The market for domestic passenger car sales in China continues its decline in 2019 with 8 consecutive months of declines from July 2018 to February 2019. With two months of double digit declines in January (-16,7%) and February (-17,6%), the market doesn’t seem able to recover soon. However, there’s a silver lining to this apparent malaise, as these numbers reflect wholesale data. Retail sales of new light vehicles dipped just 4% in January, which means the big drop in wholesale deliveries was a result of a reduction in dumping excess inventories by carmakers on their dealerships.
A trend that started in the second half of 2018 has continued in 2019, namely that sedans are regaining market share after years of being outgrown by crossovers and SUVs. Sedan sales declined by 13% in both January and February, while SUV sales declined by 19% in January and 18,4% in February. MPV sales continued to suffer the most at -24,8% in January and -32,2% in February. Within those figures, sales of EVs and plug-in hybrids nearly doubled in the first two months of 2019 to 148.000, with EV deliveries surging 128% to roughly 114.000 while plug-in hybrid sales increased 38% to close to 34.000.
The share of foreign brands improved both months, up to 58,5% from 55,7% in the first two months of 2018. In January and February, sales of domestic Chinese brands dipped 22,3%, with only US brands performing worse at -26,5% while Korean brands were down “just” 17,5% and European brands lost 15%. Only Japanese brands managed to improve their sales in the first two months of the year, at +0,25%. As a result, Japanese brans are above 20% markets share in China for the first time since 2011, while the share of Korean brands is at the lowest ever at 3,8%, just over half their share in 2016.
In the models ranking the Volkswagen Lavida firmly takes control of the top spot with a 24,1% increase now that sales of the Lavida sedan and Gran Lavida hatchback are no longer reported separately. The Haval H6 is the best selling crossover in China in second place, despite a loss of 20,8%, with 2018 best seller Nissan Sylphy in fourth place (+24,1%) ahead of the former #1 Wuling Hongguang (-35,9%). The Buick Excelle GT is the third sedan in the top-5 and all three gain more than 20% so far this year. In fact, besides the Geely Boyue in 8th place, the entire rest of the top-15 consists of sedans, of which four Volkswagens, but the Toyota Levin in 15th place and the Honda Civic in 13th place show the biggest gains at +68,5% and +43,1% respectively. The Baojun 510 is down 66,2% and 16th place, after leading the models ranking in the first two months of 2018. A sudden and sure fall from grace by the model that was hailed as the most successful launch in China ever, reaching over 530.000 sales in its first 13 months on the market. Other notable losers are the Volkswagen Sagitar (#18, -37,2%) and Volkswagen Tiguan (#19, -34,4%), the latter feeling the heat from the brand’s newly launched crossovers.
Further down in the top-50, the Toyota Camry (#30, 29,5%), Honda Crider (#32, +54,5%) and Honda Fit (#42, +55,9%) are making great progress, while the Changan CS55 (#35, -39,5%), Buick Verano (#37, -33%), Volkswagen Magotan (#41, -48,2%), Buick Envision (#47, -41,2%) and Roewe RX5 (#48, -55,9%) are quickly losing ground. Such huge shifts among models are typical to the volatile Chinese market, but partially also a reflection of these figures being wholesale deliveries and not retail sales.
In the brands ranking, Toyota jumps to places to take 2nd place ahead of Geely and Honda, while Nissan moves from #8 to #5, leaving Buick, Changan and Baojun behind. The latter two are also passed by Haval, which means Great Wall‘s SUV brand becomes the #2 Chinese brand in 7th place. Mercedes-Benz enters the brands top-10, ahead of BMW (#12) and Audi (#13). Mercedes has outsold Audi in China only four times before: December 2016, February and December 2017, and June 2018, but does it twice already in the first two months of 2019. BMW has outsold Audi only once before in China: December 2017 and also does it twice in 2019. Does this mark the beginning of the end of Audi‘s luxury lead in China?
Best selling newcomer (<12 months) is the Roewe i5, including the electric ei5, at #14, followed by the Haval F7 at #26, the Geely Binyue at #39 and the Geely Binrui at #52, showing the importance of a continuous supply of fresh products for Geely. Other notable newcomers are the Baojun 360 at #56, the Hyundai La Festa at #57 and the Jetour X70 at #58, an impressive performance for a newly launched brand. The Chery Tiggo 8 at #63 immediately becomes the brand’s best selling nameplate, despite being its flagship model. The Volkswagen Tharu (#65), T-Roc (#79) and Tayron (#83) underscore the importance of VW’s new crossover models, even though the brand is way late to the party.
