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China Wholesales January 2019: VW sinks, Toyota, BMW smash records, 7th consecutive market drop (-15.8%)

The Camry (+70.3%) helps Toyota break its all-time volume record in China in January in a declining market.

No recovery in sight just yet for the Chinese new vehicle market, January marking the 7th consecutive month of year-on-year decline and third double-digit drop in a row at 15.8% to 2.367.300 wholesales deliveries (=ex-factory shipments). Passenger cars are down a ghastly -17.7% to 2.021.100 units, with sedans/hatches down 14.9% to 986.200, SUVs down 18.9% to 878.900, MPVs down 27.4% to 129.600 and microvans down 26% to 26.400. As it has been the case throughput the past year, relatively strong sales of commercial vehicles, including pickups, medium and heavy trucks and buses, take the edge off a dizzying market drop: they down just -2.2% to 346.200 and enable the total market to lose “just” 15.8%.

Once again New Energy vehicles are the sole source of joy in China this month with sales up a whopping 138% to 96.000 units including EVs up 179.7% to 75.000 and PHEVs up 54.6% to 21.000. Looking at passenger car sales by brand origin, Chinese brands are once again faring worse than average with sales falling -22.2% to 831.800 and 41.1% share vs. 42.1% over the Full Year 2018 and 43.5% a year ago in January 2018. It’s however a good performance when compared with French brands down 63.3% to 15.600, South Korean brands down 31% to 62.200 and American brands down 22.8% to 204.800 and 10.1% share vs. 10.8% a year ago. Particularly strong over the past few months, German brands take a break in January with sales down 16.4% to 460.600 and 22.8% share vs. 22.4% a year ago. It’s Japanese brands (+2.2%) that are by far the best performing, the only main nation origin to actually lodge a year-on-year gain to 429.800 units and 21.3% share vs. just 17.1% in January 2018.

The Lavida (+21.3%) posts its 2nd largest monthly volume in history but can’t prevent a steep fall at Volkswagen (-20.1%).

True to form, after edging into positive territory for the first time in 6 months in December (+4%), market leader Volkswagen (-20.1%) returns to hell and double-digit drops in January, scoring its 6th decline in the past 7 months. This time, strong volumes by its new SUV lineup the Tharu (record 12.608), T-Roc (7.239) and Tayron (6.921) as well as its best-seller the Lavida (+21.3%) aren’t enough to compensate the freefalls of the Golf (-63.4%), Magotan (-57.7%), Sagitar (-52.4%), Tiguan (-43.4%), Teramont (-31.9%), Polo (-24.4%), Bora (-24%), Jetta (-21.7%), Lamando (-19.3%), Santana (-18.9%) and Passat (-16.8%). In complete contrast, Toyota soars 22.2% – the largest year-on-year gain in the Top 28 brands! – to break its all-time volume record at 158.069, eclipsing its previous best of 132.726 established just two months ago last November by over 25.000 units. This is an astounding result for the Japanese carmaker that takes advantage of the (late) launch of the C-HR (record 7.786) and its twin the IZOA (7.092) as well as a new generation Camry (+70.3%) but also sees exceptionally strong scores by relatively old models such as the Levin (+89.9%) at a record 26.680, Yaris L Sedan (+89.9%), Yaris L (+39.9%), Prado (+17.3%) and Vios FS (+16.9%).

After three consecutive months of decline “culminating” in a crushing -41% in December, #1 Chinese brand Geely (-2.1%) has now stopped the haemorrhage thanks to record volumes by its two most recent launches: the Binyue small SUV (14.627) and the Binrui sedan (12.480) that almost balance off the rest of its lineup which is entirely in negative bar the Vision SUV (+0.3%), with the Emgrand (-7.8%), Emgrand GL (-9.3%) and Boyue (-9.5%) holding best. Honda (+0.4%) encouragingly edges up to almost 139.000 units which marks its lowest volume since August, just as the Fit (+66.5%), Civic (+48.1%) at a record 24.374, Crider (+31.1%), Accord (+16%) and CR-V (+2.8%) are penalised by poor results by its star SUV tandem the Vezel (-34.2%) and XR-V (-15.7%) potentially hit by the Toyota C-HR/IZOA competition but also the UR-V (-61.7%) and Avancier (-21%).

The new Binyue is instrumental in allowing Geely to contain its fall to -2.1% this month vs. -41% in December.

After breaking its all-time volume record last month, Nissan (+6.3%) posts another very sturdy scoreboard thanks to the Lannia (+100.4%), Tiida (+61.4%), Sylphy (+17.8%), X-Trail (+3.3%) and Qashqai (+0.6%). Haval (+9.8%) is well and truly back from the brink, securing a 4th consecutive month of year-on-year gains after enduring 18 consecutive months of falling sales, and this is due to the success of its new F7 (record 15.057) and to a lesser extent F5 (5.068) as well as the low-cost M6 (+211.4%) but the rest of its SUV lineup is in dire straits: the H9 (-57%), H2 (-51.4%), H6 (-23.8%) and H7 (-13.8%) all dive. Chevrolet (-5.8%) manages to contain its fall to the single-digits for the first time in 4 months, solely due to the low-cost Cavalier in record form (+25.6%), but the remainder of the Top 10 struggles mightily: Buick (-17.1%), Baojun (-24%) and Changan (-35.6%) all fall faster than the market.

