The Chinese car market remains as buoyant and dynamic as ever, even when it finishes June 2015 as the first month of decline since early 2009, as just over 1,4 million locally produced vehicles were sold in China, down 0,87% on last June. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate (SAAR) dipped below last year’s total at 17,9 million units. As has become usual for China (and for the US and Europe as well, for that matter), sales of SUVs and crossovers bucked the negative trend, as sales of this segment surged 38% to almost 450.000 units, while sedans were down 15% to less than 850.000 sales and MPVs were down 1% to 125.000 units. Overall sales, including import models, were down 3% to 1,51 million units.
To underscore the volatility of the Chinese auto market, of the 370 models that were sold in June, almost a quarter (91 nameplates) recorded their lowest volume of the year, and half of those (46 nameplates) even recorded their lowest volume ever. And even more worryingly for those brands, this includes models that have been introduced as recently as last year, for example the Dongfeng Fengdu MX6, Fengshan L60, and Joyear SUV, Haval H1 and H9, Kia KX3, MG GT, Peugeot 308S, Suzuki Alivio, Venucia R30 and Yema F16. To balance that, 58 nameplates had their best month of the year in June, of which half (29 models) had their best sales ever, including a handful of recent launches.
The South-Korean manufacturers had a month to quickly forget, with Hyundai sales down 30% and Kia down 26,5%. The Hyundai Verna, Elantra Langdon and ix35 had their worst month of the year, and the Elantra Yuedong even had its worst sales ever. For Kia, the Sportage had its slowest selling month of the year, but more worryingly, the Forte, K3, K4, K5 and the recently launched KX3 small SUV had record low sales.
American brands had mixed sales results, with Ford up 12,75% as the Kuga and Edge had their best months ever (the Edge racking up almost 8.500 sales in its first full month on the market), while the smaller EcoSport had its worst month ever. Reversely, Chevrolet was down 19% with all models losing sales except for the Trax small crossover. Buick was up 19% thanks to the new Envision SUV, which had its second best month ever, and the Wei Lang (known as Verano in North America) making its debut this month. Sales of locally produced Cadillac models were up 64% thanks to the addition of the ATS-L.
Most mainstream European brands suffered, with Peugeot down 13,5% as the brand new 308S was down to just 450 units as a sign that Chinese consumers aren’t yet ready to embrace the hatchback body style. Citroën was down 19% despite the addition of the C3-XR small crossover compared to last June, while DS was down 22% as the new DS6 crossover didn’t offset losses of the DS5 (just 21 units sold) and the DS 5LS. Fiat was down a whopping 75% as both the Ottimo and Viaggio dipped below 1.000 sales in June.
VW, Skoda and Audi dealers also had a quiet month in their showrooms, with Volkswagen losing 15% of its volume (that’s almost 33.000 sales less than June 2014) as the Passat, Sagitar and Santana had their slowest month of the year. The latter was undoubtedly cannibalized by the recent launch of the Gran Santana hatchback version, which is calculated separately. Meanwhile, Skoda sales in China were down 24% in June as the Fabia, Rapid and Octavia had their slowest month of the year, and the Superb its worst month ever in China. Surprisingly, the Yeti SUV had its best month of the year. And Audi sales of locally produced vehicles were down 22% as the A6L had its worst month of the year. Total Audi sales, including imports, were down “just” 5,8%.
The other two German premium brands, BMW and Mercedes-Benz fared better, as BMW saw virtually flat sales, as the 3-series L had a record month, and Mercedes-Benz total sales, including imports, soared 38%. Thanks to the start of local production of the GLA small crossover, sales of locally produced Mercedes-Benz models more than doubled. Surprisingly, the soon-to-be-replaced GLK also had record sales. The locally produced C-Class L had its second-best month ever, behind last March.
Volvo China sales were down 4% in June, despite sales of locally produced models jumping 14-fold to 6.400 units, with the XC60 celebrating its best month since the start of local production, last October. Similarly, the Infiniti Q50L also had its best month in China since it started local production last November.