Volkswagen manages to improve its market share to over 14% as the brand has succesfully expanded its crossover line-up in recent months, but sees all of its existing models decline faster than the overall market except for the Lavida (#1, +24,1%) and Jetta ( #7, -8,7%). After growing its market share in 2018, Sister brand Skoda crashes hard in 2019 with a decline that doubles the market decline, as the newly launched Kamiq (#122) and the still fresh Karoq (#195, +97,9%) can’t make up for big losses of the Superb (#211, -64,2%), Kodiaq (#197, -56%) and Octavia (#125, -52%). But the French brands perform even worse, all three losing more than half their sales in the first two months of 2019. Citroën is down 51,8% as the all-new C4 Aircross (a stretched C3 Aircross) sold an embarrassing 67 units in 2 months, while the model that was expected to save the brand, the C5 Aircross SUV is down 31,6% into #247. Peugeot does even worse at -65,1% as each of the two PSA brands sold fewer than 10.000 cars in January and February combined. No less than three Peugeot nameplates lose more than 80% of their sales: the 408 (#311, -81,9%),3008 (#406, -82,4%) and 2008 (#429, -86,3%). French rival Renault does even worse at -69,6% for its two locally produced models.
The big shift among luxury brands has already briefly been discussed above, with Mercedes-Benz boosted by the new A-Class sedan, now locally produced and landing in the top-100 at #95 with over 10.000 sales immediately outselling its rivals Audi A3 (#104, -25,4%) and BMW 1-Series sedan (#146, +5,4%). BMW benefits from starting local production of the new generation X3 (#68 with almost 15.000 sales). Audi’s new launch on the other hand, the Q2L, is struggling to gain traction in China with fewer than 2.800 sales, good for a 224th place. The Q5 (#75, -39,5%) and A6L (#61, -30,2%) are struggling as well. Meanwhile, Volvo continues to improve its market share in China, with sales down “just” 8,9%. Jaguar and Land Rover are in big trouble in China as customers are complaining about low quality, dealers are complaining about low profit margins on the locally produced models due to heavy discount, and the image of the brands is suffering from these problems. Land Rover sales of its two locally produced models are down 60,8%, also because the models are starting to age and the Evoque is about to be renewed. Jaguar is down 59,7% to below 2.000 sales despite adding a third model, which actually failed miserably, with just 158 sales of the E-Pace small crossover in the first two months. Oh, and then there’s also still DS, which seems to perform reasonably well at just -8,7% until you see the exact numbers that correspond to this figure: just 453 sales in two months, including fewer than 200 for the DS7, the highly anticipated model that was to jumpstart the revival of the brand.
Just when you think Ford had hit rock bottom in China, the brand clocks in at -69,5% in a low 28th place among brands, far below Cadillac and only just ahead of newly launched Lynk & Co.Ford‘s best performer is the low-volume Everest SUV (#362, -31,6%) with its former bestseller Escort down 90,1% in 185th place despite being updated recently. The newly launched Territory is now the brand’s second best seller with 16% of total Ford sales (28% in February) in its first two months of sales. The embarrassing thing about this is that the Territory isn’t even a real Ford, but a rebadged crossover from its joint Venture partner JMC. General Motors’ brands are weathering the storm relatively well, with Buick down 16%, Chevrolet down 12,5% and Cadillac down 14,1%. Buick benefits from the new generation Excelle (#249), the Excelle GT (#5, +22,8%), the GL6 MPV (#153, +12,1%) and the renewed Regal (#72, +24,3%), while Chevrolet is boosted by the newly launched Orlando (#206) and strong stales of the Malibu (#43, +18,2%) and Cavalier (#12, +7,5%). At Cadillac, the new XT4 crossover (#115) becomes the brand’s #3 model. Jeep is struggling more, with sales down 33,9% with the Renegade (#302, -66,5%) in trouble, while the new Grand Commander (#233) isn’t yet living up to expectations.
So far, the Japanese brands have started 2019 on a high note in China, although they still had some catching up to do, of course. Toyota gains 17,3% in its 11th consecutive month of gains, boosted by the newly launched twins Izoa (#88) and C-HR (#111), and the new generation Camry and updated Levin, but also from its range of small cars, thanks to the Yaris L hatchback (#85, +36,2%) and sedan (#114, +65,5%) and the Vios FS hatchback (#119, +23,5%), with the only exception the Vios sedan (#118, -34,5%). After six years of growth, Honda has hit a small speed bump with sales down 2,3% in 2019. Its SUVs are among the biggest contributors to the loss, with the large Avancier (#97, -32,2%) and UR-V (#207, -63,8%), but also the smaller Vezel (#62, -25,6%) and XR-V (#46, -10,7%) all losing ground. Only the midsized CR-V (#34, -6,4%) manages to hold its ground. Nissan sales are up 4% thanks to the Sylphy (#3, +24,1%), Lannia (#124, +97,3%), Tiida (#135, +51,2%) and new Terra (#254).
