Sales of domestic passenger cars in China beat all expectations for January 2018 with an 11% increase to 2,4 million sales. Analysts and experts had expected a slow start of the year as the tax cut on cars with engines of 1,6 liters or less had ended. However, January 2017 was an exceptionally slow month with stable sales on the same month in 2016 while February last year suddenly showed 20% growth on the year before. This phenomenon was due to the Chinese New Year celebrations last year falling in January, as opposed to February in 2016 and 2018. This means that next month is likely to balance off the January performance with stable sales or perhaps even a small decline. This is also reflected in the Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate which is down by 1 million on January 2017 at 24,74 million. We’ll need to analylse combined January and February figures to be able to draw a thorough conclusion of the state of the Chinese auto market.
Regardless, of course the 2018 figure is a new January record in terms of sales, and especially so for crossovers and SUVs, the fastest growing segment in China at +22,2% to 1,05 million sales. Sedans were up 8% to 1,17 million but MPVs continued their decline at -16,9% to 189.300 sales. Within those figures, EV and PHEV sales jumped to 38.470 units, 4,3 times more than a year earlier which was a particularly slow month because of a cut in subsidies which was later reversed. 26.753 electric cars and 11.717 plug-in hybrids were sold in January. The share of foreign brands slightly improved on last January to 57,6% but this is also up 4,9 percentage points on December when the share of the domestic brands hit a new record. Sales of the domestic brands were up 10% in January, while Japanese brands continued to reclaim market share as sales outpaced the overall market at +27,1%. European brands were up 14,3%, US brands were stable but lost market share at +0,3% and Korean brands were down 18,1%. This is their lowest decline since February 2017 before the China-Korea crisis broke out, but also the 17th consecutive month of declining share for the Koreans.
The Haval H6 starts the year with a winning month after topping the charts three times last year: in April, July and October. It manages to fend off the surging Baojun 510 which equals its best ranking also reached last October and sets a new monthly volume record at 58.000 sales. This leaves the Wuling Honggang in third place, making this month the first since the nameplate’s launch that it’s not in the Year-To-Date pole position. The Toyota Corolla is the best selling sedan for the first time since July 2015, but this is possibly just a correction after an exceptionally slow month of December when it was down to #26 with less than half the sales as this month. Keep in mind these figures reflect wholesale deliveries from factory to dealer so there can sometimes be monthly fluctuations like these without this representing a shift in customer orders. Volkswagen dominates the top of the ranking with 7 nameplates in the top-15 of which 6 sedans in the top-13. Geely has a blockbuster month again with the Boyue above 30.000 sales for the fourth consecutive month and record monthly sales for the Emgrand GS, Vision sedan (both above 20.000 for the first time), Emgrand GL (above 15.000 for the first time) and the Vision S1 breaking the 10.000 sales mark in its third month of sales. This allow the brand to sharpen its monthly sales record for the fifth consecutive month but falling just short of the 150.000 sales threshold. As the brand’s product offensive continues in 2018, Geely is set to keep its momentum going but it also needs to allocate some of its R&D budget to New Energy Vehicles. The brand is lacking in that part of the market while BAIC and BYD are taking the lead in EV sales and others are investing heavily in the technology in response to the upcoming plug-in vehicles sales quota by the Chinese government.
Notable movers in the models ranking are the Audi A4L (#25) for the first time above 20.000 sales, more than doubling on last year’s subdued figure when some of the brand’s dealers stopped ordering cars, the Hyundai ix35 up fivefold to #38 and the nameplate’s best sales since December 2014 thanks to a facelift which is mostly cosmetic. The Elantra Lingdong also more than doubles up to #49 as these two models account for half of the brand’s sales.
Best selling newcomer (<12 months) is of course the Baojun 510, followed by the Changan CS55 at #19, the BYD Song MAX MPV at #47 and MG ZS crossover at #65, all the best selling nameplates of their respective brands. The Geely Vision X3 and Vision S1 follow at #68 and #72, just ahead of the Wey VV5 and VV7 at #73 and #74, both again just above 10.000 sales for the fourth straight month. The Soueast DX3 (#56) sets a new monthly sales record and so do the Mitsubishi Outlander (#61) and Cadillac XT5 (#71), both for the first time above 10.000 sales.
This month we welcome 6 new nameplates to the ranking, including 3 all-new brands, all domestic. Click on the model link to find specifiations, prices and pictures of exterior and interior. The best selling new arrival is the newly launched Traum brand by Zotye Auto with the Traum S70 (#246) with 1.519 sales, followed by the GAC Trumpchi GA4 which was launched at the North American Auto Show in Detroit last month and started sales in China shortly thereafter. In its first partial month the sedan sold 1.164 copies. Skoda also delivered the first 380 units of the Karoq (#347) to its Chinese dealers. The second new brand to arrive is Yudo, an EV maker that officially started sales of the Pi1 (#350) about six months ago, but the model didn’t appear in the charts until now. The company reports 356 deliveries in January. FAW introduces yet another incredibly cheap sedan, the Jumper A50, landing at #355 with 321 sales. Finally, January 2018 marks the launch of the XPeng brand, dedicated to electric crossovers. Their first model is the G3, landing at #413 with just 39 deliveries.
