The market for domestic passenger car sales in China continues to grow in the first half of 2018, with another 8,5% gain in May to nearly 1,85 million sales. That brings the year-to-date gain to 6,75% with 9,76 million cars sold in five months. The Seasonally Adjusted Annualized selling Rate in May stood at 24,4 million, the lowest of the year so far but up by 2,2 million on May of 2017.
The biggest news of this month is that for the first time since June 2011 and only the second time in the last nine years the crossover/SUV segment grows slower than the overall market, meaning they lose market share. Sales of crossovers and SUVs grew by just 6,6% in May to 749.000, while sedans showed a 14,7% growth rate to nearly 965.000 sales and MPVs were down 15,9% to just over 133.000 sales. Within those figures, New Energy Vehicle sales rose 126% to 102.000 units, of which 82.000 were EVs and about 20.000 were PHEVs. Year to date, the crossover/SUV segment is still the most dynamic at +12,4% compared to sedans up 6,8% and MPVs down 16,9%. Sales of New Energy Vehicles are up 142% to 250.000 battery electric cars and 78.000 plug-in hybrids.
The share of foreign brands improved again and hit 59,65% in May, the highest import brand share since last September and similar to the same month last year. Domestic Chinese brands grew their sales by 9,1% this month, compared to a 9,5% increase for European brands (holding 24,5% of the market), +9% for Japanese brands (19,6% share) but a loss of 11,3% for American brands which means their share of 10,6% of the market is the lowest since December 2011. Korean brands are rebounding after their recent struggles, up 72% on a notably miserable month last year, with a share of 4,9% of the market. Their sales are still far below their 2016 figure, though, so they still have a long way up.
In the models ranking we have yet another change of guards, with four different nameplates leading the ranking in the last five months. The redesigned Volkswagen Lavida tops the charts for the first time since September 2017, with a 1.200 sales gap to the #2, last month’s winner Nissan Sylphy. Underscoring the strength of sedans this month, the Toyota Corolla makes it a sedan-only top-3 for the first time since the Wuling Hongguang was launched in 2013. In December 2012, the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Jetta and Chevrolet Sail made up the top-3. The Hongguang is now down to fourth place, the second consecutive month off the podium, while the first crossover is in 5th place. This is the Haval H6 which has managed to fend off the surging Baojun 510, which in turn is cannibalized by the new Baojun 530, up to #20. That means the Volkswagen Tiguan is the #2 best selling crossover in China this month and one of five VW models in the top-10 of which four are sedans. The best selling Chinese sedans are the Geely EC7 in 14th place and the Geely Emgrand GL in 31st place, indicating how much stronger the domestics are in crossovers.
Notable movers in the ranking are the Chevrolet Cavalier, hitting its highest ranking at #12 thanks to sales up 160%, the Hyundai Elantra Lingdong also hitting its highest ranking at #16 thanks to sales up nearly sevenfold on one of its weakest months ever, and the Toyota Levin (#17), up 150% with the hybrid version setting a new volume record at over 4.500 sales. Also worth mentioning are the new generation Toyota Camry (#23), almost doubling its volume of its predecessor last year to its highest volume since March 2014, the BAIC EC180 (#37 and best selling EV) up more than threefold with its siblings BAIC EX-Series (#141) and EU-Series (#182) also up, the latter thanks to the new generation (+167,7%), way outselling its ICE version Beijing Senova D50 (#275). The BMW 5-Series L more than doubles up but that’s mostly because it had a significantly slow month last year. The Qoros 5 SUV (#88) hits a new record again and is eager to prove the brand does in fact have a chance of survival, while the Hyundai ix35 (#102) and Kia Sportage (#78) show that an updated design on an old platform can be relatively successful in China, if the price is low enough. The Buick GL8 sets a new volume record at nearly 15.000 sales in 25th place, the Chevrolet Equinox also sets a new volume record in 77th place and so does the BYD Qin at #126. Among the notable losers in the ranking are the GAC Trumpchi GS4 (#20), down by almost half and in need of an update, the Buick Excelle GT (#28) down by more than half as the Chevrolet Cavalier outsells it for the first time, and both the Ford Focus (#100, -50,1%) and Escort (#42, -37,2%).
For the second month in a row, the best selling newcomer (<12 months) is the Baojun 530, up to #21 and a new high of over 17.000 sales, followed by the BYD Song MAX at #29 and the Geely Vision X3 at #46, seling more than 11.000 units for the first time. The Lynk & Co 01 crossover (#63) improves to 9.234 sales, not far behind the combined sales of the Wey VV5 (#104) and VV7 (#114).