In contrast to the Japanese Big-3, the smaller Japanese brands are struggling in China, with Mazda down 40,2% as the CX-4 (#130, -41,2%), CX-5 (#173, -49,9%) and Mazda6 Atenza (#164, -48%) are falling hard while the new CX-8 (#382) remains a niche model for now. Mitsubishi sales are only slightly less bad at -26,7%) as the new Eclipse Cross (#222) simply cannibalizes the ASX (#187, -43,3%). Considering Suzuki is pulling out of China, its 66,3% loss doesn’t look that bad when compared to similar declines at Peugeot. Infiniti sales are up 56,1%, but that’s mostly thanks to a freak January 2018 when the brand reported just 8 wholesale deliveries. In February 2019, Infiniti was down 35,8%, and no new models are expected until next year. Acura improves 79,1% now that the brand has added a third model to its local production with the new generation RDX (#342). The TLX-L sedan (#400, -0,4%) continues to fail to make a mark.
Hyundai and Kia had started to recover from their big losses in 2017 but the general slowdown in Chinese car sales in 2019 hasn’t left the South Korean brands unaffected. Hyundai sales are down 26,4% as the brand is down into 14th place, just ahead of BYD. Its best seller ix35 (#31, -2,4%) has hit its peak, while the Tucson (#325, -89,8%) continues to implode. The Elantra Lingdong (#106, -61,4%) and Mistra (#236, -88%) also hit a roadblock, with only the Celesta (#160, +237,7%), Reina (#212, +63,7%) and Verna Yuena (#259, +26,8%) able to improve. Unfortunately, the latter three are all low-cost models that don’t contribute much in terms of profits. Among the brand’s new launches, the La Festa (#57) is promising, especially considering its appealing design and more upscale price tag. However, the Encino (known as Kona elsewhere) is a textbook failure with just 69 sales in two months. Kia actually manages to improve its market share with a loss of just 0,9%, helped mostly by its crossovers, with the low-cost Sportage R up 444% in 53rd place, the more modern KX5 (#235) up 20,2% and the newly launched Stonic up in 147th place. The only other Kia nameplate to improve in 2019 is the K2 at #93 with sales up 247,8%, but cannibalizing the Pegas (#410, -97,5%).
Geely has been the success story in China in the last few years, and while it started 2019 with a loss of 13%, that’s still better than the overall market and therefore still an improved market share. As mentioned above, its continued onslaught of new or updated products is a big factor in its success, and the brand isn’t done yet, with still a few new models in the pipeline for the erst of 2019. Haval has caught on to the same strategy and benefits with a 12,3% gain so far this year thanks to the new F7 (#26), F5 (#129) and H4 (#192), while its best seller H6 (#2, -20,8%) is only partially cannibalized by the newcomers. Changan and Baojun have started 2019 on the back foot, with losses of 28,8% and 33,6% respectively. Especially for Baojun, which had been a rising star until recently, the fallback is worrying as it too has continued to expand its line-up and bring new products to market, with the 360 at #56 and the RS-5 at #284. At least the electric two-seater E100 (see our article about the E100) is finally starting to take off. Changan has been struggling for a while now, and it too can’t yet benefit from the Eado DT (#153) and CS85 Coupe (#260) as the rest of its line-up is in the red. BYD moves up to #15 and fifth among domestic brands, thanks to its focus on New Energy vehicles. BYD sales of electrified vehicle surged 175% to just about 43.000 while deliveries of its gasoline cars tumbled by 48% to 27.000, leading to an overall loss of 7,8% for the brand, which allowed it to leapfrog Roewe (-17,6%), Dongfeng (-38,1%), Wuling (-35,9%) and GAC Trumpchi (-42,8%). The latter is mostly hurt by a collapse of its former best seller GS4 (#81, -76,9%).
Beijing Automotive (BAIC) is in major trouble with a loss of 54,8% of its sales in 2019, with its Huansu brand down 57%, but more worryingly sales of its EC180 (#422, -98,6%), China’s best selling EV in 2017 and 2018, are down to a trickle, as it’s having its lunch eaten by the BYD Yuan (#73). Lynk & Co keeps up a good performance, easily outselling Wey (-43,2%) and Borgward, although the latter has found a second wind at +77,5%. Jetour has had a successful landing, already selling as many vehicles as Venucia and Huansu. After declining for the last two years already, Zotye (-59%) accelerates its demise in 2019.
Among the smaller domestic players, SWM Motor almost doubles up thanks to the addition of the G01, Hawtai (+420%) appears to have found a new lease on life, newcomer Traum already outsells permanent underperformer Lifan (-27,2%), and Soueast (-80,5%) is in big trouble. Among newcomers, Great Wall‘s EV brand Ora is second best behind Jetour, followed by Cos and Dorcen.
China brands ranking January – February 2019
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.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.