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China September 2018: Focus on the All-new models

The Jetour X70 is one of the cheapest 7-seat SUVs in the Chinese market.

After exploring September China wholesales, it’s now time to shed 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. September wholesales confirmed the slump is here to stay and has now spread to sedans. Meanwhile, new models being launched on the market steadily continue to reflect the SUV surge we have witnessed for the past decade in China with the risk of now appearing out of step with current market conditions. In July, 5 of the 7 new launches were SUVs, in August it was 6 out of 7 and in September 9 out of 12. You can also keep track of the fast-expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 176 Chinese Brands, updated live.

1. Jetour X70 (#83 – 7.777 sales)

Sporting a suspiciously “lucky” sales figure this month (7 is considered a lucky number in China) is Jetour’s first nameplate, the X70 7-seater SUV. A very impressive start indeed, the strongest 1st month tally since the Baojun 360 last May. Now that Chery has a “clean” SUV lineup with the Tiggo 3, 3x, 5, 5x, 7 and 8 and after presenting the semi-premium Exeed SUV sub-brand last year (to no avail just yet), the company has judged it was time to spread its dwindling budget even thinner and launch a new brand, which is a questionable strategy especially looking at unstable Cowin, another one of Chery’s brands. But the first signs are very positive: the Jetour X70 is as soon as its first month in market the Chery Group’s best-selling SUV above the Chery Tiggo 8 (7.201) and 2nd best-selling nameplate outright below the Chery Arrizo 5 (8.185). In fact, the X70 actually delivers the goods as I was able to verify during the latest Beijing Auto Show in April this year where I selected Jetour as one of the “Top 5 brands you should know about” alongside Chana Oshan’s COS and EV-makers NIO, Weltmeister and Byton. Like COS with its 1°, the Jetour brand is a somewhat “macho” brands aimed at third-, fourth-tier cities and rural areas where Leopaard for example is doing very well, and the X70 offers the full package with 7 seats and a modern (if bland) design and a cut-throat pricing.

Jetour X70 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The Jetour X70’s pricing is indeed quite dramatically lower than its appearance would let us believe, from 69.900 to 120.900 yuan (US$10.100-17.450 or 8.750-15.100€). This significantly undercuts the COS 1° (93.800-145.800 yuan) and positions the X70 as one of the cheapest 7-seater SUVs in the Chinese market, at roughly the same level as much more blunt nameplates such as the Chana CX70 (59.900-109.900), Bisu T5 (72.900-104.900), BAIC Hyosow S7 (78.800-115.800) and Dongfeng Fengguang 580 (78.900-123.000), as well as Zotye’s better-designed Traum SEEK 5 (77.900-128.900) and S70 (81.900-115.900) and the Changhe Q7 (87.900-148.900). To better understand Jetour’s positioning vs. Chery, the Chery Tiggo 8, a 5-seater, is priced 40% higher from 98.800 to 142.800 yuan. The X70’s first month is already above our bar for success of 6.000 sales, the trick now will be to be stable at that level, keeping in mind scores such as the 19.771 peak reached by the Dongfeng Fengguang 580 or the 18.071 record of the Chana CX70 seem out of reach, especially for a new brand.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

2. Geely Binrui (#122 – 5.029 sales)

Geely continues to renew and expand its lineup at breakneck speed, and this sharply-designed Binrui sedan manages an excellent start above 5.000 sales in a depressed context for Chinese sedans. 4.68m-long, the Binrui’s design is very close to the recently-launched 4.99m Emgrand GE – itself is a facelift of the Borue, also already above 5.000 monthly sales. Faithful to what has built Geely into the #1 Chinese manufacturer at home, the Binrui is cheap: from 79.800 to 110.800 yuan (US$11.500-15.990 or 9.990-13.900€), features a high-quality cockpit but mid-range engines with a choice of 133hp 1.4T or 136hp 1.0T mated with a 6 speed manual or CVT.

Geely Binrui interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The fact that the Binrui enters an overcrowded Chinese sedan market goes without saying but it hasn’t prevented previous Geely sedans such as the Emgrand GL and GE from succeeding and it will also be the case for the Binrui. The oddity with the Binrui naming is that it uses neither the upmarket Emgrand nor the mass-market Vision sub-brands. Its pricing is closer to an Emgrand model. For comparison, the slightly shorter 4.60m Geely Vision (53.900-72.900 yuan) is a lot cheaper while the 4.63m Emgrand (69.800-100.800) and 4.725m Emgrand GL (78.800-115.800) are closer with the Emgrand GE (136.800-179.800) topping the range. Geely has managed to create an extremely successful sedan lineup thanks to its ability to go fight with foreign models and the Binrui is emblazoned with the same mission, taking aim at the VW Jetta (79.900-134.900), Toyota Vios (69.800-113.800) and Chevrolet Cavalier (79.900-114.900) while among local fares the Roewe 360 notably (77.900-129.900) is targeted. Because it’s a Geely model and because of the fantastic performances the brands has repeatedly aligned over the past couple of years, expectations are high for the Binrui.

Bar for success: 10.000 monthly units

3. Cadillac XT4 (#198 – 2.313 sales)

Another illustration of the prime importance of the Chinese market in the world today, Cadillac has launched Chinese production of its new small crossover, the XT4, at the same time as in the U.S. Even then, the XT4 may be arriving here two years too late, but better late than never. The XT4 joins the China-made XT5 and the imported Escalade in the American manufacturer’s SUV lineup, a smart “trickle-down” move that is making the brand more accessible to Chinese consumers the exact same way Volvo is doing with the XC40 and as all German premiums understood years ago. XT4 pricing starts at 259.700 yuan and ends at 399.700 (US$37.500-57.700 or 32.500-50.000€) almost exactly the same as its U.S. pricing but 40.000 yuan/US$5.800/5.000€ lower than Cadillac’s entry sedan offerings, the ATS-L (298.800-428.800) and XTS (299.900-359.900). Additionally, the XT4 is 100.000 yuan/US$14.400/12.500€ cheaper than the XT5 (359.900-539.900).

Cadillac XT4 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Equipped with a 241hp 2.0T engine, the XT4 enters a very competitive premium small SUV arena composed of the imported Lincoln MKC (275.800-385.800), BMW X2 (289.800-379.800) and Volvo XC40 (321.800-411.800) and a growing contingent of China-made blockbusters such as the BMW X1 (283.800-439.000), Mercedes GLA (269.800-395.800), Audi Q3 (246.900-340.700) and Jaguar E-Pace (288.800-395.800). The sales potential of the XT4 is strong yet paradoxically weaker than larger premium SUVs, with some Chinese buyers failing to see the use of paying a disproportionate amount of money for what they consider cramped vehicles. The largest volumes in the category flirt with 5 figures: 10.580 for the Q3, 9.984 for the X1 and 8.002 for the GLA. The American carmaker has some flex in terms of production capacity: the largest monthly volume reached by any Cadillac nameplate is 10.385 by the XT5 SUV in January 2018, with other personal bests including 7.500 by the XTS sedan and 5.919 by the ATS-L sedan. In a slightly morose SUV context, we want at least 6.000 sales to consider the XT4 a success.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

4. Chevrolet Orlando (#209 – 2.095 sales)

In a challenging context for foreign mass market carmakers, Chevrolet surprises us with this second generation Orlando (the first one was never produced locally) which has morphed from a bland MPV into a racy crossover that starts relatively well above 2.000 wholesales. Classified by the CAAM as a sedan perhaps because it is very low, the Orlando is however definitely a crossover in the minds of consumers. By pricing it competitively at 119.900-154.900 yuan (US$17.300-22.400 or 15.000-19.400€), Chevrolet positions the Orlando more as a potential upgrade from sedans in its lineup such as the Cavalier (79.900-114.900) or even the Cruze (109.900-169.900) than a logical addition in its SUV lineup where it should definitely kill the already slow-selling, much smaller but similarly priced Trax (99.900-149.900). The Equinox (174.900-250.900) on the other hand is placed unequivocally above the Orlando.

Chevrolet Orlando interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Touted as a 7 seater despite a relatively short 4.68m long, the Orlando is moved by a 163hp 1.3T mated with a 6 speed manual or auto, simple mechanics to help lower the price. Local automotive press is a little confused by the format, aiming it at a couple of low MPVs such as the Buick GL6 (141.900-168.900) or BYD Song MAX (79.900-129.900) or even the Honda Jade (129.900-179.900). Will choosing an unconventional approach pay for Chevrolet? It’s a worthwhile bet, and all will depend on whether the younger customer base will deem the Orlando cool enough. GM is definitely putting its right foot forward by focusing the communication on the sporty-looking (but actually not sporty) Redline variant. A refreshing entry in a saturated SUV segment, especially as the Equinox, on paper a straight-forward blockbuster, has been sputtering off (previous best at 7.697).

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

5. BYD Qin Pro (#287 – 1.003 sales)

BYD virtually launched the electric car market in China with nameplates such as the e6 hatchback and the Qin sedan. The Qin Pro is simply the 2nd generation of the model, allowed to co-exist with the first and therefore needing a specific denomination. The first month of sales is slow, and it remains to be seen whether the Pro will progressively swallow up the original Qin or whether it will act as a pricy and niche premium version. BYD will definitely be hoping for the former option, especially as the Qin Pro is the third model after the Song MAX and the new Tang to feature BYD’s new “Dragon Face” design language imagined by Wolfgang Egger, ex-Audi, that pretty much makes all BYDs look very much like Hyundais.

