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China December 2018: Focus on the all-new models

The Buick Velite 6 has landed in China.

Now that we have explored wholesales in China for December, as is the tradition on BSCB it is time to study this month’s new locally-made launches so you can stay up-to-the-minute on the fastest-evolving new car market in the world. Although annual sales are down for the first time since 1990, new launches that were devised some time ago continue to flood the market, with 7 new nameplates hitting the sales charts in December, of which 4 are SUVs and 4 new energy vehicles. You can also keep track of the fast-expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 178 Chinese Brands, updated live.

1. Buick Velite 6 (#124 – 5.000 sales)

The Velite 6 is a new energy station wagon available in EV and PHEV variants and based on the same platform as the Velite 5 which is in fact a rebadged Chevrolet Volt. Supposed to have hit dealerships in September, it seems the launch of the Velite 6 has been delayed as there are still no press test drives in Chinese media and no pricing information – or even interior shots – has been made available. In this context, the 5.000 wholesales communicated in December appear highly suspicious as this level is a lot higher than the Velite 5’s personal best of 646 sales last October. Our opinion is these are potentially 2019 sales bundled into a December release in order to hit new energy ratios for 2018 but we don’t believe many of these 5.000 Velite 6 have hit Chinese roads in December. For reference the Velite 5 is priced between 265.800 and 295.800 yuan before government subsidies (34.400-38.300€ or US$39.200-43.600) and the Velite 6 should be priced similarly, perhaps slightly higher, putting it in competition with the likes of the GAC Toyota ix4 (214.800-224.800), Nissan Sylphy EV (243.000-254.000) or GAC Trumpchi GE3 (212.800-246.500). We’ll ignore the biased December volume and set the monthly objective for the Velite 6 at 1.000 monthly units which is already significantly higher than the Velite 5’s record.

Bar for success: 1.000 monthly units

2. Neta N01 (#297 – 1.206 sales)

Neta is a new brand of electric vehicles by Hozon Auto, a company sporting an R&D centre in the Silicon Valley, a design centre in Torino Italy, an engineering centre in Germany and a factory in Zhejiang province with an initial annual capacity of 50.000 cars for the first year and 80.000 for the second year. Neta’s first model is the N01 small electric SUV, with a range of 300km. The company claims to have received 20.000 orders for the car, and the first 1.206 have now been officially reported.

Neta N01 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The N01 is priced very competitively priced from 59.800 to 69.800 yuan (7.700-9.000€ or US$8.800-10.300), putting it in the same sandpit as much smaller EVs such as Zhi Dou D2 (49.800-188.800) and Zotye E200 (69.900) and undercutting the BYD Yuan new energy (79.900-99.900). Given the declarations of Neta regarding orders, a 2.000 monthly units objective seems fair.

Bar for success: 2.000 monthly units

3. Haima F7 (#313 – 1.002 sales)

Haima is struggling mightily with sales down 64% in December and 50% over the Full Year 2018. The carmaker seems to have engaged in a new naming nomenclature: after the F5 sedan comes this F7 MPV, which actually only looks like a slight facelift of the V70 it is replacing. The F7 pricing indeed almost exactly matches the V70 at 79.800 to 119.800 yuan (10.300-15.500€ or US$11.800-17.700) vs. 78.900-128.900 for the V70.

Haima F7 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Main competitors for the F7 include the BYD Song MAX (79.900-129.900) and Changan Linmax (67.900-110.900) and in terms of volume expectations, the V70 only posted one month above 1.250 sales in December 2016 (2.336) so the F7 shouldn’t aim for the moon, we’ll set the bar for success at 2.000 monthly units.

Bar for success: 2.000 monthly units

4. Mazda CX-8 (#315 – 992 sales)

This is the CX-8 that has been launched in Japan and some selected markets around the world such as Australia. It is now also produced in China and makes its entrance in the local charts with just under 1.000 units. The Chinese CX-8 is manufactured by the Changan-Mazda joint-venture that also produces the CX-5, whereas FAW-Mazda has the China-exclusive CX-4. The CX-8 tops the Mazda SUV lineup in China and is priced between 258.800 and 330.800 yuan (33.500-42.800€ or US$38.200-48.800), compared to 169.800-245.800 for the CX-5, 140.800-215.800 for the CX-4 and 149.800-159.800 for the imported CX-3.

