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China November 2018: Focus on the All-new models

The Geely Binyue is above 10.000 sales for its first appearance in Chinese charts.

After exploring November China wholesales, we now shed some light on all the new locally produced launches hitting dealerships for the month so you are up-to-date on the fastest-evolving market in the world. Note these updates remain based on wholesales data. November wholesales plunged Chinese sales into YTD decline with the cold snap now hitting all segments of the market. Yet the launches continue to surf on the SUV wave of the past few years: in August 6 out of 7 new launches were SUVs, in September 9 out of 12 and in October 6 out of 10, all Chinese. You can also keep track of the fast-expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 177 Chinese Brands, updated live.

1. Geely Binyue (#68 – 10.139 sales)

Just as Geely sales mark a pause after an incredible streak of 29 consecutive months of double-digit gains ended last September, the next generation of models that will likely pull the brand to the next level has already arrived: after the Binrui sedan – that coincidentally also reaches 10.000 sales this month, the Binyue small crossover is the first all-new launch of 2018 to cross the 10.000 wholesales mark as early as for its first month in market, the last nameplate to have achieved that feat being the Chery Tiggo 5X (10.693) in December 2017. Although the Binyue’s thunderous market landing isn’t a surprise as Geely announced 20.000 pre-sales only two days after the model was listed, it is still a very impressive performance in a saturated and depressed Chinese SUV market.

Geely Binyue interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Priced between 78.800 and 118.800 yuan (US$11.500-17.300 or 10.100-15.200€), the Binyue alsmost exactly matches the price range of the similarly-sized GS Emgrand (77.800-116.800). The list of competitors for the Binyue is long, very long indeed, including such blockbusters as the Changan CS35 Plus (69.900-104.900), Chery Tiggo 5X (65.900-90.900), Haima S5 (69.800-109.800), Haval H2s (70.000-103.000), Haval H2 (74.900-113.000), Haval H4 (79.000-116.000) and Bestune T77 (89.800-134.800). Comparatively to most other Chinese carmakers, Geely has been relatively timid on the SUV segment, a hesitation that paradoxically has enabled the brand to withstand the SUV crisis of the past few months with relative strength. The Binyue is headed towards stellar success, as a very modern, angular design will enable it to seduce both male and female young city dwellers. The Boyue peaked at 31.205 sales, the Emgrand GS at 20.087 and the Vision SUV at 14.610. By reaching over 10.000 wholesales for its first month, the Binyue could arguably already be deemed a success. But wholesales being what they are (at first disconnected with “true”, retail sales), regular stints above 15.000 will make it a blockbuster.

Bar for success: 15.000 monthly units

2. Haval F7 (#105 – 6.067 sales)

After the F5 that launched last month, Haval completes its two-pronged F-led attack this month with the larger F7, scoring an almost identical launch figure as the F5 at 6.067 vs. 6.265. While the F5 has already advanced to 7.065 sales this month, the F7 could potentially aim higher as it is more perfectly aligned price-wise and size-wise with the carmaker’s core seller: the H6. At 4.62m long and 109.000-149.000 yuan (US$15.900-21.700 or 13.900-19.000€), it compares with the 4.60m long H6 priced between 102.000 and 146.800 yuan. What could be seen as a fatal shot in the foot in any other market, in China thanks to the gigantism of the market, this could actually be the best idea Haval had in a while, targeting younger, trendier customers that thing the H6 is old news and want something cooler, but still a Haval.

Haval F7 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Other competitors for the F7 are numerous and include other blockbusters such as the Roewe RX5 (99.800-188.800), Geely Boyue (98.800-161.800), GAC Trumpchi GS4 (89.800-151.800), GS5 (109.800-169.800), Changan CS55 (84.900-133.900), CS75 (79.800-184.800) and BYD Tang (129.900-169.900). In the Haval stable, if of course the H6 record of 80.495 is way out of reach, and the H2 record of 35.284 also, the M6’s best of 14.098 isn’t. A five-digit figure reached repeatedly would confirm the F7 as a success.

Bar for success: 10.000 monthly units

3. Bestune T77 (#147 – 4.207 sales)

Faced with dwindling sales, First Automobile Works (FAW) has decided to relaunch its “semi-premium” Besturn sub-brand as a full-blown brand, renamed Bestune. The first model to sport the new Bestune logo on its grille is the T77 crossover, who some may argue has taken some inspiration from the DS 7 Crossover. With over 4.000 wholesales for its inaugural month, the T77 seems to already have hit the bullseye: it is the FAW group’s outright best-seller as early as for its first month of sales, outpacing the Besturn X40 (3.634).

