Although Chinese June sales fuelled up 18%, this month of the year is traditionally slower in terms of novelties coming onto the market. After 9 all-new China-made nameplates made their first appearance in the May ranking, this figure slows down to two in June – the same as June 2015. As is the tradition each month, BSCB puts a laser focus on these new entries to keep you up-to-the-minute about the largest car market in the world. It’s no surprise the two newcomers are SUVs, but the fact they are both foreign brands is a surprise.
1. Mazda CX-4 (#92 – 6.347 sales)
Incomprehensibly, Mazda hasn’t launched the CX-3 in China yet. Instead, the Japanese carmaker unveiled in Beijing last April its very first China-only nameplate: the CX-4 SUV. Although Mazda hasn’t ruled out export to other countries – Australia where Mazda holds a 10% market share is drooling over it – the company hasn’t announced any plans either. A very aggressive design immediately positions the CX-4 among the best looking SUVs on sale at the moment, and Chinese customers agree: it already sold 6.347 units in May, already the brand’s 2nd best-seller below just the 3 Axela (10.603) and above the CX-5 (4.248). Priced between 140.800 and 215.800 yuan (US$ 21.100-32.300), the CX-4 is manufactured by the FAW-Mazda joint-venture in Changchun and powered by a choice of 2.0L or 2.5L SkyActive petrol engines mated with a six-speed automatic, meaning it can’t benefit for tax-cuts allowed to 1.6L or less.
Mazda is marketing the CX-4 as a sportier version of the CX-5 in China, and although the CX-4 is longer (4.63m vs. 4.56m), it is indeed shorter (1.54m vs. 1.71m) and definitely looks a lot sportier. Somewhat disappointingly, the CX-4 shares most of its interior with the 3. This format places it right into the most competitive foreign SUV segment, along with the blockbusters VW Tiguan (16.145 sales in June), Nissan X-Trail (15.920), Honda CR-V (14.883), Hyundai Tucson (13.203) and Ford Kuga (7.297) as well as newcomers Kia KX5 (8.493) and Jeep Cherokee (8.702). Hitting a 5-digit monthly sales figure should be the objective for the CX-4.
Bar for success: 10.000 monthly sales
2. Jeep Renegade (#204 – 1.678 sales)
Jeep became a local manufacturer last November when it launched the China-made version of the Cherokee, of which over 58.000 units have since been sold, peaking at 9.201 last April. The Renegade inaugurates a new plant in Guangzhou, operated by the joint-venture between GAC and FCA with an annual capacity of 160.000 vehicles. This means the Renegade is now produced in three countries: Italy, Brazil and China, the most locations of any Jeep nameplate and the only one not produced in North America at all. It is priced between 141.800 and 178.880 yuan (US$21.200 – 26,700), very close to its U.S. price ($18.990-27.990) whereas the Chinese Cherokee incurred a 50% price premium on its U.S. equivalent (see China November 2015: Focus on the All-new models). The Renegade is 4.25m long and is powered by either a 1.4T matched to a 7DCT or a 2.0L mated with a 9AT, with both front-wheel drive and 4WD versions available – some very modern mechanics here.
Even though it is a lot more affordable than the Cherokee, the Renegade may have a hard time finding its clientele in China, as their inaugural sales months already show (1.678 vs. 2.171). At this price point and size, the Renegade indeed finds itself in a bit of a black hole, where only the Honda XR-V and Vezel twins have truly succeeded among foreign carmakers so far (4.28m, 127.800-189.800 yuan and 27.461 combined sales in June). The Chevrolet Trax, Buick Encore, Peugeot 2008 and Citroen C3-XR all quickly faltered after promising launches. But this is where it gets tricky: for this price point you can now afford high quality, much larger Chinese SUVs such as the Geely Emgrand GS (4.40m, 77.800-108.800 yuan) or Geely Boyue (4.52m, 98.800-157.800 yuan). A lower sales target than what the Cherokee is currently selling seems therefore adequate.
Bar for success: 6.500 monthly sales
Previous month: China May 2016: Focus on the All-new models
One year ago: (see end of article) China June 2015: First monthly year-on-year decline in over 6 years