Another double digit gain for domestic passenger car sales in China which show no sign of slowing down as many analysts expected. A total of 1,9 million cars were sold in April, an increase of 14,2% over the same month in 2017. Year-to-date sales are now up 6,2% to 7,9 million cars. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate in April is stable at 24,8 million, similar to January and March and up from 21,2 million in April of last year.
Sales of crossovers and SUVs in China maintain a healthy growth rate at +19,3% to nearly 807.000 sales, while sedans are up 14,6% to over 960.000 sales, their highest rate of growth in over a year. MPV sales show their slowest rate of decline so far this year at -12% to 136.000. Within those figures, sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in China continued to increase significantly, with sales surging 138% to nearly 82.000 vehicles. EV deliveries jumped 127% to 65.000 vehicles while plug-in hybrid sales did even better, almost tripling at +195% to just about 17.000. In the four months of 2018, Chinese car dealers delivered close to 225.000 EVs and PHEVs, a gain of 149% on the same period last year. Sales of electric cars surged 130% to just over 168.000 while plug-in hybrid volume jumped 227% to 57.000 sales.
The share of foreign brands stood at almost 59% in April, the highest import brand share since last September and similar to the same month last year. Domestic Chinese brands grew their sales by 14,6% this month, compared to a 2% increase for American brands (holding 11,6% of the market), +3% for Japanese brands (17,6% share) and +12,6% for European brands (23% share). After struggling hard in recent months, Korean brands appear to have turned a corner, up 142% on a notably miserable month last year. With a share of 6,5% they are above 5% for the first time this year) Sales for the Korean brands are now in the black year-to-date with a gain of 13,6% on the first four months of 2017, but still down 28,5% on the first four months of 2016.
In the models ranking we see a historic first win for the Nissan Sylphy, up 16,1% on last year to claim the top spot. This is also the first time since last September (with the Volkswagen Lavida) that a sedan tops the Chinese models ranking. The Haval H6 is back above the Baojun 510 again after two months, despite a loss of 6,5% for the former. That leaves the traditional (and YTD) leader Wuling Hongguang in a lowly 4th place, its lowest ranking since last September. The Volkswagen Lavida is stable in 5th place as the new generation (called Lavida Plus) is arriving in showrooms, but the previous generation will remain on sale alongside it (hence the “Plus” for the new one). The Tiguan and Sagitar (both up by 24% or more) make it three VWs in the top-7. January’s top selling sedan Toyota Corolla is down to #9, just ahead of the Geely EC7 Emgrand which makes it two Geely nameplates in the top-10 for the second time ever after last February, with the Boyue in 8th place.
Best selling newcomer (<12 months) is the Baojun 530 crossover at #27, breaking the 15.000 sales mark for the first time, followed by the BYD SongMAX MPV at #30 and the Kia Pegas small sedan at #35. The Geely Vision X3 (#59) celebrates six consecutive months of 10.000+ sales, and the Lynk & Co 01 sets a new high of over 9.000 sales in 71st place, significantly above the two Wey models VV5 (#93) and VV7 (#95). We welcome four newcomers to the ranking this month, with the best seller among them the Hyundai Encino (#129 with 4.385 deliveries), known as the Kona in other markets. It is followed at #211 by the Nissan Terra, a China-only SUV version of the NP300 Navara pick-up, delivering 2.211 units in its first month. The Roewe RX8 large SUV lands at #286 with just under 1.000 deliveries and finally the FAW Jumper CX65 wagon at #383 with 216 deliveries complete the new arrivals for April.
Volkswagen grows slower than the overall market at +9% but still sells almost double the volume of its nearest rival. Luxury sister brand Audi gains a similar 9,3% to 46.418 sales and has Mercedes-Benz breathing down its neck, up 27,1% to 44.006 sales. BMW is left behind with just 36.063 sales, up 3,5%. Please note that all these figures include only domestically produced cars and exclude imports. When including imports, Audi sales were up 14% to 52.411, trailing Mercedes-Benz (including Smart) gained 20% to 57.221 while BMW (including Mini) remained third with a growth of just 2,5% to 50.068 Fastest growing European luxury brands are Jaguar at +94% to 3.221 sales thanks to the addition of its second locally produced model XEL (#264) and Volvo at +44% to 7.327 sales, while Land Rover drops 5% to 4.874 sales.
Skoda gains 27,7% to 28.750 sales thanks to the introduction of two new crossover Kodiaq (#114) and Karoq (#193), while Peugeot, at just under 15.000 sales, breaks its 16-month losing streak with a 3,4% gain and sister brand Citroën counters a 63% loss in April 2017 with a 61% gain this month, but that still leaves it down by more than 40% on April 2016. At least it seems like the worst is over for the Dongfeng-PSA brands, something which could even become reality for DS, their failing luxury sibling brand produced by Changan-PSA for the Chinese market. DS was up 61,4% in April, but that still translates to just 368 sales, 86% of which were for the new crossover DS7 (#372), while its other 3 nameplates sold fewer than 30 copies each last month. Renault sales in China are impressively stable at just over 6.000 monthly sales.