BYD Qin Pro interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The Qin Pro is available in combustion variants powered by a 109hp 1.5 mated with a 5 speed manual or a 154hp 1.5T mated with a 6 speed DCT and going for a very attractive 79.800-115.800 yuan (US$11.500-16.700 or 10.000-14.500€) or hybrid powered by a 154hp 1.4 and pure electric priced at 149.900-299.900 yuan (US$21.600-43.300 or 18.800-37.600€). The combustion variants compete with the Geely Binrui (79.800-110.800) and foreigners such as the Buick Excelle (109.900-144.900), Honda Civic (115.900-169.900), Toyota Corolla (107.800-175.800) and VW Lavida (109.900-165.900) while the green variants compete with BYD’s very own e5 (220.700-230.700, the BAIC EU-Series (79.800-252.650), JAC iEVA50 (183.700-234.500), Geely Emgrand (165.800-238.300) and Geely Emgrand GE (199.800-232.800). Even though the new Qin Pro had already been unveiled by then, the Qin has managed record volumes in the past few months, hitting 5.597 last June. BYD will hope for at least the same for the Qin Pro.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

6. VW Tayron (#290 – 954 sales)

Reacting with many years’ delay, Volkswagen has finally decided to significantly embolden its SUV presence in China with two nameplates exclusive to this market, both making their entrance this month: the Tayron and Tharu (see further down). To understand how these new SUVs position themselves in the China-made Volkswagen galaxy, it is essential to distinguish the carmaker’s two joint-ventures in this country. SAIC-VW has had a significant SUV presence in China for many years through the Tiguan – the first generation of the nameplate was kept on sale alongside the new generation Tiguan L aka Allspace, as well as the larger Teramont since January 2017. FAW-VW has been playing catchup this year, receiving its very first SUV in the form of the T-Roc in June, and the Tayron is its 2nd entry in the segment. The Tayron is in fact based on the second generation short-wheelbase Tiguan that is only imported into the country but not produced locally. Still with me?

VW Tayron interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Dimensions may help clarify: the Tayron is 4.589m long, vs. 4.712 for the Tiguan L, 4.506 for the 1st gen Tiguan, 4.486m for the imported 2nd gen short wheelbase Tiguan and 4.318m for the T-Roc. Therefore Volkswagen has found a smart way to not put any of its China-made SUVs in a cannibalisation situation, something it had not managed with its sedan lineup, mirrored between the two joint-ventures. The Tayron comes with a 186hp or 220hp 2.0T engine mated to a 7-speed DCT. Although no pricing has been communicated yet as the Tayron’s official on-sale date is 22 October, it will slide in an overlapping spot bewteen the 1st gen Tiguan (199.800-237.800 yuan) and the Tiguan L (223.800-359.800) and accordingly, local automotive press pits it against the Buick Envision (219.900-319.900) and Toyota Highlander (239.800-422.800). It’s a Volkswagen and it’s an SUV, it’s FAW-VW’ best shot at SUV glory so far, so our expectations are high.

Bar for success: 17.000 monthly units

7. Ora iQ (#315 – 707 sales)

Instead of electrifying its existing Haval and WEY lineup, Great Wall Motors has preferred to create a standalone EV brand it unveiled at last April’s Beijing Auto Show: Ora. I have doubts on the viability of this decision, but the implacable GWM marketing machine is unstoppable and after an aggressive WeChat campaign counting down the days until launch, Ora’s first offering, the iQ, has now hit the sales charts with an ok 707 sales. The exterior design is… different, bold? and the interior looks like it has been patched up compared to a dreadful experience in Beijing.

Ora iQ interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Powered by a 163hp electric engine, the iQ is priced between 188.800 and 204.800 yuan (US$27.250-29.600 or 23.700-25.700€) which is not cheap for a very standard-looking vehicle (I did not say low-cost, but…). The issue is the Chinese EV SUV pool is getting bigger every month, currently including the Chery Tiggo 3xe (157.800-189.800), BYD Song (176.900-219.900), BAIC EX-Series (183.900-202.900) and GAC Trumpchi GE3 (212.800-246.500). Setting goals for an entirely new brand is always difficult as there are no benchmarks, but GWM’s other attempt at an electric SUV has currently been pretty dismal with the WEY P8 culminating at just 570 units after 5 months, a result the cheaper iQ has already surpassed.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

8. Citroen C4 Aircross (#324 – 650 sales)

Looks familiar, but this is not the C3 Aircross. In China, Citroen is upside down, firstly sales-wise (-45% in September) but also launch-wise: the larger C5 Aircross was commercialised a year ago just here as the C3 Aircross hit European dealerships. This year, the C5 Across is reaching Europe whereas a stretched version of the C3 Aircross, baptised C4 Aircross, is now available in China. Based on the C3 Aircross for all exterior and interior design elements, the C4 Aircross is 12 cm longer with a wheelbase 6 cm longer. The extra space goes to the rear passengers and the boot. The C4 Aircross  is priced competitively at 109.800-159.800 yuan (US$15.850-23.100 or 13.800-20.100€) but looking at Citroen’s current SUV lineup it also means it will kill the smaller C3-XR (108.800-171.800) while logically siding well below the larger C5 Aircross (152.700-236.700). To say that the segment it enters is crowded is an understatement…

Citroen C4 Aircross interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The 4.27m-long C4 Aircross will compete with its cousin the Peugeot 2008 (89.700-128.700), but also such foreign blockbusters as the 4.27m Honda XR-V (127.800-162.800), 4.29m Hyundai ix25 (109.800-152.800), 4.31m VW T-Roc (139.800-209.800), 4.38m Nissan Qashqai (139.800-189.800), 4.39m Skoda Kamiq (109.900-130.900), 4.41m Roewe RX3 (89.800-135.800) and to a lesser extent the 4.40m Toyota C-HR (144.800-179.800). Citroen needs a success very badly these days and a lot of hope rests on the C4 Aircross, especially as the C5 Aircross bubble has already been busted: -66% to just 1.640 units in September. Realistically, even if it is successful the C4 Aircross won’t be enough to reverse Citroen’s fortunes in China, but regularly evolving above 5.000 monthly units would be a good start, if a tad frivolous in the current context.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

9. Audi Q2L (#329 – 594 sales)

After adding the Q5L a few months back, Audi is expanding its China-made SUV lineup with this Q2L, supposedly with a  stretched wheelbase but in actual fact it is only extended by 2.7cm to 2.628m while the length is up just 4.5cm to 4.229m vs. 4.191m for the imported Q2. Powered by a 150hp 1.4TSI engine, the Q2L is entering a pretty empty competitive set as premium carmakers haven’t had the chance to launch small SUVs just yet.

Audi Q2L interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Priced between 217.700 and 279.000 yuan (US$31.400-40.300 or 27.300-35.000€), the Q2L significantly undercuts its only competitor, the imported Mini Countryman (243.800-363.800) while safely residing well below the larger Audi Q3 (246.900-340.700). However Audi shouldn’t be too ambitious with the Q2L which could act as sales support for the Q3. Indeed at 4.236m long, Chinese customers will deem the Q2L cramped despite its slightly stretched wheelbase and may be reluctant to fork out this amount of money for a vehicle that will likely be considered impractical. As such, our expectations are somewhat limited at 4.500 sales/month.

Bar for success: 4.500 monthly units

10. Kandi Gleagle EX3 (#396 – 173 sales)

Part of the Geely Group, Kandi specialises in micro and small EVs. This EX3, using a Gleagle badge (previously a Geely brand), is in fact a simple electrified version of the Geely Vision X3. It is powered by a 67hp electric engine giving it 302km of autonomy and is 4.005m long. Priced from 76.800 to 96.800 yuan (US$11.100-14.000 or 9.600-12.150€), the EX3 is among the cheapest electric vehicles on sale in China at the moment, and competes with the likes of the Changan CS15EV (79.900-89.900) or BYD Yuan EV (79.900-99.900).

Kandi Gleagle EX3 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Electric vehicle volumes are traditionally seesawing depending on the time of the year, with November and December showing sudden surges in time to benefit from government subsidies. Looking at the performance of its direct competitors and taking into account the mighty production power of Geely we are setting the bar for success at 1.500 monthly units.

Bar for success: 1.500 monthly units

11. Hyundai Celesta RV (#401 – 164 sales)

Emboldened by the success of the Hyundai Celesta which is nothing more than a 18 year-old Hyundai Elantra Yuedong with an up-to-date bodywork, the Korean carmaker has now launched a station wagon variant of the Celesta, baptised Celesta RV and its first foray in this segment. At 4.40m long and powered by a 123hp 1.6 engine mated with a 6-speed manual or auto or a 130hp 1.4T engine mated with a 7-speed DCT, the Celesta RV is priced from 80.900 to 119.900 yuan (US$11.700-17.300 or 10.150-15.050€) which is a lot of car for the money indeed.

Hyundai Celesta RV interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

To pus this pricing into perspective, let’s note that the entry model Celesta RV is only a tad dearer than the top-of-the-range 4.62m Baojun 310W (42.800-69.800) while logically positioning itself above the 4.24m Kia KX-Cross (74.900-90.900). Station wagons are still a pretty rare occurrence on Chinese roads and in local lineups so it’s a make-or-break bet for Hyundai here, with models such as the 4.518m Dongfeng AX3 (69.900-87.900) and 4.538m Buick Excelle GX (119.900-146.900) falling flat in market whereas the VW Gran Lavida (112.900-162.900) has resonated with buyers. Hyundai should therefore be prudent in its sales expectations for the Celesta RV.