We welcome no less than 10 all-new models to the ranking this month (of which 8 crossovers), starting with the Baojun 360 MPV at #73 with 8.003 sales, followed by the Changhe A6 sedan at #240 with 1.553 sales and the Changhe Q7 SUV at #257 with 1.323 sales. Notice how Changhe’s new naming system resembles that of a certain German luxury brand? At least its designs are still somewhat original. FAW has launched a second crossover under its Senia subbrand from its FAW-Jilin subsidiary with the Senia R9 at #280 with 993 sales. Wey launched its third nameplate with the P8 at #338 with 503 sales. The P8 is a plug-in hybrid SUV-Coupe and is sized between the VV5 and VV7 but priced above them. Coincidentally, Borgward also launched its BX6 crossover this month, styled even more like the BMW X6 and not a hybrid, and it sold 118 units for a 417th place. Skoda has started deliveries of the Kamiq, its third new crossover in China in the last 12 months and a China-only crossover below the Karoq but also based on the Volkswagen T-Roc, which also just launched in China. 402 units of the Kamiq were delivered to Skoda dealers, taking it to #352 while VW delivered the first 4 copies of the T-Roc, which is 77mm longer than the European version and it wheelbase is stretched by 84mm. Production of the China-only Jeep Grand Commander started by Guangzhou-FCA, resulting in 326 deliveries for a #366 position for the brand’s only seven seater, and BMW started local production of the X3 crossover (#434). The first 48 units were delivered to dealers in May.
Volkswagen moves with the market and grows nearly 8% on the strength of its sedans with the Tiguan (#7, -15,9%), Passat (#38, -12,4%), Polo (#48, -14,8%) and Golf (#50, -17,3%) as the main losers for the brand, while Skoda outpaces the market at +25,8% thanks to its three new crossovers as well as the Rapid and Octavia sedans. Luxury sister brand Audi stabilizes at +2,3% to stay just ahead of Mercedes-Benz which surges 19,1% to less than 900 sales behind its rival when it comes to sales of locally produced cars. When including imports, Mercedes-Benz and Smart sold just over 56.000 cars in May, compared to nearly 51.750 for Audi. In both cases, BMW is in third place, with sales of locally produced cars up 14,9% to just over 36.000 units and just under 46.000 when including imports and Mini brand vehicles. BMW’s share of domestic production will rise in the coming months now that the brand has added the X3 to its Joint Venture with Brilliance.
Volvo ends its streak of 13 months of consecutive double digit increases with a gain of 9,9%, while Land Rover declines for the fourth month in a row to also dip into the red year-to-date. Sister brand Jaguar continues to benefit from the addition of its second model with the XEL.
Among French manufacturers, PSA gains market share with a 9% increase in sales, but this is all thanks to Citroën which is up 66% on May 2017 but still down 40% on May 2016 and down 50% on May 2015 and 2014. The new C5 Aircross (#190) as well as the C4 Sedan (#204, +407,5%) and C3-XR crossover (#216, +102,8%) are pulling the brand up. However, Peugeot is back in the red after a single month of growth, down 17,4% in May and 12,3% year-to-date. Its only nameplates to improve are the 5008 SUV (#184, +146,4%) and 308 sedan (#155, +12,6%) while the 408 sedan loses 42,6% and the 2008 (#323) and 3008 (#392) crossovers are marginalized to under 600 sales each. DS improves for the second month in a row as the DS7 crossover slowly improves and passes the 500 sales mark at #337. Renault also has a difficult month with its first year-over-year decline since it started local production in China just over two years ago.
Ford has hit a new low with a loss of almost half of its volume year-over-year to its lowest volume since February 2013. Its best performer among locally produced models is the EcoSport (#229) at -22,5% with the rest all down by more than a third. As a result, Ford drops from #8 in the brands ranking to #21, only just ahead of Skoda. Meanwhile its rival Chevrolet is in rebound mode, bouncing up by more than 50% for the third consecutive month and into the brands top-10 as all of its models improve, led by the aforementioned Cavalier, but also the Sail (#30) and the Malibu (#61) at +28,7%. Buick’s sales have fluctuated in the single digits this year but the brand suffers a 10,4% loss in May on the struggling Excelle GT as well as the LaCrosse (#107, -30,5%) while the Verano (#27, +24,5%) and Regal (#83, +46%) show strength.
Cadillac keeps going strong with a gain of 23,6% while Lincoln suffers a second consecutive monthly loss at -3,1%. Jeep is in trouble as well after a flying start in China with sales in accelerating decline, hitting -47,7% in May. Let’s hope Jeep can get its momentum in China back with the new Grand Commander and the updated Cherokee.
