The Chinese car market continues its booming growth rate when compared to the depressed figures of last year after the collapse of the domestic stock market. 2015 car sales would recover sharply in the last quarter after the government subsidized sales of small vehicles by halving the purchase tax on vehicles with engines of 1.6 liters and lower to 5 percent. That means it is unlikely Chinese car sales will keep up this growth rate for the coming months. In August, 1,76 million domestically produced passenger cars were sold in China, an increase of 27,8% for a Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Selling Rate of 23,2 million units, the highest since January. Year-to-date, Chinese car buyers have bought nearly 14 million locally produced cars, an increase of 14% over the first eight months of last year. Unsurprisingly, sales of SUVs and crossovers fueled the market, up 44% to 654.100 units, followed by MPV sales at +36% to 180.400. Even sedan sales showed impressive growth in August, albeit slower than the overall market. Still, a 20% improvement is the best we’ve seen in months, which translates into 916.200 sales. Local brands make a nice rebound with a 39,2% share of the market, the highest figure since Q1. Year-to-date, almost 40% of the cars sold in China wore a badge from a domestic brand, still two points above the full-year 2015 figure and the highest it’s ever been.
Market leader Volkswagen performs slightly worse than the overall market at +19%, with the new Touran showing the biggest improvement. Its French rivals Peugeot and Citroën continue to struggle with sales down 20% and 10% respectively, due to bad product planning and an aging line-up. As a result, Skoda is now less than 1.000 units behind Peugeot year-to-date and 45.000 units ahead of Citroën. This time last year, the Czech brand was 87.000 sales and 13.000 sales behind those brands respectively. In August, Skoda grew by an impressive 82% as all of its nameplates improved, most notably the Octavia, Superb and both versions of the Rapid. Renault breaks through the 10.000 cumulative sales barrier in its 6th months of sales as a local manufacturer, but so far sales of the Kadjar are still below expectations as the brand is still expanding its dealer count in China. Its second model Koleos will be launched in Q4.
No big news among the major luxury brands, with Audi’s once impressive lead slowly eroding as Mercedes-Benz and BMW continue to outgrow their rival. Audi sales of locally produced models are up just 6,5% while Mercedes chalks up 22% growth thanks to the new generation E-Class L, and BMW adds 17%. Audi plans to partner with Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent to offer more digital services to Chinese consumers in a bid to attract a younger car buyer, while its rivals are looking to capitalize on the fast-growing popularity of electrified vehicles. BMW revealed the X1 xDrive25Le iPerformance at the Chengdu Auto Show, while Mercedes-Benz plans its own subbrand for alternative power vehicles. Meanwhile, plug-in hybrid versions of the locally produced C-Class L and the GLE SUV are already on sale in China. Volvo shows impressive growth of 30% in August, and that’s even before local production of the new S90L has started, which should help the Chinese-owned brand improve even further. Land Rover sells almost 4.500 units of its two locally produced models.
The two European duds in China continue to crumble, with Fiat once again breaking its record of lowest sales at barely above 500 sales, while DS loses a third of its volume to just above 1.000 sales. At least that’s a 54% improvement on July, a month to quickly forget for the ambitious brand with the wrong product portfolio.
Ford’s rebound is now official, after losing volume every month in the first half it now scores its second consecutive month in the black and the first double digit growth since last December, with sales up 14% as all of its models improved with the exception of the Mondeo. Year-to-date, the brand still has lost 14% of its volume, though. After enjoying a nice improvement in July Chevrolet is back into negative territory, albeit only slightly at less than one percent loss. Still, that means it continues to lose market share while other GM brands easily outgrow the market, with Buick up 30% and Cadillac more than doubling its volume, helped by the XT5 crossover. Meanwhile, Jeep enjoys a third straight month above 10.000 sales thanks to the Renegade.
For most of the year, Honda has been the big winner among Japanese brands, but it falls behind in August with sales up “just” 20% on last year as sales of its crossovers, the main booster of its sales, are down by 6,5% last month. Nissan is up 18% mainly thanks to the Qashqai, but Toyota is the big winner in August with sales of its locally produced models up a whopping 40% with the Corolla almost tripling its volume of last year. Mazda does even better at +53% thanks to the all-new CX-4, but also improving sales of the CX-5, Mazda6 Atenza and most notably the Mazda3 Axela. Mitsubishi keeps swinging from huge losses one month to big improvements the next, with a 40% increase in August, but still a 40% loss year-to-date, but Suzuki seems unable to turn its faith around with its 18th loss in 19 months at -16% despite the addition of the Vitara last December, immediately the brand’s best selling model.