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units

12. VW Tharu (#430 – 52 sales)

On top of the Tayron described earlier in this article, Volkswagen also launches the Tharu SUV this month. Unlike the Tayron, the Tharu is manufactured by the SAIC-VW joint-venture that already has the 1st gen Tiguan, 2nd gen Tiguan Allspace and Teramont in its SUV lineup. The Tharu won’t disorient SAIC-VW customers as it looks like a mini Teramont but is in fact based on the Skoda Karoq. So here too, Volkswagen has managed to insert a new nameplate in its range without creating a cannibalising potential given its other joint-venture, FAW-VW has the much shorter T-Roc as entry SUV. Yet this is all very confusing so as per the Tayron we’ll try and clarify the situation with dimensions. The SUV lineup of the SAIC-VW joint-venture is now composed of the 4.453m Tharu, 4.506 1st gen Tiguan, 4.712 Tiguan L and 5.039m Teramont. Across the road at FAW-VW we have the 4.318m T-Roc and the 4.589m Tayron.

VW Tharu interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

There is no price info yet for the Tharu as it is not yet officially listed but it will slide in-between the T-Roc at 139.800-209.800 yuan (US$20.200-30.300 or 17.550-26.300€) and the 1st gen Tiguan at 199.800-237.800 yuan (US$28.800-34.300 or 25.100-29.800€) which also means it will be priced at a significant premium over the Skoda Karoq (139.900-185.900) on which it is based. Therefore local automotive media pits it against the meaty end of the Chinese SUV world: the Toyota RAV4 (179.800-269.800), Honda CR-V (169.800-276.800) and Nissan X-Trail (188.800-271.300) while among Chinese fares the cheaper but larger Haval H6 (103.000-146.800) and GAC Trumpchi GS4 (89.800-151.800) would also enter into consideration. The Tharu won’t get as much attention within SAIC-VW as the Tayron should within FAW-VW simply because SAIC has its hands full already with 2 Tiguans and the Teramont, so our sales expectations are lower.

Bar for success: 12.000 monthly units

China August 2018: Focus on the All-new models

WEY VV6

Now that we explored August China wholesales, it is time to focus on the all-new locally produced launches 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. In August, the market posts a second consecutive year-on-year decline partly due to the continuing weakness of SUV sales. This has been triggered by a government crackdown on P2P digital lending platform that enabled up to 15% of car sales in 2017. More on the P2P lending impact on the 2018 Chinese car market here. We spoke about it last month: the new nameplates that are now hitting the market were conceived years ago at a time when SUVs were the sole engine of growth of the Chinese market, and therefore we are seeing a constant flow of new SUVs hitting local dealers even though the market conditions are now a lot tougher. If in July 5 of the 7 launches were SUVs, in August the ratio is even higher with 6 of the 7 new launches being SUVs. You can also keep track of the fast-expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 175 Chinese Brands, updated live.

1. WEY VV6 (#261 – 1.038 sales)

Unveiled in November 2017 at the Guangzhou Auto Show, the VV6 is the 4th nameplate under the WEY brand, a new semi-premium marque launched by Great Wall Motors in 2017. It logically slots in-between the VV5 and VV7 but does seem like a superfluous addition, given how similarly-looking it is from its siblings but also the Haval H6 (see below). WEY has seen its wholesales peak quickly at 21.349 units in December 2017, down to just 10.174 in August 2018 after a low of 7.080 in July and despite the arrival of the P8 hybrid. Direct competitor Geely’s Lynk & Co overtook WEY in July (12.300) and doubled-down in August (13.674) with the 02 taking off. The glaring difference between the two Chinese semi-premium brands is Lynk & Co models have their own design and personality whereas WEY seems to be content just popping out upscale versions of Haval models. As a result, Haval have been cannibalised and are tumbling down so far in 2018: -20% YTD and -23% in August.

Are WEY models looking too similar to Haval’s H6 (pictured)? We think so.WEY VV6 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

In this context, the VV6 enters a challenging environment not only internally within the Great Wall stable but also nationally: consumers aren’t gobbling up Chinese SUVs blindly like they had been this decade. The VV6 is based on the VV5 platform but is 12.3 cm longer at 4.585m vs. 4.462m for the VV5 and 4.749m for the VV7, and is equipped with the same 169hp 1.5T and 197hp 2.0T engines. The VV6 is priced from 148.000 to 175.000 yuan (US$21.600-25.500 or 18.500-21.800€) compared to the VV5 at 150.000-163.000 and the VV6 at 167.800-188.800. This is still not cheap, and may handicap the model’s career given the pricing of direct competitor Lynk & Co 02 (122.800-192.800) and the Haval H6 (103.000-146.800). But what WEY is hoping to target instead – a difficult task – are foreigners such as the Mazda CX-4 (140.800-215.800) and VW T-Roc (139.800-209.800). The VV5 peaked at 10.798 sales and the VV7 at 10.551 but times will be harder for the VV6 and reaching half this volume should be a realistic target.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

2. Jaguar E-Pace (#279 – 896 sales)

Unveiled at the Beijing Auto Show last April, the E-Pace is Jaguar’s first China-made SUV, manufactured by a joint-venture with local manufacturer Chery. It joins two stablemates, the XFL launched in September 2016 and the XEL launched in December 2017, and should comfortably become the brand’s best-seller in the country. In fact it already is, outselling both sedans for its first appearance in the Chinese charts. Unlike its sedan siblings, the E-Pace has the same length and wheelbase as the rest of the world, with no plans to launch a China-only long-wheelbase version for now. The E-Pace is powered by 250hp or 200hp 2.0T engines and priced from 288.800 to 395.800 yuan (US$42.100-57.700 or 36.000-49.400€), placing it in the same sandpit as the BMW X1 (283.800-439.000), Mercedes GLA (269.800-395.800) and Volvo XC40 (321.800-411.800).

Jaguar E-Pace interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

You may have noticed that the E-Pace is cheaper than the XC40 which seems like an anomaly but also means Jaguar can target solid volumes with this compact SUV. To which extent is hard to predict, as the XFL peaked at 2.558 sales, the XEL at 1.539 and the imported F-Pace at 1.526. Looking across the street the BMW X1’s personal best is 9.984 and the Mercedes GLA is at 8.002 with the XC40 yet to launch in China. We set the bar for success at 3.500 monthly sales.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

3. Traum SEEK 5 (#280 – 894 sales)

Traum, German for dream, is a new brand by Zotye launched in June 2017. The Chinese name is Junma (君马) translated as Supreme Horse. The English slogan is Driven by Dreams, while the Chinese slogan is Dream for a Horse. All Traum-branded vehicles are manufactured by Jiangnan Auto, a subsidiary of Zotye. The SEEK 5 is Traum’s third launch in less than a year alongside the S70 and the MEET3 (yet to appear in the wholesales charts). It is based on the same platform as the S70 with an identical wheelbase. The SEEK 5 is 4.771m long while the D70 is at 4.746m. Engines are the same: a 116hp 1.6 and 156hp 1.5T and they are both 7-seater SUVs. The pricing is also very similar, which is a Zotye specialty – launching as many cars as possible in the midsize SUV segment – that results in cannibalisation and lower volumes.

Traum SEEK 5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

It looks like Zotye is repeating the same mistakes with the Traum brand although this SEEK 5 isn’t a copycat of any existing car, so that’s some progress right there. SEEK 5 pricing is a tight 77.900-128.900 yuan (US$11.350-18.800 or 9.700-16.100€) compared to 81.900-115.900 for the S70. Traum is aiming at younger buyers in third and fourth tier cities and as such is competing full frontal with similar new brands by large Chinese manufacturers: Chery’s Jetour X70 (69.900-120.900) and to a lesser extent Chana’s COS1° (93.800-145.800). The SEEK 5 slides in-between Haval’s “low cost” offering the M6 (66.000-86.000) and its best-seller the H6 103.000-146.800). Traum has had a difficult start so far with the S70 peaking at a meagre 1.601 units last month, so the SEEK 5’s bar for success will be modest.

Bar for success: 2.500 monthly units

4. JMEV E400 (#281 – 874 sales)

JMEV is a brand by JMC dedicated to electric vehicles, already including the E100, E160, E200 and E200N sedans, rebadged and electrified versions of existing models by other brands, notably Zotye. True to form, this E400, JMEV’s first SUV, is in fact an electric Landwind X2. Priced between 163.800 and 175.800 yuan before government subsidies (US$23.900-25.600 or 20.400-21.900€), the E400 competes with the likes of the Chery Tiggo 3xe (157.800-189.800), JAC iEV6e (118.500-158.800), BAIC EC-Series (121.900-164.800), BAIC EV-Series (158.900-189.900) and BAIC EX-Series (183.900-202.900).

JMEV E400 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

JMEV’s other nameplates have had uneven but quite successful careers so far, notably the E200 launched in December 2016 and peaking at 4.914 sales last December, with the E100 also launched in December 2016 and peaking at 1.755 but the E160 launched in April 2017 a lot weaker with a peak at a meagre 299 units at its 2nd month of sales. In this context, we’ll place the bar for success for the E400 halfway between the E200 and E100’s best scores, at 3.500 sales.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

5. MG HS (#354 – 284 sales)

The HS is MG’s third crossover offering after the successful GS and ZS, but also its largest so far. It is built on the same platform as the enormously successful Roewe RX5 which sold just under 475.000 units since it launched two years ago in July 2017. The MG HS comes with driver assist features such as lane-departure warning, blind-spot assistance and rear-cross traffic alert. It is powered by a 170hp 1.5T or 220hp 2.0T but doesn’t offer any 4×4 variant. It is 4.574m long vs. 4.31m for the ZS and 4.51m for the GS. It is logically priced above MG’s existing SUV offers at 119.800-189.800 yuan (US$17.500-27.700 or 14.900-23.700€) compared to 73.800-115.800 for the ZS and 98.800-175.800 for the GS. Some overseas markets such as Thailand are already considering discontinuing the GS to make room for the much more modern HS.