Thanks to the aforementioned successes of the Levin, Camry and Corolla, Toyota is the big winner among Japanese brands with a 23,4% gain which allows it to pass Honda for third place in the brands ranking and even close in on Geely’s #2 spot by less than 1.200 sales. Honda is down for the fourth consecutive month, by 4,2% despite wholesales deliveries of the CR-V (#64, -13%) getting back on track again when a recall was started on May 22nd. The brand’s small sedans struggle the most, with the City (#219) down by almost 60% and sales of the Gienia (#432) and Greiz (#455) marginalized. The new Accord also struggles with a loss of 36,5% in 82nd place. The Civic continues to outperform with a gain of 27% at #19. Nissan makes it three Japanese brands in the top-5 with a gain of 11,9% which allows it to outsell Buick for only the third time in the last 17 months, after October 2017 and March 2018. Especially the success of the Sylphy and the X-Trail (#22, +17,9%) help the brand.
Among smaller Japanese brands, Mazda loses market share as its 6,9% growth rate is slower than the overall market. Mitsubishi outpaces the market with a 50% growth rate as the Outlander has its second-best ever month, after last January. Suzuki extends its losing streak in China with a 21,7% loss in May, just when it ended one of its two Joint Ventures. The Japanese brand sold its stake in the partnership with Changhe to its Chinese partner, after sales have declined sharply in recent years. It will remain to be seen how this affects deliveries of the Suzuki Big Dipper (Beidouxing), the only remaining model produced by the JV. That leaves Suzuki with a single partner in China, but even its Joint Venture with Changan is looking ever more unstable as well as it sold just 21.000 cars in the first five months of this year.
Hyundai and Kia are rebounding sharply after hitting rock bottom exactly one year ago. Hyundai sales are up 72,2% which brings its year-to-date figure to +10,3%, although it’s still down by more than 30% on the first five months of 2016. The brand benefits from the new generation ix35 (#102), the rebound of the Elantra Lingdong and strong recoveries of the ix25 (#81, +387,5%) and Celesta (#79, +211,2%), but the former two cannibalize other models with the Tucson down 39,4% at #169 and sales of the Elantra Langdon coming to a virtual halt. The Encino (#320), also known as Kona or Kauai in other markets, slows down significantly after a promising first month. Kia sales are up by 72,6% as well but still below Skoda. Its gain is mostly dependent on recent launches with the updated Sportage in 78th place as the brand’s new best seller even though it isn’t entirely new. The KX Cross (#94) also maintains its momentum even though its cannibalizes the KX3 (#421, -82,2%), and the Pegas small sedan (#215) is actually outsold by the rebounding K2 (#159), which almost doubles its sales of last year.
The success story of Geely just doesn’t end yet, as the new domestic champion maintains its strong growth pace that started exactly 2 years ago with the launch of the Emgrand GS and the Boyue just a few months earlier. Geely has now been China’s #2 brand behind Volkswagen for eight consecutive months and has sold more than 100.000 cars in each of the last 9 months. Seven of its nameplates sell more than 10.000 units this month, of which two are over 20.000, the Boyue crossover (#11, +0,7%) and the Emgrand EC7 sedan (#14, +17,8%). The other superstar performer of the last year or so is Baojun and its rise seems to be slowing down as new models are cannibalizing existing nameplates. The 510 crossover logs its first year-over-year loss since its launch at -0,4% as the 530 just hit a new high of 17.000 sales, while the new 360 MPV (#73) starts strong at 8.000 sales in its first month, but the 730 MPV (#116, -68,8%) is down by even more. Meanwhile, Changan showed a nice rebound in April deliveries but is down again in May, and Haval extends its losing streak to 14 months, but once again its lost volume is offset by sales of its Wey brand. BAIC is back in positive territory after 3 months of double digit losses, and its rebound is mostly thanks to sales of its BJEV subsidiary with sales of the EC, EU and EX series of electric cars up by more than threefold to more than 19.000, or 43,5% of its total deliveries. The EC180 (#37, +224,1%) is not only BAIC’s best seller by a large margin, it’s also the best selling EV in China (and the world).
SAIC Roewe continues to impress and outsells GAC Trumpchi for only the third time in the last four years (after December 2016 and last January), while sister brand SAIC MG is the fastest of the large and medium sized Chinese brands with a gain of 66,3% this month, followed by Zotye at +59,4%. Other notable improvers are Changhe, up 70,6% thanks to its new model launches, Qoros as mentioned above thanks to the 5 SUV and BYD at +23,5% thanks to the Song Max MPV. Losers among the domestic brands are Jinbei (-78% but it is much stronger in commercial vehicles than in passenger cars), Enranger (-61,2%), Soueast (-52,6%), Brilliance (-43,4%) and FAW (-38%).
China brands ranking May 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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