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China Full Year 2017: Exclusive imports data by model and brand

The Lexus ES is the most popular import in China for 2017. 

* See the Top 50 All-brands and Top 300 All-models by clicking on the title *

Detailed 2017 imports data for China is now available on BSCB thanks to a new source in China. All-brands and All-models 2017 monthly data is available, please us here for more details. Chinese imports sales data is traditionally a very secretive part of the worldwide market representing over one million annual units, but we can now report on it monthly. No media outside of China is reporting on these figures, and BSCB being the first to do so, in line with our pledge to improve coverage of the Chinese market. Import sales in China tend to be stable year-on-year, not replicating the market’s growth simply because more and more manufacturers are opening factories in China and less and less remain pure importers. In 2017, 1.114.866 new cars were imported into China, that’s a slim 11% gain over the 1.007.088 of two years prior in 2015.

The BMW X5 comes in at #2 in the imported models ranking. Picture auto.ifeng.com

BMW is the best-selling importer in China for 2017, with a slim 4.000 unit-margin over #2 Mercedes, both above 170.000 units. Pure importer Lexus is above 130.000 sales in third place followed by Toyota (76.000) and Porsche (69.000). Land Rover (#6), Lincoln (#7), Audi (#9) and pure importer Mini (#10) make it 8 premium manufacturers in the Top 10. With 20% import taxes being slapped on incoming nameplates, it makes sense that premium carmakers are the most popular. Subaru is the third best-selling pure importer at #11 overall and one of only 6 above 10.000 annual sales alongside Smart (#16), Maserati (#19) and Tesla (#20). Alfa Romeo makes its landing at #23 with just under 5.000 deliveries of the Giulia and Stelvio.

The Toyota Prado rounds up the imports podium. Picture auto.ifeng.com 

Over in the models aisle, the Chinese tastes are clear: 8 luxury SUVs in the Top 10, although the overall best-seller is a sedan: the Lexus ES leaps from #4 in 2015 to pole position and earned its 2017 victory with 11 monthly wins (every month bar January) and an almost 7.000 sales gap with the #2, the BMW X5 which was leader two years ago and ranked #1 in January but #2 during every other month of 2017. #3 in 2015, the Jeep Compass has been replaced by a locally-produced model in 2017 and accordingly sees its imported ranking plunge to #139 this year, illustrating the fate of brands that become local producers. The Toyota Prado is knocked down to #3 and is one of only a handful of nameplates that sell well both their locally-produced and imported variants. The BMW X3 comes in 4th (+1 on 2015) while the Mercedes GLE rounds up the Top 5, almost exactly replacing its predecessor the M-Class (#6 in 2015).

The Porsche Macan ranks at a very impressive 6th place, one of Two Porsches in the Top 10.

Porsche maintains an impressive presence in the Top 10 with both the Macan (#6) and Cayenne (#9) up one spot on their 2015 rankings. Lexus adds the RX (#7, +32) and NX (#10, -1) to make it three nameplates inside the imported Top 10, the most of any importer. Fantastic performances of the Mercedes CLA at #8, BMW 7 Series at #11 with almost 25.000 sales, the Nissan Patrol getting a good kick at #16. Based on price and not brand, the Subaru Forester would remain the most popular “mass” nameplate and the only one in the Top 20 but drops 6 spots on 2015 to #17. Lincoln manages to place the MKC at #19, the MKX at #22 and the MKZ at #30.

The Mercedes GLS is the best-selling newcomer, ending 2017 just outside the Top 20. 

Which new launches have been the most successful among imports? By this we mean nameplates that weren’t present in the FY2015 ranking. No surprise: the most popular are luxury SUVs, led by the Mercedes GLS (#21), Jaguar F-Pace (#25), Maserati Levante (#35), Tesla Model X (#39) and Mercedes GLC Coupe (#43). The Smart Forfour (#47) and Lincoln Continental (#53) follow, while the Mercedes Maybach S-Class signs a very impressive 54th place with just under 6.500 sales over the past 12 moths, making China its #1 market in the world, and by far. Granted, China was probably the only reason why the Maybach brand was revived for this ultra-luxury sedan.

The Ford F-150 is now officially imported in China alongside Ram Pickup and Toyota Tundra.

Finally it’s worth touching on the latest new trend in official imports into China. At last reacting to the love of large American pickup trucks I witnessed in every single rural city I visited in the country (2016 Photo are here), U.S. carmakers are now officially importing a handful of full-size pickups into China instead of counting on private importers and the grey market. This way, the Ford F-150 makes its appearance at #126, the Ram Pickup is at #183 and the Toyota Tundra #193. However expect these rankings to improve drastically in 2018 as well as a few additions to the list from General Motors, such as the Chevrolet Silverado, Colorado (both present at the Guangzhou Auto Show) and even the GMC Sierra.

Previous post: China June 2017: Exclusive imports data now available

Two years ago: China Full Year 2015: Exclusive imported models ranking now available

Full Year and December 2017 Top 50 All-brands and Top 300 All-models below.

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