Buick sales have been stable for the past ten months now, fluctuating between 5% gains and 5% losses. Chevrolet on the other hand is on a hot streak, with gains of 27% or more each month this year and gains of more than 50% in the last two months. And this is not only on the back of new or updated models as all of its nameplates improve in April. This is in sharp contrast with Ford which is still suffering from a pauze in its model introductions and is down for the ninth straight month, of which the last four have been by 20% or worse. Jeep is also struggling to maintain the attention of the Chinese car buyer after launching local production of three models in the last three years. Its sales are down a harsh 44,5% in April to pull down its YTD figure to -30,4%. Cadillac is up 28,5% as all of its nameplates continue to improve and all four also continue to sell better in China than in the US.
Honda stays the best selling Japanese brand in China but drops to #3 overall due to an 11,4% loss, its third consecutive monthly loss after growing strongly for five years. Civic (#19) sales are strong but the brand is struggling with the Accord (#164), its small sedans Greiz (#312) and Gienia (#338) as well as the CR-V (#200) which is preparing for the new generation to arrive. Toyota and Nissan are in 5th and 6th place overall in the brands ranking, separated by fewer than 400 sales. Toyota is up 6,9% and Nissan grows 14%. Mitsubishi narrowly beats the overall market at +15% and needs only one more month of growth to celebrate a two year anniversary of sales growth after a similarly long period of declines. Mazda sales have been fluctuating this year and April is no difference, going from an 18,6% loss in March to a 12,6% gain in April, while its YTD sales are stable. Suzuki narrows its losses of recent months to a 6,9% decline but is still down 44,3% so far this year. Infiniti sales are down 2,8% as the Q50L (#214) improves but production of the QX50 crossover has ended in order to prepare for the all-new generation. Acura is struggling to gain relevancy with fewer than 600 monthly sales on average so far this year, despite adding a second model for local production
As mentioned above, the South-Korean brands are finally on a comeback after struggling for a year during the Chinese-Korean crisis over the placement of a US missile shield on Korean soil. Hyundai doubles its sales but is still down 27% on April 2016. In an effort to revive its sales, Hyundai is planning to expand its sedan-heavy line-up with more crossovers and SUVs, beginning with the aforementioned Encino. Kia rebounds even more sharply at +234% and is back to its 2016 levels again for this month. Just 13% of its sales are crossovers or SUVs (not counting the KX Cross (#92) as this isn’t much more than a more rugged looking hatchback), so it has a lot of room to grow when it does start to expand its line-up with the right vehicles. Worryingly for the brand and its image, the previous generation Sportage (named Sportage R in China, #98) outsells the more modern KX5 (#334) by a huge margin and its best seller is the ultra-cheap small sedan Pegas (#35), followed by the similarly sized K2 sedan (#65).
Geely makes it 7 straight months as China’s #2 brand, 8 months of 100.000+ sales and 13 straight months as the best selling domestic brand in China. The brand has already sold nearly half a million vehicles in the first four months of the year, adding a third to its figure of last year. Geely is almost 50.000 sales ahead of its closest domestic rival Baojun, despite an equally impressive streak for the latter brand: 44 monthly gains in the last 45 months of which just three with single digits. But it’s the former domestic brands leader Changan that’s striking the hardest this month, with a 56% increase in sales to close in on Baojun again. After aggressively expanding its crossover line-up in recent years, Changan has recently refreshed its best selling sedan Eado (#67) and launched the Raeton CC sedan (#156). Great Wall‘s SUV brand Haval continues to struggle with a 12th consecutive monthly loss, but at least so far its losses in 2018 have been offset by the launch of the upmarket Wey brand. GAC‘s seemingly never-ending winning streak may be nearing its final stage as the brand grew by just 4,3% in April as its best seller GS4 crossover (#20) takes a big hit in sales.
Roewe moves up to the #6 domestic brand with a 42% increase on the success of the i6 sedan (#66) and to a lesser degree the RX3 small crossover (#119). It passes BYD (+20,3%), BAIC (-18%), Chery (-1,9%), Dongfeng (-5,5%) and Wuling (-16,8%) compared to the same month last year. Sister brand MG also shows strong growth at +65,2% thanks to the new generation MG6 sedan (#78) and the ZS crossover (#46), the siblings to the models that boosted Roewe. Zotye also benefits from new model launches and grows 81,5% year-over-year.
Among smaller Chinese brands, Brilliance sales have greatly fluctuated in recent months, switching between big wins and big losses and a 75% gain in March is followed by a 24% loss in April. Meanwhile Qoros sets a new monthly volume record and has already sold more cars in the first four months of 2018 as it has done in all of 2017. Lifan continues to struggle with its sixth double digit decline in seven months, while Borgward is hit hard by the introduction of rival upmarket domestic players Wey and Lynk & Co, down 58,6% for the month and -38,9% year-to-date.
China brands ranking April 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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