Bestune T77 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Priced from 89.800 to 134.800 yuan (US$13.100-19.600 or 11.500-17.200€), the T77 is right in the soft end of the Chinese SUV segment, competing with the very top sellers such as the Haval H6 (102.000-146.800), Roewe RX5 (99.800-188.800), Geely Boyue (98.800-161.800) and GAC Trumpchi GS4 (89.800-151.800) to name but a few. In terms of FAW crossovers, the Besturn X40 peaked at 10.671 and the Besturn X80 at 8.199 so these should be ultimate goals, but a 6.000 sales peak would be enough to install the Bestune brand as a new player to be reckoned with on the Chinese market.

Bar for success:  6.000 monthly units

4. Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross (#200 – 2.588 sales)

You would be familiar with the Eclipse Cross that has already launched over the past year in both Europe and the United States. It is now the turn of the China-made version to make its appearance, and Mitsubishi has chosen not to modify the model for the Chinese market. Priced between 129.800 to 185.800 yuan (US$18.900-27.100 or 16.100-23.700€), it slides neatly between the ASX (114.800-149.800) and Outlander (159.800-225.800).

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Eclipse Cross competitors include the Honda XR-V (127.800-162.800), Nissan Qashqai (139.800-189.800), VW T-Roc (139.800-209.800), Skoda Karoq (139.900-185.900) and the larger Hyundai ix35 (119.900-161.900) and Kia Sportage (119.900-139.900). The ASX peaked at 7.900 sales but has been pretty weak for the past year, while the Outlander hit 11.565 last January. Mitsubishi should expect at least 6.000 sales for the Eclipse Cross to be deemed a success, simply because the ASX hasn’t reached that point in 2.5 years and by achieving this, the Eclipse Cross could pose as a worthy replacement.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

5. Soueast A5 Yiwu (#245 – 1.725 sales)

Long reduced to sell hand-me-down previous generation Mitsubishi Lancer, Soueast has focused almost all its energy in recent years producing the acceptable SUVs that are the DX3 and DX7, but is now paying the price of this policy as Chinese SUV stumble. The company is trying to fix the situation with a bargain basement-priced sedan, the A5 Yiwu priced from 49.900 to 75.900 yuan (US$7.300-11.100 or 6.400-9.700€).

Soueast A5 Yiwu interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

That’s significantly less than the brand’s previous entry-level sedans, the V3 Lingyue (57.900-65.900) and V5 Lingzhi (65.900-80.900) that have now all but disappeared in the sales charts. Competitors include the Geely Vision (53.900-72.900) and Chery Arrizo EX (59.900-82.900). The V3 and V5 haven’t sported four-digit sales figures since late 2015-early 2016, so the A5’s first month is already far ahead of that level, but the volume records for the V3 (10.157) and V5 (6.478) seem unattainable for a Soueast sedan today. 3.500 sales or more would be sufficient to deem the A5 a successful return to the sedan category for the carmaker.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

6. Venucia T60 (#297 – 965 sales)

Following the success of the D60 which sold at 75.000 units in the year since it was released, Venucia, originally a low-cost brand born of the Dongfeng-Nissan joint-venture, is back to where it used to make most of its volume: crossovers. The T60 follows the T70 and T90, both solid performers in China. I say “originally”, because if Venucia was born to fight with the likes of Baojun, its pricing now puts it at the same level as brands such as Geely, which might be a little confusing for customers. Thus the T60, available from 85.800 to 118.800 yuan (US$12.500-17.300 or 11.000-15.200€), isn’t particularly cheap, in fact slightly more expensive than the much more premium-looking Geely Binyue (78.800-118.800) we detailed earlier on.

Venucia T60 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The T60 will compete against the likes of the Changan CS35 Plus (69.900-104.900), Chery Tiggo 5X (65.900-90.900) and Haima S5 (69.800-109.800) as well as the Haval H2s (70.000-103.000), Haval H2 (74.900-113.000) and Haval H4 (79.000-116.000) which offer a much higher interior quality and modern design. Seems like the T60 has its work cut out for it. Looking at Venucia’s other two SUVs, the T90 peaked at 6.119 sales in October 2017 but hasn’t scored above 2.000 monthly units in the past seven months while the T70 hit 9.764 sales in December 2016 but has remained below 5.000 units since last February. Venucia does need a shake in its SUV sales but the timing of the T60 launch couldn’t be worse as Chinese SUVs have suddenly gone out of fashion. We should therefore be gentle as regards to the bar to success.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

7. Mercedes A-Class L (#347 – 500 sales)

In a declining market (-1.7% as of end November), like other premium German brands Mercedes is going from strength to strength with a 12% uptick so far in 2018 to 454.000 wholesales – BMW is at +21% and 424.000 and Audi at +9% and 567.000. Even more impressive is the fact that the carmaker is achieving these figures without any volumes from an entry-level sedan whereas both BMW and Audi do have one. Enter the China-made A-Class L, a stretched version of the A-Class sedan already available in markets such as the USA.

