and KX3, Honda with its Vezel and XR-V and PSA with its Peugeot 2008, Citroën C3-XR and DS6 have reacted vigilantly and are faring well accordingly.
One of the best scoring brands of this year is Haval, the SUV-brand of Great Wall, which almost doubles its sales in the first four months of this year to over 218.000. This should help the brand in its quest to become the worlds largest SUV-only brand, overtaking both Land Rover and Jeep.
Ford also continues to do well, thanks to a successful launch of its Escort budget-sedan and a rapid expansion of its dealer network, most notably in the more rural areas of China. Reversely, Chevrolet sees its sales plummet by more than a quarter as its core sedan models Sail, Cruze and Malibu suffer, which isn’t offset by last year’s introduction of the Trax small crossover. This is the American brand’s worst month in more than 3 years. And General Motors’ other brand Buick doesn’t fare much better at -10%.
Brands benefiting from starting local production of key models are Volvo (thanks to the XC60 and S60L), Infiniti (Q50L and QX50) and Cadillac (ATS-L and XTS), and they’ll be joined soon by Mercedes-Benz which just introduced its locally produced GLA premium compact crossover into the heart of China’s boom.
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