MG HS interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

In terms of external competition, the HS is markedly dearer than the Roewe RX5 on which it is based (99.800-188.800) in order to maintain the premium and UK-origin brand image of MG in China. The other two Chinese blockbusters in the category are also cheaper: the Haval H6 goes for 103.000-146.800 and the GAC Trumpchi GS4 is at 89.800-161.800. The MG HS will also try and snap customers away from the similarly-priced but smaller VW T-Roc (139.800-209.800). Looking at the commercial performance of the other two MG crossovers, the ZS’s highest monthly volume is 11.755 hit last April while the GS has been on a long a painful slide down given its record (6.740) dates back from December 2015 only a few months after launch. We want at least the GS score to feel content.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

6. YGM E-Series (#406 – 72 sales)

Although listed under the Link Tour brand, the E-series electric hatch is actually branded YGM, a brand by mini EV manufacturer Hebei Yogomo Motors owned at 25% by Great Wall Motors. The YGM marque was created to sell road-worthy EVs and its first model is this E-Series. Link Tour is a separate brand by Yogomo that also sells EVs whose first offer is the K-One that should appear shortly in the charts. More details on both brands can be found in our Exclusive Guide to all 175 Chinese Brands.

Bar for success: 1.000 monthly units

7. Roewe MARVEL X (#428 – 14 sales)

The spectacular MARVEL X debuted at the Beijing Auto Show last April and is an electric SUV based on the upcoming Roewe RX7. It is 4.678m long and powered by two electric motors (116hp + 71hp), one on each axle, giving a range of 370 or 403km depending on the variant. The MARVEL X is one of the first premium electric SUVs manufactured by a Chinese company, and as such has few competitors for now. It is priced from 268.800 to 308.800 yuan before government aids (US$39.200-45.000 or 33.500-38.500€).

Roewe MARVEL X interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Chinese competitors include the Weltmeister EX5 (186.600-298.800), Borgward BXi7 (358.800-378.800) and NIO ES8 (448.000-548.000), which foreigners in its line of fire are none others than the Jaguar i-Pace (648.000-736.800) and Tesla Model X (964.900-1.572.200). The MARVEL X certainly competes with the Tesla Model X when it comes to the gigantic touch screen on its dashboard. Being more of a pinnacle product strategy for the Roewe brand, don’t expect high volumes for this MARVEL X.

Bar for success: 1.000 monthly units

Previous month: China July 2018: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago: China August 2017: Focus on the All-new models

China July 2018: Focus on the All-new models

Lynk & Co 02

Now that July China wholesales have been studied, we can focus on the all-new locally produced launches for the month so you are up-to-the-minute on the fastest-evolving market in the world. Note these updates remain based on wholesales data. The big news in July is the sudden and unexpected freefalling of SUV sales at -8.2%. This edition of the All-new models reveals an issue that will quickly become front and centre over the next few months: all manufacturers present in China have been working overtime over the past couple of years on engineering as many SUVs as possible to make sure to ride the popularity wave. Even though SUV thirst seems to have dried up among Chinese buyers, the carmakers’ SUV tap is far from being done with as we are now witnessing the launch of SUVs conceived years ago, except that it has now become harder than ever to succeed in this now depleted segment. A perfect illustration of this phenomenon is the 5 SUVs making their first appearance in the Chinese charts in July out of 7 new launches, the rest being EVs, with no “traditional” sedans. You can also keep track of the fast-expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 175 Chinese Brands, updated live.

1. Lynk & Co 02 (#141 – 3.040 sales)

Launched in December 2017, the Lynk & Co 01 inaugurated Geely’s new semi-premium brand that has its sights on the European and US markets. A true exploit, the 01 has kept seeing its wholesales climb up to this day with a new volume record every month. This is a really great sign that retail demand has not slowed. It is now time for Lynk & Co to expand its lineup with this 02, which I had the chance to test drive as part of the Beijing Auto Show last April, before launching the 03 sedan later this year. The 02 is shorter in height and length than the 01, giving its a sporty crossover look. The mechanics are Volvo – the XC40 specifically – making it one of the best Chinese models I ever drove. So far so good. At 122.800 to 192.800 yuan (US$18.000-28.250 or 15.400-24.200€), the 02 is priced at a premium vs. mass Chinese SUVs with similar dimensions, logical in order to establish the Lynk & Co brand as aspirational, but remains very affordable when compared to foreign competitors such as the Mazda CX-4 (140.800-215.800) or Nissan Qashqai (139.800-189.800).

Lynk & Co 02 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Lynk & Co’s archenemy among the Chinese is the equivalent venture at Great Wall Motors, WEY, and the 02 comes full frontal with the WEY VV5 (150.000-163.000). There’s great news right from the start for Lynk & Co: with over 3.000 wholesales for its first month, the 02 starts with a bang and already outsells the WEY VV7 (3.032) while coming very close to the WEY VV5 (3.508). To a lesser extent, it also competes with larger Chinese SUV blockbusters such as the Haval H6 (103.000-146.800) and Geely’s very own Boyue (98.800-159.800) whose volumes will remain inaccessible to the 02. The Director of Lynk & Co’s Zhangjiakou factory which produces the 02, Xiangbei Tong, told me in April that the production target for the 02 in 2018 is 82.000 units. That’s ambitious, and we place the bar for success at 6.500 monthly sales.

Bar for success: 6.500 monthly units

2. Toyota IZOA (#165 – 2.538 sales)
7. Toyota C-HR (#381 – 151 sales)

Finally! Almost two years after hitting dealerships in Europe, North America and most Western markets, the Toyota C-HR has landed in China. Last February we took the C-HR on a 5.000 km trip to the Australian Outback and were very impressed. It is now time for Chinese customers to discover Toyota’s daringly designed blockbuster, and it does look like this vehicle was designed with China in mind in the first place, so fitting it is to the current SUV trends. Until a couple of months ago that is, and Toyota might very well find they have waited way too long to launch the C-HR in China as the SUV bubble is now suddenly and spectacularly bursting. As it is the case with the Corolla and Yaris already, Toyota has launched two twin versions of the C-HR, one for each joint-venture. GAC-Toyota keeps the original name while FAW-Toyota re-baptises it IZOA.

Toyota IZOA interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

I estimate Tyota has missed out on 130.000 to 160.000 sales of C-HR in China by not having launched it at the same time as other markets two years ago. An illustration of Toyota’s tardiness is the stupendous success of direct competitors by Honda, the Vezel and XR-V twins (the same way the C-HR and IZOA are split between two joint-ventures) which have racked up over one million sales in China alone since their simultaneous introduction in late 2014! That’s how much Toyota misjudged its crossover priorities for China. The IZOA is priced from 149.800 to 175.800 yuan (US$21.950-25.750 or 18.800-22.100€) and the C-HR from 144.800 to 179.800 yuan (US$21.200-26.350 or 18.200-22.600€), aimed at the Honda XR-V (127.800-162.800) and Vezel (128.800-189.800) as well as the Nissan Qashqai (139.800-189.800) and Hyundai ENCINO (129.900-155.900). Toyota should not be shy in predicting sales for this blockbuster couple, however they might be hampered by the sudden falling out of Chinese customers with crossovers.

Bar for success: 10.000 monthly units each

3. SWM G01 (#170 – 2.400 sales)

The SWM brand was launched in China in September 2016. Originally an Italian motorcycle brand, it was bought in 2014 by a joint-venture between Brilliance Auto and Xinyuan Holding (aka Shineray). Its initials stand for Sironi Vergani-Vimercate Milano but Chinese management canned that to replace it with Start Win More. SWM plays its Italian “heritage” to death with, for example, a Beijing Auto Show stand recreating an Italian caffe complete with a multitude of Italian flags. In a little less than two years, SWM has managed to sell over 110.000 units, a solid score that however remains far below the 300.000 units of annual capacity sported by its Chongqing factory. Worse, the brand is down a damning 36% so far in 2018. Some fresh metal was therefore badly needed… In comes the frustratingly-named G01 (why not X4, X5 or X6 to fit with the rest of the lineup?), priced from 79.900 to 152.000 yuan (US$11.700-22.250 or 10.000-19.100€) and sliding in between the X3 (59.900-82.900) and X7 (85.900-113.900).

SWM G01 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Local outlet Autohome.com.cn pits the G01 against SUV blockbusters such as the Haval H6 (103.000-146.800) and Geely Boyue (98.800-159.800) but this seems a tad overrated: SWM models mainly find their clientele in less developed areas where buyers aren’t too worried about brand image but can still be tricked into purchasing an Italian-looking Chinese brand – the same way Borgward is playing the German card and MG the English one. In terms of targets, a worrying trend has seen previous SWM nameplates reach their highest volumes at the very start of their career: the X7 launched in September 2016, peaked at 7.168 sales in December 2016 (a very satisfying result in itself) but its first 5 months in market ended up being its 5 best months ever, while the X3 launched in July 2017 and peaked at 2.429 as early as for its 2nd month of sales in August, with its first 2 months remaining its best 2 ever. Therefore the fact that the G01 has instantly become SWM’s best-seller straight from its launch month shouldn’t come as a surprise but isn’t an indication of the model’s future success.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

4. Kia Stonic (#271 – 864 sales)

Another worldwide crossover that has taken way too much time to reach Chinese shores, the Kia Stonic was originally going to be called KX1 to fit in with the rest of the brand’s Chinese lineup, but it looks like the Dongfeng-Yueda-Kia joint-venture that produces it has decided otherwise at the last minute. A competitor of the Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR and Hyundai Kona elsewhere, the Stonic stuns with its Chinese tariff: from a tiny 69.800 to 79.800 yuan – that’s US$10.200-11.700 or 8.800-10.000€! In effect half the price of its twin the Hyundai ENCINO (the name of the Kona in China) itself available from 129.900 to 155.900 yuan… A rather troubling situation and a questionable marketing decision from the Korean sister brands, perhaps triggered by the absolute lack of success of the ENCINO so far (only 5.199 wholesales in 4 months).

