After a rather unexpected double digit gain in January, sales of domestic passenger cars in China are down 8,4% in February. However, the explanation for these swings is that the Chinese New Year celebrations fell in February this year, while last year they fell mostly in January (Jan. 27 – Feb. 2), which means fewer business days in February 2018. Compared to 2016, when the celebrations were in the second month as well, 2018 sales are up 10%. Combined sales figures for the first two months are still up 3,2% which is actually still above expectations, as the Chinese car market was expected to slightly decline in the early stages of this year. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate in February is up to 25,28 million, up 400.000 on January. which is down by 1 million on January 2017 at 24,74 million.
Due to the fewer business days this month, sales of crossovers and SUVs in China have declined for the first time since March 2009, down 1,9% in February, to 636.000 units. Sedan sales are down 11,25% to 685.000 units while MPV sales are down 20,5% to 133.800 units. For the first two months of the year, crossovers and SUVs are up 11,9%, sedans up 0,3% and MPVs down 18,4%. Within those figures, EV and PHEV sales almost double despite the Chinese New Year holiday, up 95% to 34.420 units. EV sales were up 68% to nearly 23.500 units and plug-in hybrid sales almost tripled to nearly 11.000. In the first two months of 2018, New Energy Vehicle deliveries tripled to 74.667 units, with EVs up 164% to over 50.000 units and PHEVs up 315% to 24.400 sales.
In the first two months, sales of EVs and plug-in hybrids totaled 74,667 vehicles, three times the tally in the same period last year. Over the two-month period, EV deliveries spiked 164 percent from the same period last year to 50,253 while plug-in hybrid volume shot up 315 percent to 24,414. The share of foreign brands stood at 53,7% in February, similar to the same month last year but down by almost 4 percentage points on January. Domestic Chinese brands were down 8,5% this month, while European brands lost just 2,4% and American brands were down 3,9%. Japanese brands, after a strong showing the month before, were down 8,2% but the Korean brands continue to struggle with a loss of 36,8% in February.
After five consecutive months of scoring exactly one place below the Haval H6, rhe Baojun 510 finally manages to outsell its rival and becomes the best selling crossover in China. And it does so by a large margin of almost 10.000 sales. Unfortunately for the 510, this month the Wuling Hongguang is back in form and reclaims its traditional top spot by just 2.000 sales. However, the 510 is the best selling vehicle in China for the first two months combined, with just over 98.000 sales vs. 97.200 for the Hongguang. China’s best selling sedan is once again the Volkswagen Lavida just ahead of last month’s top selling sedan Toyota Corolla, but both are down by 15% or more. The Volkswagen Tiguan, Roewe RX5 and Geely Boyue make it 5 crossovers in the top-8, of which 4 from domestic brands.
Among recent launches, the Traum S70 jumps to #208 with 1.555 sales, the Skoda Karoq is up to #215 with 1.416 sales and the FAW Jumper A50 is up to #219 with 1.357 sales. The GAC Trumpchi GA4 sedan is already down in its second month of sales, with 1.070 deliveries at #239. Similarly, the Yudo Pi1 (#352) is down to 201 sales and the XPeng G3 reports just 9 deliveries in February. After two months of more than 6.000 deliveries each, the Lynk & Co 01 adds just over 4.000 sales in February, placing it at #110. The Acura TLX-L (#366) is not gaining traction yet with just 144 sales in its third month of sales. This month we welcome just one all-new model to the ranking: Baojun’s new flagship crossover 530 at #185 with just over 2.000 deliveries.