Nissan was down 7%, despite the X-Trail enjoying its best month ever, and the Teana and low-volume models March, Murano and Paladin their best month of the year. The Nissan Sunny had its best month since January. Mitsubishi was down 27% on last year, and is now for more than 88% dependent on a single model, the ASX. Besides the Pajero Sport, none of the brand’s other vehicles managed more than 100 sales in June. The picture is even worse at Suzuki, which lost more than half of its volume at -53%. The Alivio, on the market for only 7 months, is already down to its lowest volume at 526 sales, while all other models have declining sales. The Beidouxing also has its slowest month ever, and the Alto loses two thirds of its volume.
Other Japanese manufacturers had better months, with sales of locally produced Honda models up 22% as the Accord, Civic, CR-V, Jade, Odyssey and Vezel racked up their best scores of the year. The Honda XR-V even had its best month ever, outselling its sibling Vezel for the first time.
Mazda was up 28% to the brand’s best month since January, with the CX-5 and Mazda3 Axela improving on last year. Toyota did even better, up almost 36% as the new generation Corolla had its best sales of the year and moved into the overall #2 spot. The Toyota Levin had its 2nd best month ever, behind April, and the RAV4 had its 2nd best month of the year.
Mixed results for Chinese brands as well, with Baojun busting the charts with sales up fivefold on June 2014 thanks to the addition of the Baojun 730 MPV, even though that model had its slowest sales of the year. Similarly, the Wuling Journey MPV also has its worst month of the year. The overall best selling model Wuling Hongguang is down 29% on last June.
Sales at BYD are stable, wiht the Qin Plug-In hybrid reaching its best month ever and the addition of the hybrid SUV Tang to its line-up. Dongfeng is also stable, while Brilliance is up 65% thanks to the addition of the V3 small SUV to the line-up. It already was the brand’s best selling model last month, its first month of sales, and improves to almost 6.500 sales in June. Sales at Chery are down 16%, and down 26,5% at FAW.
At Changan, the CS75 SUV becomes the brand’s best selling model for the month as the CX20, Alsvin, Benni and Honor all have their worst month of the year. GAC Trumpchi has introduced its GS4 SUV in May, and the model already takes 83% of the brand’s sales in June, cannibalizing heavily on the GS5, which is down below 1.000 sales for the first time ever. Geely sales are up 4% thanks to the brand’s flagship GC9, introduced in April. Reversely, the EC7 Emgrand, King Kong and FC Vision all have their worst month of the year.
As Great Wall focuses on SUV sales under its Haval brand, sales of its sedan and hatchback models under the Great Wall brand are down two thirds on last year, losing 6.000 units of volume. That lost volume is offset by a large margin at Haval, up 41% or 13.000 units thanks to additions to its line-up. However, not all new Haval models are equally successful: while sales of the top-selling H6 are relatively stable, the flagship H9 dips below 800 units in June despite being introduced only 7 months ago, while the H8 improves to 1.373 sales in its third month. At the bottom end of the scale, the H1 has the worst month since its introduction last November at 3.812 sales. The H2, introduced last July, is down to just over 10.000 units, the model’s worst score since September. Meanwhile, sales of the top-selling H6 are relatively stable.
Haima has had a rollercoaster ride so far this year, with sales up 20% in January, peaking at +40% in February, then stable in March before declining at increasing rate the next three months, with a dip of -36% in June as its worst score. As a result, year-to-date Haima sales are off just 3,5%, but the trend is clearly downward. All the brand’s volume models are down on last year, and the all-new M6 is flat on May, its first full month of sales.
Sales at JAC are up 140% thanks to the Refine S3, which was launched last August and already takes more than half of the brand’s sales. Similarly at Leopaard, the CS10 already takes almost 90% of the brand’s sales despite being in its third month of sales. At Qoros, the Qoros 3 City SUV is has become the brand’s best selling model, as sales of the Qoros 3 sedan are down to the lowest score ever.
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