Mercedes A-Class L interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Priced from 216.900 to 299.900 yuan (US$31.600-43.700 or 27.700-38.300€), the A-Class slides in just below the imported CLA (237.800-359.800) but starts slightly higher than its archenemies the Audi A3 (190.500-256.200) and BMW 1 Series (199.800-317.800), both proposing access versions below the symbolic 200.000 yuan mark. The Audi A3 hit a record 9.901 sales last September while the BMW 1 Series peaked at 4.593, so the A-Class should be aiming at somewhere in-between, keeping in mind smaller premium sedans tend to be a lot less successful than larger ones in China: the Mercedes C-Class all time record volume is 18.408 while the E-Class is 15.041, both achieved last January.

Bar for success: 6.500 monthly units

8. Acura RDX (#369 – 363 sales)

The RDX is Acura’s third China-made nameplate after the CDX launched in March 2017 and the TLX-L launched in January 2018. It is priced between 328.000 and 438.000 yuan (US$47.800-63.800 or 41.900-56.000€), making it by far the most expensive locally-produced Acura: the CDX is priced at 229.800-367.800 and the TLX-L at 279.800-379.800. The RDX has in its line of fire the Audi Q5L (392.800-517.000), Mercedes GLC (394.800-576.00) and BMW X3 (399.800-585.800) and is counting on a US$9.000 / 8.000€ entry-level price advantage to lure customers its way.

Acura RDX interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

At the other end of the scale it is also hoping to upgrade potential buyers of Ford Edge (229.800-429.800) or Toyota Highlander (239.800-422.800). The truth is Acura has been mightily struggling to attract buyers in China ever since it kick started local production. The CDX volume record is a paltry 1.962 sales in December 2017 but it hasn’t lodged a four-digit sales figure since then, while the TLX-L best-ever stands at a minuscule 206 units in November 2018. Although the RDX is probably the brand’s nameplate with the most potential in China, let’s not hope for the moon just yet.

Bar for success:  2.000 monthly units

9. GAC Trumpchi GM6 (#378 – 296 sales)

Although it is only scheduled to launch on 2nd January 2019, the GAC Trumpchi GM6 already appears in the wholesales ranking in November with just under 300 sales. GAC has had the Midas touch ever since it launched the insanely successful GS4 crossover that attracted over one million sales since its 2015 release. The GS8 SUV (165.000 sales since 2016) broke a Chinese taboo as no other local manufacturer had been able to crack the premium SUV equation before it, and the GM8 MPV launched in December 2017 has also been a home run for the brand with almost 30.000 sales since.

GAC Trumpchi GM6 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Priced between 115.000 and 165.000 yuan (US$16.700-24.000 or 14.700-21.100€), the GM6 is a scaled-down GM8 but has no cannibalisation potential whatsoever as GM8 prices go from 176.800 to 259.800 yuan. With the introduction of the GM6, GAC Trumpchi is trying to capitalise on the success of the GM8 the same way it did with the the five-seat GS7 following the seven-seat GS8 and the GS3 following the GS4. The difference being this time the GM6 is likely to be a stronger seller. In exactly the same way the GM8 unabashedly targeted the segment-leading Buick GL8, the GM6 aims at stealing customers from the Buick GL6 (141.900-168.900 yuan), with other competitors including the BYD Song MAX (79.900-129.900) and Chevrolet Orlando (119.900-154.900). The GM8 peaked at 4.005 sales and we expect the GM6 to reach at least the same level.

Bar for success: 4.000 monthly units

10. JMEV E300 (#439 – 52 sales)

JMC commercialises its electric vehicles under the JMEV brand, a 60%-owned subsidiary that Renault announced it took shares in in December 2018. Until now JMEV had rebadged existing designs, the latest being the Zotye T300 for its E400 model alongside the E100B, E160, E200L and E200N. But this E300 seems to be its first unique design. It is powered by a 68hp electric motor for a range of 300 km and a maximum speed of 120km/h.

JMEV E300 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Pricing for the E300 hasn’t been announced yet but for comparison the smaller E200L sits at 87.800-90.800 yuan before government subsidies (US$12.800-13.200 or 11.200-11.600€) and the larger E400 at 163.800-175.800, so expect the E300 to start around 120.000 yuan (US$17.500 or 15.300€). As for sales forecasts, overall wholesales of the E200 series peaked at 5.692 this month (November 2018) and the E400 hit 872 units for its launch month last August but have remained below 400 since, so teh E300 will most probably find its equilibrium somewhere in-between which is a wild range. We want at least 2.500 monthly units to deem it a success.

Bar for success: 2.500 monthly units

These were not the only new launches in the wholesales ranking in November 2018, which also saw the first appearance of the Hawtai Lusheng S1 (1.126 sales), Hawtai XEV260 – a Shengdafei EV (900 sales) and Kandi K22 (352) which were all launched long ago but only first appear now. We also welcomed the Fukang ES500 (61 sales), a rebadge of Dongfeng Fengshen E70 and the GAC Toyota ix4 EV (484 sales) which is accounted for within GAC Trumpchi GS4 sales of which it is a rebadge.

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