Volkswagen is down for the third time in four months, but does better than the overall market at -4,7%. Skoda sees stable sales on last year, with losses for the Fabia (#361, -87,4%), Rapid Spaceback (#267, -67%) and the discontinued Yeti offset by the arrival of 2 new crossovers: Kodiaq (#117) and Karoq (#215). Luxury sister brand Audi has a strong recovery from its troubled start of the year in 2017 with a 26,8% gain as all of the brand’s nameplates increased their sales. Mercedes-Benz sales are down for the first time since September 2014 at -0,9%, with the GLC (#59, -27,5%) offsetting gains from the E-Class L (#33, +31,3%). BMW sales are also down for the first time in over 2 years at -8,2% with the 5-Series L (#75, -47,8%) the biggest contributor to its loss. For the first two months, Audi sales of locally produced models are up 32,4% to 105.578, while Mercedes-Benz sales are up 18,3% to 89.870 and BMW sales are up 16,3% to 68.359. Volvo extends its winning streak with a 12% gain, while Jaguar takes a step back from its impressive performances in December and January but still more than doubles up on February 2017. On other hand, Land Rover sales of its two locally produced models are down 25% as the Evoque (#261, -15,2%) is slowing down.
Looking at the French manufacturers, we see that for the second time since Renault started local production in China, the brand outsells Citroën, and it does so by a margin of almost 500 sales. What’s more impressive is that the Renault Koleos (#119) is the best selling French car in China this month with 3.470 sales. Renault is stable on last year while Peugeot is down a horrid 42,4% to just over 8.000 sales, the first time in 8 years that the brand is below 10.000 monthly sales, and this is despite 2 newly launched crossovers last year: the 4008 (#221, -37,9%) and 5008 (#258). Luxury brand DS dips below 200 monthly sales for the first time as none of its 4 nameplates sells over 100 units this month.
Ford continues to struggle in China as well with an 8th straight month of losses of which a second consecutive decline of almost 30%. Its volume of nearly 37.000 sales is the lowest for the brand in 5 years. None of Ford’s models improves on last February, and the worst hit are the Everest (#329, -74,9%), Edge (#97, -35,3%), Taurus (#232, -34,5%) and Kuga (#141, -30,8%). In order to revive sales, Ford has announced plans to roll out 50 new vehicles in China in the next seven years, including eight crossovers and SUVs. As a result of Ford’s current crisis, Chevrolet outsells its American rival for the second consecutive month. Before this, the last time Chevy beat Ford in China was September 2014. After struggling in 2015 and 2016 with double digit losses in those years before slightly recovering in 2017, Chevrolet is on fire in 2018, up another 27,3% in February for a 34,4% gain in the first two months. The Sail small sedan (#31, +60,7%) has started to rebound last October and is responsible for most of the brand’s improvement, together with the Equinox crossover (#140). Buick sales are stable on last year, with the Verano (#28, +85,3%) partially making up for losses of the Excelle GT (#9, -38,7%). The Velite 5, a rebadged Chevrolet Volt for China, has well and truly flopped, having sold just 1 copy in February and 11 in the first two months. Buick’s recent launches, the Excelle GX wagon and GL6 MPV, both score their weakest month since their arrival last October. Cadillac is better off, with another large gain of 49,2% as all of its four locally produced models show double digit increases and all four sold more in China than in the US this month.
After a very promising start of local production, Jeep has hit a roadblock this year as sales have declined for two consecutive months including a 41,1% loss in February. Jeep’s volume of less than 8.000 sales was the lowest since March 2016, its fifth month of sales with a single model compared to today’s three models. A fourth model will be added shortly, the flagship 7-seat Grand Commander that will remain a China-only model.
Honda suffers its second year-over-year decline in three months, but is still up a very healthy 21,3% for the first two months. It also maintains its position as the leading Japanese brand in terms of domestically produced cars, as Toyota takes a big hit at -22,3%. The Highlander (#154, -57,8%) is a big contributor to the loss, but the brand’s small cars Vios and Yaris L also lose a combined 26% even though the line-up has expanded from two to four models. Nissan is the only of the three major Japanese brands to improve with a 4,9% gain thanks to the Qashqai (#34, +31,9%), Murano (#182, +225%) and the launch of the Kicks (#153), although the latter is still far behind its rivals from Honda: the Vezel (#78, -17,7%) and XR-V (#52, +17,1%).
