A flood of new models has washed ashore in China last month, with no less than 12 all-new models appearing in the ranking for the first time. 7 SUVs, of which 5 from local brands, 2 MPVs and 3 sedans/hatchbacks. So I’ve decided to split this into a separate post from the regular China car sales analysis March 2016.
The hottest new crossover is the Kia KX5, which is the new generation Sportage in other countries, but Kia renamed it to bring it more in line with the naming strategy of the smaller KX3 crossover. Another reason to change the name is because Kia will likely continue to sell the previous version called Sportage R alongside the new KX5. The version before that is also still sold as the Sportage, but that’s likely to be discontinued soon. At 6.001 sales in its first month, the KX5 is already close to the figure of the Sportage R at 6.225 units, down from 7.382 in the same month last year. Combined sales of the three generations is up from 9.939 in March 2015 to 13.627 last month, supporting Kia’s decision to keep them alive for now.
The most notable newcomer is the Renault Kadjar, marking the start of local production for the French auto maker. Renault is a latecomer to the Chinese party but is determined to succeed, and they’re following the right strategy: launching crossovers. The Kadjar is the first but it will be followed by a slightly larger SUV that will replace the Koleos. The all-new factory with Joint Venture partner Dongfeng has a first-year capacity of 150.000 units, but can easily be expanded to double that figure. Renault already has about 200 showrooms in China from which it sold the Koleos, Fluence and Latitude, imported from South-Korea, and since a few months the Captur, imported from France. The number of dealers will expand in the coming months, but sales of 2.753 units in its first month is not at all bad. For example, the Jeep Cherokee sold 2.171 locally produced units in its first month of local production and is now at over 9.000 monthly sales. I don’t expect the Kadjar to hit such a figure anytime soon, but it has hit the ground running.
Struggling auto maker Qoros has started sales of the Qoros 5 SUV and as we’ve seen regularly with brands launching a new crossover lately, the 5 immediately becomes the best selling model for the brand at 1.232 sales, while giving Qoros its highest volume month since the launch of the brand two years ago. Let’s hope this marks the breakthrough of the brand in China, otherwise it may be doomed. Its factory in Changsu has an annual capacity of 150.000 units, but just about one tenth of that was utilized with the two models last year.
Geely, a long-time laggard in the SUV segment, has launched its second SUV. The all-new Geely Boyue will be positioned above the existing GX7 and should be able to outsell that model in the coming months, which means sales of more than 5.000 a month. It started in March with 1.018 sales. The design and apparent quality of the Boyue set Geely a notch above other Chinese automakers, undoubtedly helped by the Volvo engineers that came with the acquisition of the Swedish brand. The Boyue is likely to become the spearhead of Geely’s export ambitions.
Build Your Dreams consolidates its position as the leading brand of hybrid crossovers in China, with the launch of the BYD Yuan, which is available both with petrol engines and a hybrid version. It features sporty, two-tone design with a contrasting color of the roof and A-pillar which takes more than a few cues from the Renault Captur, but the rest of the car is more original. It starts at a modest 878 sales but should be able to outsell the BYD Song and BYD Tang hybrid crossovers, which have monthly sales of 3.000-6.000 units.
Changhe finally gets a desperately needed second model since it’s become part of Beijing Automotive. As expected, the Changhe Q25 is based on an existing model from BAIC, as it uses the platform of the Beijing Senova X25, which in its turn is based on the platform of the Smart Forfour and Mitsubishi Colt. Again, I expect the Q25 to become the best selling model for Changhe, which means easily beating 4.000 monthly sales. For comparison: the Senova X25 sold over 10.000 units in March, while the Q25 started with a modest 791 sales.
Changhe’s parent company BAIC continues to launch new models at lightning speed: the Weiwang S50 is the fifth new model for the brand in just as many months. It’s the first SUV under the Weiwang sub-brand, which until now only featured the M20 MPV which has replaced by the M30 last December. BAIC now sells three versions of basically the same car: the Senova X65, the Huansu S6 and the Weiwang S50. Later this year a fourth model on the same platform will be launched under the revived Borgward brand. The S50 is off to a slow start at just 188 sales.
Moving to the MPV segment, BMW has started local production of the 2-Series Active Tourer, its front-wheel drive MPV, which is about 20% cheaper than the imported cars were until now, thanks to the import duties on new cars in China. They’ve also launched an entry-level engine with the 113 hp version of the 1.5 liter 3-cylinder engine in the 216i. At 1.107 sales in its first month the 2-Series is close to the figure of the X1, but the crossover will soon be replaced by its second generation which is based on the same FWD platform as the Active Tourer.
The still very fresh Yingzhi brand (Enranger in English) from Weichai Auto has launched its third model since its launch last July. After the G3 crossover and the 737 MPV, we welcome the 727 MPV, which is an upgraded version of the 727. Both are similar in size but the 727 lacks the entry-level engine and looks a bit more classy. In its first month of sales it racked up 583 sales, compared to 1.937 for the 737, and I think it won’t beat its more basic twin anytime soon.
The best selling newcomer in March is the new generation Hyundai Elantra, named Elantra Lingdong, at 11.103 sales in its first month. The South-Korean brand will continue to sell the previous 3 (!) generations of the Elantra alongside it, but in contrast to the Kia Sportage mentioned above, there’s not yet a clear benefit visible for Hyundai. Combined sales of the four generations are actually slightly down: from 35.419 in March 2015 to 34.184 sales last month. The previous generation Elantra Langdon is relatively stable, but the version before that, the Elantra Yuedong is all but gone from the market at a mere 409 sales, less than the even older “just” Elantra at 504 sales, mostly to taxi companies.
Chery expands its Arrizo subbrand to four models with the introduction of the Arrizo 5 sedan, which immediately becomes the brand’s second best selling sedan behind the Fulwin 2 and the #3 Chery model behind also the Tiggo 3. That means the Arrizo 5 should easily beat those models in coming months as its establishes itself in the market place. Still, Chery had better invested in expanding or updating its Tiggo line-up of crossovers, as they lost 30% of their volume due to intensified competition in that hot segment.
The last new model introduction in March is the DS 4S, the locally produced hatchback that replaces the imported and therefore unsuccessful DS4. The DS 4S is based on the extended platform of the previous generation Peugeot 308, just like its larger sibling DS 5LS sedan, but I can’t help wondering who’s doing the product planning at PSA in China. The French brands are too slow to introduce high-demand crossovers, and instead have launched two hatchbacks in the past year. The Peugeot 308S has been a huge flop, and the DS 4S will follow its stride. This makes it three bad strikes at the ambitious brand, as the DS5 and 5LS are also slow sellers. And even the DS6 crossover isn’t a resounding success at just 3.253 sales in the past 3 months. DS and also the DS 4S were among my expected sales disappointments of 2016.
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