Sales of domestic passenger cars in China continue to increase slowly but steadily in March 2018 with a 5% gain to 2,1 million. This brings the first-quarter figure to just a handful of sales over 6 million, a 4% increase on Q1 of 2017. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate in March is up to 24,8 million, similar to January and about 400.000 below February but more importantly up 1,3 million on March 2017.
Sales of crossovers and SUVs in China are back up after a small decline in February which was mostly due to seasonalities. The hottest segments of the market lodge an 11% gain to nearly 900.000 sales, while sedans are up almost 5% to 1,04 million sales and MPVs are down a harsh 18% to 180.000 sales. In Q1, crossovers and SUVs are up 11,9%, sedans up 1,9% and MPVs down 18,3%. Within those figures, sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in China continued to increase significantly, with sales surging 117% to nearly 68.000 vehicles. EV deliveries jumped 106% to 52.000 vehicles while plug-in hybrid sales did even better at +167% to just about 16.000. In the first quarter of 2018, Chinese car dealers delivered close to 143.000 EVs and PHEVs, 1,5 times as many as in the same period last year. Sales of electric cars surged 131% to just over 102.000 while plug-in hybrid volume jumped 243% to top 40.000 sales.
The share of foreign brands stood at 55,3% in March, down a percentage point on the same month last year but up more than 1,5 points on February. Domestic Chinese brands grew their sales by 7,6% this month, compared to a 10,4% increase for European brands, a loss of 5% for Japanese brands and a loss of 7,3% for American. After struggling hard in recent months, Korean brands appear to have turned a corner, up 35% on a notably miserable month last year. Sales for the Korean brands are still down by more than a third compared to 2016.
In the models ranking, the traditional leader Wuling Hongguang makes it two wins in a row thanks to stable sales on last year. Like last month, the Baojun 510 is in second place and the best selling crossover in China, with its closest rival Haval H6 off the podium as it is outsold by the Volkswagen Lavida. The only other crossover in the top-10 is the Volkswagen Tiguan, as the German brand has four nameplates in the top-10 and six in the top-13, of which the Magotan (#12, +54,8%), Bora (#10, +39,2%) and Sagitar (#7, +22,3%) are the best performers in terms of year-on-year growth. Other notable performers in the top-25 are the Changan Eado (#16, +84,2%) thanks to the new generation, the Hyundai Elantra Lingdong (#21) with sales more than tripling, and the Nissan X-Trail (#25) with sales almost doubling. A bit further down the ranking, the Hyundai ix35 (#44) is a top performer thanks to the “new” generation while its more modern sibling Tucson (#66, +74,1%) also shows nice gains. The Chevrolet Malibu (#60) almost doubles up and the BAIC EC180 (#86, +116,9%) once again confirms its position as China’s best selling EV. We note record sales for the Changan CX70 (#24), Honda Civic (#26) and Nissan Qashqai (#28). Further down the ranking we also find some new sales records for existing nameplates, most notably for the Qoros 5 SUV (#167), Infiniti Q50L (#214) and the import-only Lincoln Navigator (#379).
Now that the Baojun 510 has celebrated its first anniversary, the best selling newcomer (<12 months) is the Changan CS55 (#19), followed by the BYD SongMAX MPV at #32 and the Baojun 530 (#47), up to 12.000 sales in its second month on the market. The Geely Vision X3 (#62), the relaunched MG6 (#68) and the Lynk & Co 01 follow, with the latter two setting new monthly records. Other newcomers on the rise are the Zotye T300 (#82) and Chery Tiggo 5X (#91). We welcome five new nameplates to the ranking this month, of which the Zotye T500 is the best performer by far at #133 with almost 5.000 sales in its first month, followed by the Haval H4 at #258 and the Dearcc EV10 at #293, introducing the third all-new EV-only brand so far this year, after Yudo and XPeng. Slow starters are the DS7 at #392 although this makes it the French brand’s best selling model in its first month, and the Yudo Pi3 at #413 as the brand’s second model.