Kia Stonic interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

What it means is that the Stonic competes not with Western models but with a range of Chinese crossovers such as the Baojun 510 (54.800-76.800), Changan CS35 (68.900-92.900) and MG ZS (73.800-115.800), a dangerous trajectory for the Korean brand that will forever struggle to meet the cost-cutting standards most Chinese carmakers are capable of at home. Moreover, the Stonic also competes full-frontal internally with the similarly-sized KX Cross, a crossover-looking variant of the Kia Rio, priced from 74.900 to 90.900 yuan. It might sell high volumes but definitely won’t be profitable for Kia… A strange equation from the Korean carmaker.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

5. Lifan 650EV (#314 – 414 sales)

That Lifan is struggling in 2018 is not new news, but the freefall is accelerating with wholesales down a ghastly 71% in July vs. -29% so far this year. The low-cost Chinese carmaker had placed almost all its eggs in the same SUV basket and now that even this segment is struggling, there aren’t many ways to grow. Except perhaps EVs, hence the launch of this 650EV variant this month, priced from 168.900 to 175.800 yuan before government subsidies (US$24.750-25.800 or 21.200-22.100€) that will struggle to find its public.

Lifan 650EV interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Bar for success: 1.500 monthly units

6. Chery Ruitesi Q2 (#329 – 366 sales)

Not much information is trickling in about this new EV, in essence an electric version of the previous generation Chery QQ launched by Chery itself through a new sub-brand with its own logo, therefore eyeing a status upgrade as a full-blown brand in case of success. The micro EV market is way too crowded already to allow this very bland Q2 to flourish in my opinion.

Bar for success: 1.000 monthly units

Previous month: China June 2018: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago: China July 2017: Focus on the All-new models

China June 2018: Focus on the All-new models

Leopaard Mattu

Now that June China sales are out of the way, we focus on the all-new locally produced launches for the month so you can remain on the bleeding edge of the fastest-evolving market in the world. Note these updates remain based on wholesales data. Although this month SUVs see their first year-on-year decline in a whopping 9 years, the nameplates launched this month were conceived months ago and are still dominated by SUVs at 4 out of 6, with sedans the remaining two. Keep track of the fast-expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 174 Chinese Brands, updated live.

1. Chery Tiggo 8 (#109 – 5.220 sales)

The Tiggo 8, presented at the Beijing Auto Show last April, tops Chery’s Tiggo SUV lineup, a group of cars that have been named logically and satisfyingly, which is actually pretty rare for a Chinese brand, and that now includes the Tiggo 3, 3x, 5, 5x and 7. Disappointingly, despite being 4.70m long and the new jewel of the Chery crown, the Tiggo 8 remains a 5-seater. It is powered by a choice of two engines: a 137 hp 2.0L DVVT or a 155 hp 1.6L Turbo. Its price point, from 98.800 to 142.800 yuan (US$14.600-21.100, 12.500-18.100€), means the Tiggo 8 is thrown in the deep end of the Chinese SUV pool already swarming with hungry sharks: it will compete with no less than the ultimate blockbusters in the segment, such as the Haval H6 (103.000-146.800 yuan), Changan CS75 (79.800-184.800 yuan), Roewe RX5 (99.800-188.800 yuan), Geely Boyue (98.800-188.800 yuan) or Geely Emgrand GS (77.800-116.800 yuan).

Chery Tiggo 8 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The Tiggo 8’s entrance in the wholesales charts this month is already impressive at over 5.000 sales: in the Tiggo lineup, only the 3/3x does better in June (6.665) only thanks to the new 3xe electric variant (1.837). All other Tiggo variants are outsold for June: the 5x (3.460), 7 (2.830) and 5 (2.000)… So this is a good start, but Chery will need this level to be at least maintained and at best overcome to find its way back towards growth. Adding to the challenge is the fact Tiggo models tend to hit their highest at or near launch, such as the Tiggo 5x which could never beat the 10.693 units it sold for its inaugural month in December 2017, or the Tiggo 7 whose personal best was reached on Month 4 at 11.039 in December 2016. As for the Tiggo 3 (17.081 in December 2015) and TIggo 5 (12.469 in December 2014), their record volumes have long been forgotten.

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly units

2. Changan Eado DT (#128 – 4.341 sales)

Changan continues to update the design of its entire lineup under the pen of David Hilton who previously created the spectacular NIO EP9. After the new Raeton CC and the new Eado and Eado XT, here comes the Eado DT which is in fact an update version of the Yuexang V7 aligning the model with the new Changan identity with a gaping X-shape grille that hints of Lexus and Mitsubishi. Chinese sedans are dirt cheap, and the Eado DT is no exception, priced from 54.900 to 80.900 yuan (US$8.100-11.950 or 6.950-10.250€), to be compared with its big sister the Eado at 71.900-105.900 yuan. The Eado will compete squarely with the Geely Vision (53.900-72.900 yuan), but thanks to a much improved interior quality that places it among the best in the segment, it will also try and steal sales from the Hyundai Reina (49.900-73.900 yuan), its twin the Kia Pegas (same price range) and the Chevrolet Sail (63.900-79.900 yuan).

Changan Eado DT interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

As for volumes, the benchmark for the Eado DT is obviously its predecessor the now discontinued Yuexiang V5/V7 which peaked at 10.573 units in December 2010 and remained at strong levels up until the end of 2016, especially successful in the rural areas such as Alashan Youqi in Inner Mongolia. Changan will want the Eado DT to do better of course, but it could be difficult given the lack of enthusiasm for local sedans lately. We want at least 7.500 monthly units to call the Eado DT a success.

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly units

3. Leopaard Mattu (#167 – 3.100 sales)

Unveiled at the Beijing Auto Show last April, the spectacular (inside and out) Mattu propelled Leopaard to #8 in our ranking of the Chinese brands you must know. My comments at the Show: “With its gigantic grille (see lead picture of this article) and chiselled features, the Mattu is here to confirm – if needed be – that the Chinese have made phenomenal progress in terms of exterior design and, in their eager push to impress the world, they sometimes go overboard, daring what more conservative Western brands would only dream of. This is the case with the Mattu.” I stand by this, adding that the interior (see below) looks and feels like a Mercedes with a giant digital panel à la new A-Class. Leopaard inaugurates a new front look but smartly links the Mattu with the rest of the lineup thanks to similarly shaped tail lights. As Leopaard’s new range-topper, the Mattu is logically more expensive than its smaller siblings but has, in true Chinese fashion, managed to contain its pricing to a mere 116.800-158.800 yuan, that’s just US$17,200-23.400 or 14.800-20.100€, in other words a car looking like a premium German for the price of a Dacia Duster…

Leopaard Mattu interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

For reference, the CS9 is priced from 76.800 to 129.800 yuan and the CS10 from 89.800 to 146.800 yuan, while the Q6, a facelifted Mitsubishi Pajero built under license, goes for 119.900-169.800 yuan. Oddly, Chinese automotive media pits the Mattu against the Haval H6 (103.000-146.800), Roewe RX5 (99.800-188.800), Geely Boyue (98.800-159.800) and Changan CS75 (79.800-184.800) but these are all cheaper and shorter. If anything, the Chery Tiggo 8 described above seems like a more fitting competitor as they are both large 5-seaters standing at 4.70m long. The Mattu lands with a bang over 3.000 sales, unfortunately this is done to the detriment of the rest of the lineup: the CS9 is down 28% to 2.390 and the CS10 implodes at -84% to 1.127 while the Q6 remains anecdotal at -53% to 287 sales. All-in-all, Leopaard sales are down 38% in June so the Mattu has its work cut out for it if its mission is to return the brand’s sales into the black. The CS9 peaked at 7.241 in January 2018 and the CS10 at 10.300 in March 2017.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

4. Hongqi H5 (#205 – 2.120 sales)

Hongqi is FAW’s and China’s only luxury brand, charged with the heavy responsibility of transporting the leaders of the Communist Party in all ceremonies. Although we have seen the H5 sedan appear in the retail sales ranking over the past few months, this is its first appearance in the wholesales charts. The H5 is based on the Mazda6, one of the carmaker’s joint-venture partners in China. Alongside the new E-HS3 electric crossover, the H5 enabled Hongqi to rank #6 in our ranking of the Chinese brands you must know about at the latest Beijing Auto Show last April. Sporting a surprisingly attractive exterior design, picture perfect cockpit and expensive pricing for a Chinese car at 149.800-195.800 yuan (US$22.100-28.900 or 19.000-24.800€), the H5’s aspirations are definitely foreign, with its home media sending it into the same sandpit as the Toyota Camry (179.800-279.800), Honda Accord (169.800-279.800), Nissan Teana (175.800-298.800), VW Magotan (189.900-303.900) and Passat (189.900-316.900).

Hongqi H5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

In terms of commercial success, it’s difficult to find a benchmark for the H5 as this is Hongqi’s first offer resembling a mass model. Indeed, the H7 which was its first try at a model aimed at a private audience, has been on and off in the wholesales charts, actually reaching its highest volume since its first appearance in May 2013 just this June 2018 at 883. sales. More hints can be caught in our exclusive retail rankings where it hit a 12-month best of 925 sales last December. In this context, the H5 start over 2.000 units is already treading unchartered territories for the brand. We want more and often to call the H5 a success.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

5. Brilliance V7 (#261 – 1.250 sales)

Only 6 months after adding to its SUV lineup the V6 launched last November, Brilliance now readies the larger V7, lifting to 4 its SUV lineup alongside the V3 and V5, even though they only represent 17% of Brilliance June sales. Brilliance charges a premium for its association with BMW, and the V7 is no exception at 108.700-194.700 yuan (US$16.000-28.700 or 13.800-24.700€). Yet although the exterior design is improved yet in line with the brand’s stylistic codes, the interior is frankly lagging behind some cheaper Chinese such as Geely with the Boyue, Haval with the H6 and the aforementioned Leopaard Mattu.