Mazda CX-8 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

With the CX-8, Mazda is hoping to revive dwindling sales (-30% in December and -14% in 2018) but the task is daunting as it entered a foreign large SUV segment that is already relatively crowded with the likes of the Toyota Highlander (239.800-422.800), Ford Edge (229.800-429.800), Honda Avancier (220.000-329.800), Jeep Commander (259.800-315.800) and Ford Everest (265.500-357.700). The CX-4’s highest volume so far is 7.444 vs. 6.320 for the CX-5, so given how much pricier the CX-8 is, half these scores seem a good objective.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

5. Link Tour K-One (#345 – 671 sales)

Link Tour is a new energy brand owned by Hebei Yogomo Automobile, a company owned at 25% by Great Wall Motors. The K-One small crossover inaugurates the brand, even though we have seen the E-Series, previously a Yogomo-branded model, hit the Chinese charts a few months ago. The K-One announces a 405km range and is produced in Wuxi in a new factory. It is priced at 175.800-215.800 yuan, this goes down to 87.900-107.900 yuan (11.400-13.600€ or US$13.000-15.500) after government subsidies have been applied.

Link Tour K-One interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

For reference the E-Series is priced at 136.800 yuan before, 61.900 after subsidies, and a valid competitor in market for the K-One would be the BYD Song EV at 176.900-274.200 yuan before subsidies. The E-Series has had a fantastic end of year with 4.204 wholesales in November and 2.841 in December, but this could be due to a rush to meet EV sales ratios, so let’s not expect the same level from the pricier K-One anytime soon.

Bar for success: 2.500 monthly units

6. Maxus G50 (#393 – 316 sales)

Maxus originates from the LDV Maxus model of the defunct British commercial vehicle manufacturer LDV Group which was acquired by SAIC in 2010. The brand has managed to maintain its sales relatively stable in 2018 (-3%) and after a failed attempt at penetrating the SUV segment (less than 6.000 sales for the D90 in 2018), it sticks to its roots with the new G50 MPV that should help the carmaker further in 2019.

Maxus G50 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Maxus is hoping to replicate the success of the G10 launched in May 2014 and with a PB of 2.830 monthly sales, with the smaller and cheaper G50 priced from 91.800 and 123.800 yuan (11.900-16.000€ or US$13.500-18.300), ensuring there is no cannibalisation as the G10’s price range is 133.800-269.800 yuan. Featuring daring exterior design and a modern and sophisticated cockpit The G50 will compete with the likes of the BYD Song MAX (79.900-129.900), GAC Trumpchi GM6 (109.700-159.800) and Buick GL6 (141.900-168.900) and given the success of the aforementioned nameplates, could even be responsible for taking Maxus to the next sales level. We want at least the same volume as the G10 to deem the G50 a success.

Bar for success: 2.500 monthly units

7. Everus VE-1 (#446 – 100 sales)

Everus (in Mandarin Linian) was used as a low-cost marque by the GAC-Honda joint-venture between 2009 and 2014, selling a rebadge of the 4th generation Honda City that had to be discontinued due to minuscule sales. The brand was resuscitated in April 2018 at the Beijing Auto Show as Honda’s new Chinese electric brand with the VE-1 SUV. However it seems to make the same mistakes as earlier as the VE-1 is just an electric variant of the Honda Vezel with no design changes.

Everus VE-1 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The VE-1 is priced at 225.800 yuan (29.200€ or US$33.300) and will compete against the likes of the GAC Trumpchi GE3 (212.800-246.500 yuan) and GAC Toyota ix4 (214.800-224.800) while for reference its combustion variant the Honda Vezel is priced from 128.800 to 189.800 yuan, competing with the Toyota IZOA (149.800-179.800). It’s very difficult to predict a sales level for the VE-1 as this is unchartered territory both for the Everus and the Honda brands. The Everus S1 peaked at 4.060 wholesales in March 2012 but this was a low-cost model. A lower level would still make the VE-1 a success.

Bar for success: 1.500 monthly units

Note December 2018 also saw the late arrivals of a handful of EVs in the Chinese charts: the JMC E160 (1.814 sales) Link Tour C99 (39 sales) and Hawtai XEV360 (589).

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