Volkswagen brand sales tend to peak in January and the brand improved on its monthly volume record from January 2017 with 6,4% to hit a new high of nearly 347.000 sales. Its winners are the Magotan (#13, +46,1%), Sagitar (#9, +30,4%), Bora (#11, +17,6%) and the new Teramont (#86). Sister brand Skoda is stable at 35.000 sales thanks to the two new crossovers, but there also seems to be an error in the reporting as the 8.100 deliveries of the Yeti seem a bit hard to believe as the company reports just 2.000 worldwide retail sales of the outgoing model. Audi rebounds sharply from its crisis in the beginning of last year, with sales up 35,5% to a new monthly record at over 69.000 deliveries as all of its locally produced models improved sharply and the A4L and Q5 (#38, +27,5%) set monthly sales records. Mercedes-Benz scores an equally impressive 33,8% gain to also a new monthly record at 56.306 sales of locally produced models with only the GLA (#111, -14,4%) down on last year but record sales for all of its other nameplates: C-Class L (#31, +40,7%), E-Class L for the fourth time above 10.000 and the first time above 15.000 sales (#48, +64,7%), GLC (#57, +24,8%) and the vans V-Class (#235, +97,9%) and Vito (#282, +158,7%). But the biggest relative winner of the three German giants is BMW with sales up 37,4% to 43.388 with sales up for all nameplates and record sales for the 3-Series L (#52, +25,2%), X1 (#77, +46,3%, ) and 1-Series (#168). Among smaller luxury players Volvo continues its strong form with a 53% increase to top 10.000 sales for the first time on record sales of its S90 (#166) and XC60 (#146, +26,7%), Land Rover almost doubles at +93,55% to over 5.200 sales for its two domestically produced models and Jaguar almost triples to 2.900 sales thanks to the addition of the XEL (#281) and continued strong sales of the XFL (#232, +84,1%).
After only 2 months of sales increases in the past 24 months, Citroën sharply rebounds with a 69% growth to 13.850 sales in January with almost 50% of its volume coming from its 2 crossovers C3-XR (#153, +81,6%) and C5 Aircross (#214). Sister brand Peugeot is still down, but its 7,9% decline to nearly 19.400 units is the smallest loss in 13 months. Still, all of the brand’s nameplates are down by large double digits except for the 308 (#124, +73,3%) and the new 5008 (#222). Luxury contender DS is down 60,6% to its second-lowest volume ever at just 283 sales of its four models. Meanwhile, Renault sets a new monthly sales record at 9.000 deliveries of its 2 crossovers.
Buick is down 2 places in the brands ranking to #5 with sales down 4,2% to just over 112.000, while Cadillac almost doubles its December volume and improves its monthly record from 18.800 last October to 26.000 sales, up 60,5% on last January. Three out of its four models set new volume records while the ATS-L (#23, +19,5%) fell 19 sales short of its best month ever, last October. Chevrolet is up an encouraging 39% to over 64.000 sales with the Cavalier (#20, +67,9%) hitting its second-best ever month and strong volume of the Malibu (#58, +31,8%) and Sail (#45, +63,5%) sedans. Ford is heading in the exact opposite direction with its 7th consecutive month of declines but the biggest loss so far at -29,9% to 49.000 sales, down to 17th place in the brands ranking. Jeep sales are surprisingly down for the second time since the brand started local production. Its three models aer down 8,5% to 13.000 sales as both the Cherokee (#164, -53,2%) and Renegade (#225, -53,2%) are down by more than half, which the Compass (#103) is unable to compensate.
As mentioned above, the Japanese brands are starting off 2018 with a bang, and once again Honda takes the lead with a 39,4% gain to 139.000 deliveries, its third-best ever month after December 2015 and December 2014. Volume is most boosted by the Accord (#32, +53,7%), UR-V (#125) and Avancier (#87, +141,7%). Honda always starts off the year slowly but this January it starts above 100.000 sales and ahead of Toyota which improves 28,7% to 129.000 deliveries, its best month ever in China. The Corolla is the big winner for the brand but also the RAV4 (#35, + 60%) is strong, while the new Vios FS hatchback sets its highest monthly sales since its launch last March. Nissan is left behind with a gain of 15,8% to 94.000 sales despite a new monthly record for the Qashqai (#39, +44,3%) and strong volume of its best seller Sylphy (#7, +19,4%). Newcomer Kicks (#144) is back below 5.000 sales after topping 10.000 in October and November.