Among the smaller Japanese brands, Mazda takes a hit at -18% as all of its models lag behind last year, but the brand is still up 7,8% for the first two months. Mitsubishi on the other hand extends its winning streak with another double digit gain, up 37,2% for the month and +66,4% year-to-date, even though the brand is down to just two models in China: the Outlander (#58) and ASX (#162), both up 43,6%. Suzuki needs to turn its fate around quickly before it fades into irrelevance in China. For the second straight month the brand is down by more than 40% and its 4.375 sales are a new record low. All of its models declined, including the recently facelifted S-Cross (#285, -57,9%). After taking a delivery break in January, Infiniti is back online in February with a 38,2% gain but the brand is still down by more than half in the first two months of the year as production of the QX50 crossover has stopped in preparation for the next generation. Acura hits a record low volume even though it has added a second nameplate to its local production.
If we thought the worst was over for the South-Korean automakers, then we should probably reconsider. February turned out to be another painful month as their crisis drags on. Initially started off in when the South Korean government decided to deploy a US-built missile shield, which triggered a diplomatic dispute, leading to anti-Korean sentiment in China. The diplomatic row has cooled down in the past few months, but sales of Hyundai and Kia vehicles have not recovered yet. Hyundai is down 39,8% in February and is down 31,4% for the first two months, with the only bright spot the recently renewed ix35 crossover (#50, +169,1%) and the Elantra Lingdong (#42, +49%). Kia does not much better at -31% in February and -15,6% for the first two months. The newly launched Pegas (#112) and KX Cross (#89) and the K4 (#184, +33,6%) soften the blow as six out of the brand’s 12 models take a hit of more than 60%.
Regular readers of these reports already know what’s coming next: nothing but praise for the performances of Geely and Baojun. And they’d be right. Due to the fewer business days in February this year the sales increases are smaller than we’ve become used to from these brands, but they’re enough to put these two in second and fourth position in the brands ranking. Geely is up 19,3% and makes it six consecutive months of six-figure sales. For a change, not a single Geely model sets a new sales record this month, but it’s nonetheless the brand’s best February (and first two months) ever. Baojun is up “just” 9,7% as for the second straight month no sales were reported for the 560 crossover and the 730 MPV continues to suffer from a reduced interest in this type of vehicle by the Chinese consumer. Despite losing 27,5%, Changan makes it three domestic brands in the top-5 for the first time ever. In January Geely was the only Chinese brand in the top-5. In the top-10 we find five domestic brands, with Dongfeng and Haval in the final two spots, both down significantly. Especially Haval is hurting from the increased competition by cheap domestic crossovers. Great Wall has moved premium with the Wey brand, but its 8.500 sales in February are not enough to offset the losses at its mainstream SUV brand.
Wey and Geely‘s rival brand Lynk & Co seem to directly eat into Borgward‘s territory, as the latter is down a shocking 68,7% in February to its lowest month ever by far. Borgward is down 26,5% for the first two months. Another would-be upscale domestic brand, Qoros, appears to have found a second wind after the original owner sold its stake a few months ago. Qoros sales have more than tripled in the first two months of the year.
Shanghai Automotive’s proprietary brands also continue to make great inroads, with Roewe gaining 43,1% in Februari and for just the second time in four years outselling GAC, up just 3,4%. Roewe also outsells BAIC (including Huansu) for the second consecutive month, whereas this hadn’t happened in the last four years either. Roewe benefits from continued strong sales of the RX5 crossover (#7, +77,5%) and the newly launched RX3 crossover (#125) and i6 sedan (#74). Sister brand MG is up 76,9% in February and more than doubles up in the first two months, thanks to the RX3’s sibling ZS (#129) and the i6’s sibling, the second generation MG6 (#80 and up more than sixteenfold on the first generation last year). SAIC’s commercial vehicle brand Maxus is up 70,6% as the G10 minivan (#208, +12%) is joined by the D90 large SUV (#262).
Other notable performers are Venucia, up 30,5% and Bisu, up 89,9%. Among the bigger domestic brands, BAIC is down 25,8% in February and is just ahead of Chery in the brands ranking, itself down 20,3%. Smaller brands losing significantly are JAC, down 34,7%, FAW, down 31%, Brilliance, down 38,8% as even the brand-new V6 crossover (#192) struggles, and Haima, down 64%.
China brands ranking February 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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