Brilliance V7 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Once again automotive Chinese media pits the V7 against the segment’s best-sellers such as the Haval H6 or Roewe RX5 but I disagree. It’s a 4.70m long 5-seater powered by a 204 hp 1.6 turbo engine, and therefore exactly the same length as the Leopaard Mattu (116.800-158.800) and Chery Tiggo 8 (98.800-142.800) mentioned above but price-wise in my view it competes with other h 5-seaters such as the Haval H7 (139.000-180.000), GAC Trumpchi GS7 (149.800-209.800), WEY VV7 (167.800-188.800 and Lynk & Co 01 (158.800-220.800) although all these models are powered by a 2.0T engine and run rings around the V7 in terms of interior presentation. The V3 peaked at 21.117 sales in December 2015, the V5 at 5.519 in November 2013 and the V6 at 3.676 for its 3rd month of sales last January, so we want at least 5.000 units to deem the V7 a success, which also means the V6 is a failure and I stand by it.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

6. COS1° (#408 – 80 sales)

COS is a new marque by the Oshan MPV division of Changan that will specialise in… SUVs and is aimed at a rural clientele. Like Chery’s Jetour, it was launched last April at the Beijing Auto Show and like Jetour, COS was one of the “Top 5 brands you should know about” I selected from the latest Beijing Auto Show in April this year, the other three being EV makers NIO, Weltmeister and Byton. The marque’s first offering is the creatively-named 1° (for one degree), a modern, sober and toned down exterior design that goes against the rulebook for the extrovert traits that characterise rural customers – a risk has been taken here by being a little muted. The interior is extremely well packaged up with a large touchscreen beautifully integrated in the dashboard, luxurious pattern on the tunnel and doors (see below), Pioneer speakers artfully positioned alongside the inside door handles, matte-painted gearshift and gold-painted controls for the driver: this does look like a much more expensive car than what it is.

Chana OshanCOS1° interior and detail. Picture autohome.com.cn

The 1° is a 7-seater SUV priced at 129.800 yuan for its unique variant, that’s US$19.200 or 16.400€. It is powered by a 178 hp 1.5 turbo engine mated with a 6-gear automatic. Its main competitor is the yet-to-be-launched Jetour X70, also a 7-seater aimed at a rural clientele and inaugurating a new brand, this time created by Chery. In terms of already existing models, the 1° could potentially be pitted against the Zotye T800 (139.800-185.800) at the higher end, the Chana CX70 (59.900-109.900), BAIC Hyosow S7 (78.800-115.800) and Dongfeng Fengguang 580 (72.900 to 123.000 yuan) at the lower end, but as you can realise, there is no real Chinese offer at this price point at the moment, hence the smart decision by Changan to launch 1°. The launch of an all-new brand is debatable however. Looking at previous Chana Oshan models, the original Oshan (pictured above) peaked at 16.070 sales in January 2017 while the Oshan A700 hit a high of 9.967 in October 2017. We want at least half of this to deem the 1° a success.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

New Buick Excelle

Also of note is the launch of the new generation Buick Excelle this month, a nameplate that has been dormant for roughly a year – only one sale between January and May 2018 – while the Buick Excelle GT was renewed. The new Excelle lands directly at #151 with 3.528 sales, a level that its predecessor last reached in December 2016.

China May 2018: Focus on the All-new models

Baojun 360

As per the BSCB tradition, after covering May China sales in detail, we now focus on the all-new locally produced launches so you can stay up-to-the-minute on the fastest-evolving market in the world. Note these updates remain based on wholesales data. Although this month – and for the first time in 6 years – sedans grow faster than SUVs, judging by the class of May 2018 new entrants this reverse of fortune is likely to only be temporary. Out of the 10 new launches making their first appearances in the wholesales charts this month (the largest field since last September), no less than 8 are SUVs… and some of them have very high sales potential. Keep track of the fast-expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 169 Chinese Brands, updated live.

1. Baojun 360 (#74 – 8.003 sales)

Only three months after the appearance of the Baojun 530 in February, the tremendously successful low-cost marque by SAIC-GM is not wasting time, now spurning out the 360 MPV unveiled in Beijing. Every single combustion Baojun launch in the past four years has been a blockbuster, and the 360 is headed this way too with a first month above 8.000 sales. The 730 MPV launched in August 2014 and peaked at 50.128 units in December 2016, the 560 SUV launched in July 2015 and peaked at 42.077 in March 2016, the 310 hatch and station wagon launched in September 2016 and hit a record 35.048 in December 2017, the 510 SUV launched in February 2017 and became the most successful launch in the history of automobile in China and the world (no less), hitting a monthly record of 58.006 in December 2017, and finally the 530 SUV appeared in February and has been progressing ever since, reaching 17.003 sales this month.

Baojun 360 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

There are no more prestigious antecedents to follow and the pressure is on the 360 to succeed without hurting the larger 730. Powered by the traditional GM 112hp 1.5 engine the Baojun brand has been using for most of its nameplates, the 360 is priced at an impossibly low 56.800-75.800 yuan (7.600-10.100€, US$8.800-11.800) and once again features interior quality, materials and luxuries (electric seats…) that set it miles above the local competition. The only competing vehicle that could potentially come close is the markedly more expensive BYD Song MAX (79.900-129.900). But this is where things get challenging for Baojun, as its main competition is internal. The 360 is priced similarly to the Wuling Hongguang S3 (56.800-81.800) and undercuts the larger Baojun 730 (60.800-108.800) which it is already hurting: the 730 is down an abysmal 69% year-on-year in May. It looks like a frustratingly repeating scenario for Baojun as the 530 is slowly but surely hampering the 510 which itself absolutely annihilated the 560.

Bar for success: 20.000 monthly units

Changhe A6. Picture ez.edushi.com

2. Changhe A6 (#239 – 1.553 sales)

New owner BAIC continues to try and revive the Changhe brand from a low-cost MPV-maker into a generalist marque, however there had been a drought of new models since August 2016 and the launch of the Q35 small SUV. Even though these two nameplates have already appeared in the retail sales charts, Changhe launches a two-pronged attack this year, now apparent in wholesales, starting with the A6. It is unchartered territory for Changhe as the brand has never launched a standalone hatchback before, notwithstanding the cooperations with Suzuki, and it faced with an uphill battle in an extremely competitive field.

Changhe A6 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Priced between 69.800 and 99.800 yuan (9.300-13.300€ or US$10.800-15.500), the A6 competes with fellow BAIC sedan Senova D50 (67.900-113.800), also going against the outright leaders in the Chinese-branded sedan segment: the Geely Emgrand (69.800-100.800), Changan Eado (71.900-105.900) and Geely Emgrand GL (78.800-115.800), even though a more direct competitor would seem to be the similarly-shaped but surprisingly cheaper Chery Arrizo 5 (49.900-97.900). So in a few words, lots of sales potential for the A6 but a very crowded sandpit. Changhe should remain humble in its sales objectives given the lack of experience of the brand in this segment, so a modest 3.000 monthly units is our bar for success.

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units

Changhe Q7. Picture sohu.com

3. Changhe Q7 (#255 – 1.323 sales)

The second nameplate in a very impressive 2018 Changhe attack, the Q7 totally bluffed me when I discovered it at the Guangzhou Auto Show last November with a prestigious cockpit rarely seen in any Chinese manufacturer, let alone Changhe which comes at the tail end of local marques. While keeping all the luxuries it displayed in Guangzhou, the Q7 market launch reveals an impossibly low price – a Change trait – from 87.900 to 148.900 yuan (11.750-19.900€ or US$13.700-23.100). This sets it in the same bracket as blockbusters such as the Haval H6 (103.000-146.800), Geely Boyue (98.800-159.800) and Baojun 530 (75.800-115.800) except these are all 5-seaters whereas the Q7 is a generous 7-seater.

Changhe Q7 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

In fact, the Q7’s true competitors are fellow dirt-cheap 7-seaters such as the BAIC Hyosow S7 (78.800-115.800), Bisu T5 (72.900-104.900), Chana CX70 (59.900-109.900) and Dongfeng Fengguang 580 (78.900-123.000). Even then, all of these offerings don’t come close to the refinement that the Q7 cockpit is offering, with only the Dongfeng able to pretend at anything else than a low-cost label. This makes the Q7 the best value for money 7-seat SUV in the Chinese market (therefore the world), no less. But although huge success would be deserved, as it is the case for the A6 Changhe should be prudent with sales targets as the Q7 is so off-brand (in a good way) that it may actually not be credible to its target customers for which the Changhe brand carries no prestige at all. Changhe could (should) be onto some gold here, but the hardest part will be convincing consumers to even consider the brand in the first place.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

4. FAW Besturn Senia R9 (#277 – 993 sales)

The Senia R9 was the main attraction on struggling FAW’s stand at the Beijing Auto Show in April. First Auto Works, as its name indicates the very first automobile manufacturer to have been founded in China, is down 39% in May and 13% so far in 2018 so it needs all the help any new and modern-looking SUV can bring. Oddly, the Senia R9 appears twice in this month’s sales charts: once under the FAW-Jilin subsidiary with 634 sales (logical, as this is where the Senia sub-brand was born) and once under the Besturn sub-brand with 359 sales, which doesn’t make any sense. This naming confusion was already present at the Beijing Auto Show in April.