The South-Korean brands have now truely made up for their slow start of the year, with Hyundai growing 17% in August for a year-to-date increase of 6%. The new Elantra Lingdong, Tucson and the Santa Fe give a big boost to the brand’s volume, offsetting the plunge in Sonata sales. Kia is up a whopping 62% in August to show positive YTD figures for the first time this year, with the K3 compact sedan almost tripling its volume as do its crossovers, with the previous generation Sportage R still growing despite the addition of the new KX5.
Despite only one new model introduction so far this year, Changan remains the biggest domestic brand and even consolidates that position with a 46% growth in August, compared to 35% for its closest rival, Great Wall’s SUV brand Haval. Geely is catching up quickly in 3rd place with sales up 67% thanks to a handful of very impressive launches in the past few months, with the Boyue SUV, the Emgrand GS hatchback/crossover and this month the replacement of the GX7 with the Vision X6. The very mature design and quality of these models, from the hand of Peter Horbury, underscore the brand’s ambitions to become the first Chinese automaker to successfully launch in a Western market. These three models already account for 45% of Geely’s volume this month, and with the upcoming Emgrand GL sedan that figure will continue to grow quickly.
Serial product launcher BAIC keeps up its impressive streak (see below at the New Models section), and its fresh product portfolio helps Beijing Automotive to another 60% growth curve. That moves it ahead of Baojun in the YTD ranking, up just 10% in August as its 560 crossover falters. Of the other large domestic brands, GAC Trumpchi is up 88%, Dongfeng 63%, BYD 53% and Chery up 42%. Zotye more than doubles its volume on last year, also thanks to its aggressive new product cadence, with more than half of its August volume coming from the 4 new models. SAIC Roewe almost triples thanks to the new RX5 crossover.
So are all domestic smoking hot? Of course not: Wuling grows just 4% and most of the smaller brands are in trouble as well, with JAC down 27%, Brilliance -11%, the once-mighty FAW down 35%, Luxgen -29% and Yema -44%. Also worth mentioning are Lifan, up 67% in August thanks to the Maiwei but still down 47% year-to-date and Qoros, up 68% thanks to the 5 SUV, but still a small player at 1.745 sales.
We welcome the Change Q35 to the ranking this month, a larger sibling to the Q25 and based on the same platform as the Beijing Senova X35. After a promising start in May and June, when dealers stocked up a combined 9.500 units of the Q25, re-orders appear to stumble with a low of just 533 (wholesale) orders in August, indicating the Q25 is not living up to its expectations. The Q35 racked up over 2.500 dealer orders in August, so we’ll keep an eye on the development of its figures in coming months to see if the revival of the Changhe brand under BAIC can actually be called a success story. Prices of the Q35 will range from 65.900 yuan (€8.800,- / US$ 9,900) to 86.900 yuan (€ 11.600,- / US$ 13,000), about 5.000 yuan below the Senova X35. It’s powered by a 1,5-liter engine with 116hp and 148NM of torque, mated to a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission.
BAIC has another new model launch in August, under its BAW Beijing Jeep subbrand: the BAW BJ20 SUV, logically positioned below the BJ40 and BJ80, and arguably the most handsome of the 3, although all three don’t offer very creative designs. The BJ20 is based on the same platform as the Q35 mentioned above (and therefore also the Senova X65), it has the same wheelbase but its overall length is a bit shorter. It has some Toyota FJ Cruiser genes, a bit of (naturally) Jeep, while the triple headlights somehow remind me of recent Citroën models. With 807 sales in its first month, the BJ20 is unlikely to have a huge impact on BAIC volume, but nonetheless an interesting newcomer. The BJ20 is priced between 96.800 yuan (€ 12.900,- / US$ 14,500) and 139.800 yuan (€ 18.700,- / US$ 20,900). Power comes from a 1,5-liter turbocharged engine with 147hp and 210NM, coupled with either a five-speed manual or a CVT.
FAW First Auto Works has been struggling with its identity lately and that shows in its volume. Its latest launch, the Junpai A70 sedan (Jumper A70 in English) doesn’t solve either one of those issues. It’s the second model under the Junpai subbrand besides the Junpai D60 crossover, just as we thought the company was focussing on its Besturn subbrand for sedans and Xenia for crossovers. The A70 is developed on the same platform of the much more modern-looking Besturn B30 and uses the same 1,6-liter engine and 6-speed automatic transmission, which further questions the point of this car. The design of the A70, though not ugly or outdated, isn’t very exciting nor distinctive either, so the model will have trouble establishing itself in one of the most competitive segments of the market: that of cheap sedans while the market craves crossovers. It’s priced from 64.800 yuan (€ 8.600,- / US$ 9,700) to 87.800 yuan (€ 11.700,- / US$ 13,200), about 5.000 yuan below the Besturn B30.
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