DS7-SUV-400×267.jpg” alt=”Auto-sales-statistics-China-DS7-SUV” width=”400″ height=”267″>Market leader Volkswagen outgrows the market with a 6,7% increase, as sister brand Skoda does even slightly better at +7,1% and luxury brand Audi grows its sales of domestically produced models by 29,1% on the depressed volume of last year during a dispute with its dealers. Its 53.500 sales handily beat its rivals Mercedes-Benz (+15,6% to 43.000 sales) and BMW (+9,3% to 35.300 sales). When also counting imported models, Mercedes-Benz (including Smart) is on top of the luxury ranking with 58.500 sales (+17%), compared to just over 54.000 for Audi (+31%) and just under 54.000 BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce deliveries (+6,2%). Among smaller European luxury brands, Volvo shows a strong 40,4% gain to 8.100 sales, while Land Rover plunges 15,7% to 4.700 sales of its two locally produced models. Sister brand Jaguar is up 53,9% to 2.400 sales now that it too has local production of a second model. DS is down 41,8% to just 311 sales despite the addition of its long awaited crossover DS7 which accounts for more than half of those sales.
Sister brands Peugeot and Citroën seem to finally have found some traction again, with the former down just 3,4%, its smallest decline of its 15-month losing streak and the latter up an encouraging 55,8% although this is still about a third below the brand’s sales in March 2016. At Peugeot, the new crossover 4008 (#139, +61,6%) and 5008 (#193) are the positive factors as well as the 308 sedan (#115, +40,9%), while at Citroën the still fresh C5 Aircross (#182) and the C4 sedan (#172, up 6-fold) are the big winners. For the second consecutive month, Renault sales are virtually stable on last year at around 6.000 monthly sales as the Koleos (#151) continues to handily outsell the aforementioned 5008 and is not far behind rivals like the Honda UR-V (#146), Skoda Kodiaq (#123) and Jeep Cherokee (#121).
Buick sales are down 1,8% in March, and as a result the brand drops three places in the ranking to #8 and is outsold by half-sister brand Baojun for the second consecutive month. Buick is hurt mostly by a plunge in deliveries of its best seller, the Excelle GT (#17, -39%) and small declines of its crossovers, as most of its other sedan models improve. The newly launched GL6 MPV (#214) and Excelle GX wagon (#220) also help but are unable to offset the losses of the Excelle GT. The Buick Velite 5, a rebadged Chevrolet Volt made in China, is an outright failure with just 32 sales in the first quarter. Luxury brand Cadillac continues its strong growth rate in China with a 68,5% increase while sister brand Chevrolet is well and truly in recovery mode after struggling in 2015 and 2016. Sales surge 52,1% thanks to the Malibu, Sail (#37, +40,5%) and the addition of the Equinox crossover (#110).
Cross-town rival Ford has struggled most of 2017 and in the first quarter of this year on the lack of fresh product. In March, the brand sees its sales plummet by more than 45% as its former best sellers Focus (#243, -90,6%) and Escort (#84, -70,1%) compact sedans are taking big hits in the wake of updates coming later this year. Luxury brand Lincoln proves that last month’s decline was just a fluke due to seasonal effects as sales are up 27,4% in March. Jeep on the other hand has been struggling in 2018 and loses another 24% of its volume in March as the Compass (#89, +8,1%) can’t offset losses for the Cherokee (#121, -37,2%) and Renegade (#220, -50,2%). The large China-only 7-seater Grand Commander will arrive soon to try and turn the brand around.