Mercedes (-0.1%) stays strong at #1 premium brand in China thanks to record volumes by the new A-Class L (5.646) as well as a strong E-Class L showing (+5.1%) but the main event in the segment is the all-time volume record delivered by BMW (+22%) at 52.922 thanks to record wholesales by the 3 Series L (+20.9%) at 17.380 and the new X3 SUV (9.371). This is enough to overtake an ailing Audi (-26.3%) handicapped by a too-discreet start by the Q2L (1.930) and paltry results by its entire lineup: the Q5 (-42.1%), Q3 (-28.3%), A6L (-28.2%), A3 (-24.3%) and A4L (-21.6%) all freefall. Counter-intuitively, in the remainder of the brands charts only Infiniti (up 190-fold), Acura (+67.8%) and Cadillac (+3%) perform well among foreigners whereas there are a handful of Chinese carmakers swimming upstream and posting gains this month, such as Lynk & Co (+103.9%) back inside the Top 30 after a chaotic December, Xpeng (up 15-fold), Hawtai (+560%), Traum (+230%) above 5.000 monthly wholesales for the first time, SWM (+161.5%), Borgward (+43.9%), Lifan (+6.6%), Chery (+6.5%) thanks to the new Tiggo 8 (record 10.099) and Arrizo GX (record 6.593) and BYD (+2.6%) thanks to the Tang (+903.8%).

The Haval F7 is the 10th best-selling SUV in China in January with over 15.000 wholesales.

Jetour (#34) tops all recent brand launches (<12 months) with a second consecutive five-digit figure by its sole model the X70, a score that Bestune (#39) is now approaching with a record 7.686 wholesales of its new T77. Ora (#48) also breaks its volume record at 3.785 thanks to the arrival of the R1 hatch which we will cover in the January All-new models update, COS (#54) does the same thanks to the landing of the Cosmos MPV, with Dorcen (#56), Nio (#61), new arrival Sitech (#74), Link Tour (#75), Lark (#77) and Neta (#80) in tow. As expected, the naughty corner is very crowded this month. Some of the worst performing locals include Haima (-93.6%), Qoros (-88.6%), FAW (-87.3%), Karry (-86%), Bisu (-79.8%), Soueast (-82%), Yema (-65.3%), Brilliance (-62.1%), BAIC (-59.6%), Zotye (-59.6%), WEY (-49.9%) and GAC Trumpchi (-44.1%). Among foreigners, Luxgen (-92.1%), discontinued Suzuki (-71.8%), Jaguar (-70.3%), Peugeot (-66.4%), Renault (-66.3%), Ford (-66.3%), Land Rover (-64.6%), Citroen (-58.5%), Hyundai (-46.6%), Mazda (-45.4%) and Skoda (-34.3%) would much rather forget that 2019 has already started in such dismal fashion.

Looking at the models ranking in detail uncovers a strong push towards sedans and hatches that we haven’t seen in years and that could also be missed when only looking at the aforementioned general figures for the month. There are only two SUVs in the Top 16: the Haval H6 (#2) and Geely Boyue (#10), which means that bar the Wuling Hongguang (#4) we have 13 sedans in the Top 16 for January. The only double-digit gainers in the Top 40 are sedans (11 of them), then we find 4 SUVs: Cadillac XT5 (+29.1%), Haval M6 (+211.4%), BYD Tang (+903.8%) and Kia Sportage (+372%), and that’s it for the double-digit gainers in the Top 70, all 15 of them. Record-breaking models that didn’t get a mention above include the Roewe i5 (22.261), Cadillac XT5 (13.409), Hyundai La Festa (10.240), Baojun E100 (8.312), WEY VV6 (5.805), Hongqi H7 (4.648) and Lynk & Co 03 (4.374). The best-selling recent launches (<12 months) are the Roewe i5 (#15), Haval F7 (#31), Geely Binyue (#35), VW Tharu (#47), Geely Binrui (#48), Baojun 530 (#56), Baojun 360 (#58), Hyundai La Festa (#64), Chery Tiggo 8 (#66) and Jetour X70 (#68) and thats only the ones above 10.000 wholesales for the month… Nameplates launched last month faring the best are the Maxus G50 up 444.3% to #221, Link Tour K-One down 27.7% to #322 and Neta N01 down 76.5% to #361. As expected, the Buick Velite 6 that reported a very suspicious 5.000 wholesales in December, has now (temporarily?) disappeared from the wholesales ranking…

Previous post: China Full Year 2018: VW Lavida pulls first ever win in first market decline in 28 years (-2.8%)

Previous month: China December 2018: Nissan (+6%), MG (+139%) break records, Toyota, Haval, BYD gallop ahead in 6th consecutive market decline (-13%)

One year ago: China January 2018: VW, Geely, Toyota, Audi, Mercedes & BMW all break records, market showing surprising strength at +12%

Full January 2019 Top 95 All China-made brands and Top 480 All China-made models below.

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