FAW Besturn Senia R9 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

To add to the mess, Senia even seems to have been elevated to a brand, with its own logo on the grille and steering wheel. The first Senia was a rebadged Daihatsu Xenia (hence the sub-brand name) launched in 2007 and now called S80, and it was followed by the Senia R7 launched in May 2016 and peaking at 10.207 sales in November 2017. Depressingly for FAW, this month only the Besturn X40 manages to sell more than 1.000 units… Powered by a weak 1.2T engine, the R9 is priced from 83.900 to 125.900 yuan (vs. 66.900-106.900 for the R7) and comes in competition with virtually every strong selling Chinese SUV in the market, among them the Haval H6, GAC Trumpchi GS4, Geely Boyue and Changan CS55. There’s definitely room for more, but the fight will be tough. FAW desperately needs the R9 to succeed, even if it means killing 3-4 sedans to let it flourish.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

5. WEY P8 (#330 – 503 sales)

WEY is a new SUV semi-premium brand launched in 2017 by Great Wall to top its Haval lineup. It has snapped blockbuster status straight away, becoming by far the best-selling new brand in China over the past year with a stunning 154.000 units sold in 12 months, including 67.000 so far in 2018. However, after brilliantly crossing the 20.000 monthly unit mark from November 2017 to January 2018, it has since depleted quite significantly, down to just 11.079 in May which is just enough to outsell its main local competitor Lynk & Co (9.234) even though the latter only has one nameplate in market. The VV7 (June 2017) and VV5 (September 2017) have nabbed almost identical volumes, the former peaking at 10.551 in December 2017 and the latter at 10.798 that same month. They are down to around 5.000 sales each this month, so it’s time for fresh metal to revive sales, and this is where the P8 comes in although it might struggle doing so with its high price tag.

WEY P8 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The P8 is Great Wall’s first hybrid SUV and the first vehicle built on the company’s Pi4 plug-in hybrid four-wheel drive platform that powers the front wheels with a conventional 234hp 2.0 petrol engine and the rear wheels via a dedicated 85kW electric motor. Its technology prices it between 292.800 to 312.800 yuan (39.200-41.850€ or US$45.500-48.600) well above the existing VV5 (150.000-163.000) and VV7 (167.800-188.800). It enters a relatively virgin segment, with only the BYD Tang (292.800-299.900) positioned similarly, and perhaps the RX5 New Energy (195.900-296.800). The Tang has a personal best of 5.503 sales in December 2015 while the RX5 NE’s best is 3.339 units this month. Hitting these scores would be a great start for the P8.

Bar for success: 4.000 monthly units

6. Skoda Kamiq (#343 – 402 sales)

The Kamiq is exclusive to China and Skoda’s third new SUV launch in China in the past year after the Kodiaq (April 2017) peaking at 7.030 sales in December and the Karoq (January 2018) up to 2.668 units in April. Skoda enjoys a more premium positioning in China compared to Europe and therefore is able to stick relatively expensive price tags on its models. The Kodiaq is available from 189.800 to 268.800 yuan (25.400-36.100€ or US$29.500-41.800) while the Karoq goes for 139.900-185.900 yuan (18.700-24.900€ or US$21.800-28.900) and although no official pricing has been announced yet, the Kamiq should follow the trend with an estimated 120.000-140.000 yuan price range (16.100-18.700€ or US$18.700-21.800).

Skoda Kamiq interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

This pits the Kamiq against similarly sized foreign-branded blockbusters such as the Honda XR-V (127.800-162.800) or Hyundai ix25 (109.800-152.800). This is a difficult spot for foreign carmakers as it makes these models compete with much larger and sophisticated local fares such as the Haval H6, GAC Trumpchi GS4 and Geely Boyue, and even much more refined 7-seaters such as the Changhe Q7 (see above) so the Kamiq has its work cut out. It is powered by an old-fashioned and weak 100hp 1.5 engine mated to a 5-speed manual or six-speed automatic which will make it all the more difficult to compete with more modern and cheaper Chinese fares, especially as the Kamiq is aimed at a younger, more affluent audience in large cities.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

7. Jeep Grand Commander (#356 – 326 sales)

Almost three years after becoming a local producer with the Cherokee launched in November 2015, Jeep steps up to an essential step in becoming truly engrained in China: launching a nameplate exclusive to this market. It is the Grand Commander, the brand’s only 7-seater and the first China-only model in the history of Jeep, reviving the Commander nameplate that was used between 2005 and 2010. The Grand Commander is the production version of the Yuntu Concept presented at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2017. It is powered by a 2.0T 234hp or 256hp engine both coupled with a nine-speed automatic gearbox. Strangely for the brand, the two base versions are 2WD only.

Jeep Grand Commander interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Priced from 279.800 to 409.800 yuan (37.400-54.800€ or US$43.500-63.700), the Grand Commander competes with the Ford Edge (229.800-429.800), Toyota Highlander (239.800-422.800) and VW Teramont (308.900-518.900). These three models have all reached high sales volumes: the Edge’s personal best is 13.837 in December 2016, the Highlander’s is 12.018 in January 2017 and the Teramont’s is 11.238 in November 2017. As far as Jeep nameplates are concerned, the Cherokee peaked at 10.109 in December 2016, the Compass at 10.302 in December 2017 and the Renegade at 5.137 also in December 2017. Although it has been a smashing success in the past 2 years, the fact is in 2018 Jeep is in great difficulty with sales down a worrying 34% over the first five months and down 48% in May. The Grand Commander couldn’t come soon enough and should at least do better than the Renegade.

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

8. Borgward BX6 (#396 – 118 sales)

German marque Borgward was reborn in 2016 thanks to Foton Motor, property of the BAIC Group. Although selling overpriced rebadged BAIC SUVs under an unknown European badge seemed like a stretch at the time, especially after a disastrous unveiling at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 2015, there’s no denying the Borgward reboot has been a success. In less than two years, Borgward has sold 86.798 units in China, for now the only market where the brand exists. The brand’s entire marketing revolves around its prestigious German past, with slogans such as “Since 1919″ despite the half-century production interruption and the listing of the brand’s achievements at the peak of its glory in the 1950s: “A direct competitor to Mercedes”, “One of Germany’s Top 4 Carmakers” (along with Volkswagen, Opel and Mercedes) and “Cumulative sales of 1 million units”. Borderline (or plain?) misleading, with the fact that not a single Borgward is manufactured in Germany conveniently bypassed by . Even the Chinese name for Borgward (Baowo 宝沃) has a premium European taste: it is a mix of BMW (Baoma 宝马) and Volvo (Woer’Wo 沃尔沃)…

Old and new Borgward logo

Borgward BX6 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

And it’s worked. Focusing solely on SUVs which have been the main engine of Chinese growth over the past half-decade, Borgward has carved itself a place under the sun, but new metal is now needed to keep the marque afloat. The BX7 launched in July 2016 and hit a peak of 5.556 units in December 2016 but has not been above 3.000 units in over a year, even crumbling down to just 211 sales last February. The smaller BX5 launched in April 2017 and reached a personal best of 3.710 units in December 2017. Unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show in March 2016, the BX6 is based on the BX5 and took its sweet time to hit the market but its refreshing blend of SUV, sedan and coupe à la BMW X4 sets it apart from the mainstream pack of cloned Chinese SUVs. Priced between 182.800 and 199.800 yuan (24.500-26.700€ or US$28.400-31.100), it is on the dearer side like all Borgwards and could potentially compete with simialrly shaped locals such as the Venucia T90 (109.800-154.800), Lynk & Co 02 (142.000-198.000) and the upcoming Bisu T7.

Bar for success: 4.000 monthly units

9. BMW X3 (#415 – 48 sales)

The new generation X3 is only the second SUV manufactured by BMW in China. As an import it ranked 4th best-seller outright in 2017 with 34.442 sales below its larger brother the X5 ranking #2 with 51.878 deliveries. That should give a pretty good indication of the X3’s huge sales potential as a locally-manufactured nameplate. The X3 made and sold in China is exactly the same as the in the rest of the world (no lengthening of the wheelbase) and it should climb near the top of BMW sales in the country, even potentially becoming the brand’s best-seller in China if its competitors’ sales figures are anything to go by.

BMW X3 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The X3 is powered by a choice of two 2.0T engines at 184 or 252hp and is priced from 399.800 to 585.800 yuan (53.500- 78.400€ or US$62.200-91.100). It goes full-frontal against the Audi Q5 (396.400-519.200) and Mercedes GLC (394.800-579.000). Both German SUVs are their respective brands’ best-selling SUVs in China and third best-selling models outright. The Q5 ranks below the A4L and A6L so far in 2018 but ranked #2 Audi in August, September, December 2017 and January 2018, reaching a record 16.688 sales in January. The GLC ranks below the C- and E-Class but was Mercedes’ best-seller in China in April 2018, hitting a record 13.152 units in January. The X3 should aim at similar levels.

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly units

10. VW T-Roc (#439 – 4 sales)

Volkswagen’s compact crossover, the T-Roc, needs no introduction and as it is starting to make its mark in Europe, the much-awaited China launch is now upon us. The China-made version of the T-Roc is longer than the European one by 77 mm and higher by 9 mm with its wheelbase gaining the most at 84 mm, mainly to benefit back passengers. It is powered by a 1.4T 150hp engine Size: 4318/1819/1582, and as we write these lines pricing information is not yet known for China. Volkswagen has been surprisingly slow to react to the SUV storm that has engulfed the Chinese market for the past five years, only launching the 7-seat Teramont in January 2017. It peaked at 11.238 units in November 2017 while the Tiguan’s highest monthly volume stands at 37.971 in October 2017.