Among smaller Japanese brands, Mazda sets a new record at over 35.000 deliveries on best-ever sales of its sedans Mazda3 Axela (#43, +63,3%) and Mazda6 Atenza (#119, +27,3%) while the CX-4 crossover falls 12 units short of its record set exactly one year ago (#106, -0,2%). Mitsubishi is down to just 2 models in China but still sets a new record for the third consecutive month and passes the 15.000 sales mark for the first time thanks to the Outlander which passes the 10.000 sales mark (#61, +119,6%). Suzuki just can’t seem to get a break with sales down 43,7% to its second-lowest month ever, after last July. The brand is down almost 75% on January 2015. Except for the recently facelifted S-Cross (#284, +50,1%) all of its models are down by 33% or more. Infiniti reported just 8 deliveries in January which is not reflective of its retail sales which should be around 2.000 units. Acura sales are up 40% on January last year but down 69,5% on December as sister brand Honda also starts off the year slowly. The new TLX-L sedan (#386) accounts for about 21% of the brand’s sales.
As mentioned above, the South-Korean brands still struggle in China, with Hyundai responsible for all of those losses with sales down 25% to 60.000 units and down 50% on December. The brand’s worst months were April to July last year so don’t expect much of a recovery before those months. The facelifted ix35 is responsible for keeping the brand somewhat afloat but cannibalizes the more modern Tucson (#133, -60,1%). The growth of the Elantra Lingdong is more than offset by collapsing sales of the Elantra Langdon (#176, -81,7%). The still fresh Verna Yuena (#242, -87%) also takes a nosedive. Kia sales are stable on last year but still down almost 40% on January 2015. Sales of the newcomers KX Cross (#116) and Pegas (#130) are barely enough to offset losses of the K3 (#98, -48,8%), K5 (#243, -60,4%) and K2 (#240, -57,7%). Kia will update the Sportage R later this year in the same way Hyundai has freshened the ix35, to continue to sell the old version alongside its successor KX5.
As discussed above, Geely is on fire and is the #2 brand in China for the fourth month running. Changan is back above Baojun for the first time since September as well, despite a 14% loss for the former and a 23,5% growth for the latter. The Baojun 510 sets a new volume record for any Baojun nameplate and the third-best ever monthly volume for any nameplate in China. Only the Wuling Hongguang (82.543 sales in December 2016) and Haval H6 (80.495 sales in that same month) have higher volume records than the 510 which look set to become only the third nameplate in history to pass the 60.000 monthly sales barrier within a few months time. Changan is increasingly dependent on its crossovers CS35 (#21, +16,9%), CS55 (#19) and CS75 (#24, -20,1%) which are all three above 20.000 sales and account for 61,9% of the brand’s sales as its MPVs are down sharply. Haval stablizes its decline of recent months, down 3,8% to 78.500 sales after 6 months of double digit declines. Combined with sales of the Wey brand, Great Wall‘s crossover sales are up a healthy 21,1%. GAC Trumpchi improves 32,3% on its previous monthly volume record set exactly one year ago and passes both the 50.000 and 60.000 monthly sales barriers at once. The GS7 large crossover (#175) sets a new record at 3.499 sales, the GS3 small crossover (#105) does the same at 7.482 sales and the GA8 flagship sedan (#265) hits four-figure sales for the first time. The GM8 MPV (#287) improves to 1.000 sales in its second month and the all-new GA4 sedan also passes that threshold in its first month. Despite all these new products, its core model GS4 crossover (#10, -1,2%) maintains its sales at above 34.000 sales.
SAIC Roewe sharpens its monthly volume record set last November by an additional 10.000 sales. Year-on-year, the brand is up 57,1% thanks to the new RX3 crossover (#78) and i6 sedan (#107) while the RX5 crossover (#17, +25,3%) also continues to improve. Sister brand SAIC MG more than doubled to nearly 24.000 sales, adding 8.000 vehicles to its previous record set just last month, making it three consecutive months of sales records. Even BAIC grows double with digits again for the first time in 13 months, but BYD is among the fastest growing Chinese brands with a gain of 47%. The new Song MAX MPV accounts for almost all of the growth but the brand’s sales of plug-in hybrids and EVs were also up almost 11-fold on last January, to 7.141 units. Venucia benefits from the new D60 sedan (#88), causing sales of the brand to soar 69,5% but falling just shy of last month’s record. Soueast does set a new record for the month, with its 2 crossovers accounting for 96,6% of the brand’s sales.
Among smaller brands, Brilliance is up 76,4% on its second-worst month in more than 10 years but is down 59% on December. The new V6 crossover (#169) already accounts for more than half of the brand’s sales. Lynk & Co is stable on its introduction month at just over 6.000 sales. Qoros suddenly sets a new sales record at 4.200 sales now that the brand has been sold, and the new owner Baoneng Group has (of course) ambitious plans for the brand, planning to invest heavily in EV technology and making Qoros the “Chinese Tesla” as so many companies are attempting.
China brands ranking January 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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