Honda has been on a winning streak since early 2015 but sales were down 12,7% in March and the brand was outsold by Toyota for the first time in more than a year, and the last time Toyota outsold Honda by more than 1.000 sales was May 2016. Biggest contributor to the brand’s struggles was the CR-V crossover (#277, -93,5%) as the factory is preparing for the new generation. Expect the CR-V to rebound quickly when production of the new model gets under way. Toyota sales are down 1,7% as it remains the #4 brand in China as the new generation Camry (#34, +68,2%) offsets losses of the Highlander (#114, -28,9% and the brand’s small car range. That leaves Nissan as the best performer of the Japanese Big Three in China, with a gain of 15,2% on the aforementioned X-Trail, the Sylphy sedan (#5, +11,1%) and the addition of the Kicks small crossover (#143).
Among the smaller Japanese players, Mazda registers its second straight monthly loss at -18,6% as only the Mazda6 Atenza improves. Mitsubishi extends its winning streak to 20 months with a 9,7% gain, the smallest increase of its current streak. Suzuki continues to head in the opposite direction with its 37th loss in the last 38 months and its biggest loss of the streak at -60,5%. Infiniti sales are flat as the Q50L sets a new sales record but the QX50 crossover has ended local production in preparation for the new generation which will arrive by the end of this year. The brand is planning to expand its line-up of locally produced models to five within a few years, including EVs. Acura sales are down for the second consecutive month despite the addition of its second model, the TLX-L (#403).
It appears the Korean brands have turned a page after seeing their sales crumble to a fraction of what they used to be. Now that the diplomatic quarrel between China and South Korea has been resolved, Hyundai and Kia can start to make a recovery and try and regain the lost market share. But that won’t be easy without the right product and that’s exactly where the problem lays with these brands. They are traditionally skewed towards cheap sedans, a segment that is targeted heavily by the quickly improving quality, design and content of the local brands. The Koreans have acted rather late and poorly to the crossover trend but are planning an offense into this segment. Whether that will be too little too late the future will tell. In March, Hyundai is up 19,6% but still down 16,8% in the first quarter. Biggest contributors to the rebound are the Elantra Lingdong sedan (#21, +231%) and the aforementioned ix35 thanks to its update, even though it remains a rather old car with old technology in a fresh skin. Sister brand Kia makes an even more impressive rebound in March with sales up 88,1% bringing the brand back into positive territory for the first quarter. Keep in mind however that March 2017 was Kia’s worst volume month in China since 2009 and Q1 sales are still down by more than 40% on 2016. The KX Cross, in its 7th month of sales, was the biggest contributor to the gains this month.
Geely celebrates its sixth consecutive month as China’s #2 brand behind Volkswagen, but does so with the slimmest margin of its streak so far, as Changan is just 2.000 sales behind in third place, although down by 10,3% on last year. This means Baojun is knocked back down to the #3 domestic brand in China despite its continued double digit growth rate. Haval makes it four Chinese brands in the top-10, and its loss of almost 14.000 sales is offset by the more upmarket Wey brand, also owned by Great Wall. GAC maintains its healthy growth rate with another 27,2% increase, and so do the Shanghai Automotive brands Roewe (+16,3%) and MG (+88,9%). The latter benefits greatly from the new generation MG6 sedan (#68) which now accounts for half of the brand’s domestic sales as it sets a new volume record for the nameplate. Beijing Automotive continues to struggle (-25,7%) and is almost outsold by the surging Zotye which almost doubles up. JAC is finally in the black after 16 straight weeks of losses, of which 15 with double digits. And what’s most encouraging about its numbers is that one in five of its deliveries in the first quarter was an EV, a technology on which the company has “bet the bank”.
Brilliance has been swinging from huge gains to big losses in the last few months and is back up an impressive 75,8% in March for a Q1 gain of 24,8%. Surprisingly, this month’s gains are mostly due to its (aging) sedans instead of its more recent crossovers. Venucia extends its double digit winning streak to 13 months, with almost half of its Q1 sales coming from the new D60 budget sedan. And just as we thought Luxgen was all but dead with just 500 sales in February, the brand rebounds in March with a 165% gain to its highest monthly volume since October 2016.
China brands ranking March 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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