VW T-Roc interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Volkswagen runs two joint-ventures in China and both its current SUVs are manufactured by the Shanghai-Volkswagen joint-venture. As incredible as it sounds, the T-Roc will be the first SUV manufactured by Volkswagen’s second joint-venture in the country, FAW-Volkswagen. This is the most important piece of information to remember about the T-Roc in order to predict its success, and needless to say that, as much as VW’s sedan sales remain extremely strong through both joint-ventures, FAW-Volkswagen dealers have been gagging for at least one SUV to add to their lineup for many years now. Therefore the sales potential of the T-Roc is enormous, and FAW-VW will expect it to weigh the same volume both the Tiguan and the Teramont currently command for Shanghai-VW. That’s a big ask, but they would be in their right to work towards it. Oddly, Shanghai-VW is getting a third SUV in the coming months, the Tharu, which is sure to enrage FAW-VW even further.

Bar for success: 20.000 monthly units

Previous month: China April 2018: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago: China May 2017: Focus on the All-new models

China April 2018: Focus on the All-new models

Hyundai Encino

As per the BSCB tradition, after covering April sales in detail, we now focus on the all-new locally produced launches so you can stay up-to-the-minute on the fastest-evolving – and largest – automobile market in the world: China. Our “Focus on the All-new models” updates remain based on wholesales data. Like last month, the class of April 2017 counts 5 newcomers, but this time it’s 3 SUVs, one MPV and one station wagon. Keep track of the fast-expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 146 Chinese Brands, updated live.

1. Hyundai Encino (#127 – 4.385 sales)

By far the most successful new entrant in April, the Hyundai Encino is in fact a slightly longer Kona at 4.195m instead of 4.165m. China is the second market in the world not to adopt the original name: it is called Kauai in Portugal because Kona sounds like Portuguese for an expletive describing female genitalia…but despite some research I still don’t know why the name was changed for China – if you do please comment. The Encino lands in the red-hot small crossover segment where Hyundai has managed to be a lot faster than Toyota with its C-HR.

Hyundai Encino interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The stars of the segment, the Honda XR-V/Vezel tandem, sold exactly one million units in China since their launch in late 2014, so the commercial potential of the Encino is huge. Despite being longer than the overseas version, it is still shorter than most of its competitors. Its pricing is in line with most of the Westerners in the segment: from 129.900 to 155.900 yuan (US$20.400-24.500 or 17.300-20.800€) vs. 127.800-162.800 for the Honda XR-V, 128.800-189.800 for the Honda Vezel and 139.800-189.800 for the Nissan Qashqai. Only the less sophisticated Nissan Kicks at 99.800-134.800 is priced lower. Within the Hyundai lineup however, the Encino will need to count on its quirky styling to justify a higher pricing vs. the larger ix25 (109.800-152.800) and ix35 (119.900-161.900). We expect at least 10.000 monthly units to call it a success.

Bar for success: 10.000 monthly units

2. Nissan Terra (#204 – 2.211 sales)

The Nissan Terra is for now exclusive to China and manufactured by the Zhengzhou Nissan joint-venture. It is the SUV variant of the Nissan Navara pickup, also produced in China. It replaces the Nissan Paladin that will also continue to be sold. The Terra is therefore the latest in an expanding list of pickup-based mid-size SUVs that also includes the Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Isuzu MU-X, Chevrolet Trailblazer and Ford Everest. However the Terra is the odd one out as it is priced significantly lower than all its aforementioned siblings: from 169.800 to 245.800 yuan (US$26.700-38.600 or 22.600-32.700€) which is a lot of foreign SUV for the money – the Terra is a 4.88m long 4WD powered by a 184hp 2.5l engine mated with 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic.

Nissan Terra interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The Terra is even cheaper than the much smaller Nissan X-Trail (179.800-268.800 yuan). This cut-throat pricing transpires in the cockpit, very basic with a 5 inch touchscreen – Chinese models costing one-third of the price wouldn’t be seen with anything less than double that – and the fact that it is strictly a 5-seater contrary to most of its competitors. These include the Honda Avancier (220.000-329.800 yuan), Ford Edge (229.800-429.800), Toyota Highlander (239.800-422.800), VW Teramont (308.900-518.900) and Toyota Prado (464.800-636.800). But its true siblings are the pickup-based Isuzu MU-X (178.800-268.800), Ford Everest (265.500-357.700), and the imported Toyota Fortuner (250.000) and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport (368.000-398.000). Its price even enables the Terra to compete with large Chinese 5-seater SUVs such as the Haval H8 (183.800-231.800) and GAC Trumpchi GS7 (149.800-209.800).

Bar for success: 6.000 monthly units

3. Roewe RX8 (#276 – 998 sales)

The RX8 is Roewe’s new flagship: a 4.93m long 7-seat SUV powered by a 224 hp 2.0 turbo engine and based on the same platform as fellow SAIC output the Maxus D90. The RX8 showcases its 4WD abilities loud and clear with no less than six driving modes, from off-road to snow to sport. Both exterior and interior designs are very pleasant and give the RX8 almost a luxurious feel. However well designed the central console is with a seamless integration of the touch screen (tell that to Mercedes!), material quality is not quite up there yet as I could verify at the Beijing Auto Show last month.

Roewe RX8 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The RX8 has for objective to replicate the tremendous success of the RX5 in a segment one notch above and the one to follow among Chinese carmakers in this exercise is clearly GAC Trumpchi which managed to be the first local manufacturer to truly crack the large SUV equation with the GS8. That very nameplate is in the RX8’s direct line of fire. Priced from 168.800 to 251.800 yuan (US$26.500-39.500 or 22.500-33.500€), the RX8 almost exactly matches the GS8 price range of 163.800-259.800 with other competitors including the Maxus D90 (156.700-266.300), Haval H9 (199.800-272.800) and among foreigners the much smaller Mitsubishi Outlander (159.800-223.800) and Chevrolet Equinox (174.200-250.900).

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly units

4. BAIC Hyosow H5 (#329 – 473 sales)

Although the Hyosow H5 MPV hasn’t officially launched yet, it already appears in the sales charts with 473 wholesales. It is powered by the same 133hp 1.3 engine that can be found on the Hyowsow S5 SUV and should see its pricing start under 60.000 yuan (US$9.400 or 7.990€) given the smaller H3 MPV (55.800-69.000) and equivalent S5 SUV (59.800-85.800) price ranges.

BAIC Hyosow H5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The Hyosow lineup has come a long way since the launch of the S3 in August 2014 (peak of 20.868 in December 2015) and the H3 in October 2015 (peak of 12.333 in December 2016) with both exterior and interior designs improving by leaps and bounds. However, somewhat paradoxically sales also seemed to take a hard hit in the past year or so so commercial prospects for the modern-looking H5 are a little uncertain.

Bar for success: 4.000 monthly units

5. FAW Jumpal CX65 (#365 – 216 sales)

Final entrant for the month, the FAW Jumpal was originally unveiled as a half-concept at the Shanghai Auto Show a year ago before officially appearing in Guangzhou last November. It’s the latest iteration of fast-improving FAW and the second “cross-country” station wagon by a Chinese manufacturer after the Dongfeng Fengshen AX3 launched in January 2016. The CX65 combines sharp exterior design with a surprisingly classy dashboard but is powered by a weak 115hp 1.5 engine and indeed aligns its pricing almost exactly on the AX3: from a ridiculously low 70.000 to 90.000 yuan (US$10.995-14.100 or 9.300-11.990€) vs. 69.900-87.900 for the Dongfeng. The CX65 is based on the Jumpal A50 sedan (55.900-72.900).

FAW is trying to replicate the success of the VW C-Trek with the Jumpal CX65.FAW Jumpal CX65 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Inspired by the cross-country Volvo wagons such as the defunct XC70, the V60CC and V90CC, the CX65 positions itself as a half-price VW C-Trek, which peaked at 7.812 sales in October 2017 and goes for 116.900-162.900 yuan. Other models targeted by the CX65 include the Skoda Octavia Scout (119.900-179.900), VW Cross Lavida (148.900-171.900) and, to a lesser extent because not SUV-looking, the Excelle GX (119.900-146.900). More realistic sales benchmarks would be the 4.624 record sales hit by the Dongfeng Fengshen AX3 in January 2017 and the high of 2.198 managed by the Jumpal A50 sedan so far, in February 2018. In this context, aiming for at least 3.500 monthly units seems reasonable.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

China March 2018: Focus on the All-new models

Zotye T500

As per the BSCB tradition, after covering March sales in detail, we can now focus on the all-new locally produced launches so you can stay up-to-date on the fastest-evolving automobile market in the world. Note that with the arrival of bi-monthly updates for China on BSCB (wholesales and retail), you may have already picked up some of these new entrants in last month’s retail update, our “Focus on the All-new models” will remain based on our wholesales updates until further noticed. After just one new entrant in February – the Baojun 530 already above 12.000 sales this month – the class of March 2017 counts 5 newcomers, 4 SUVs and one station wagon, and two of them are New Energy vehicles. You can stay up-to-the-minute on the fast-expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 146 Chinese Brands, updated live.

1. Zotye T500 (#133 – 4.947 sales)

Unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show back in April 2017 but launched only recently, the T500 pleasantly surprises as one (the only?) Zotye that is not copied on any German (read Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche) model. It logically slots in between the smaller T300 and larger T600 in the “standard” Zotye line-up. Priced from 69.800 to 123.800 yuan (US$ 11.100-19.700), it is powered by a choice of 116 hp 1.6 or 156hp 1.5 turbo engine and features a very attractively designed dashboard (see below). However, the T500 adds to the already crowded army of very similarly sized and priced Zotye already in market, such as the Damai X5 (69.900-111.900 yuan), SR7 (66.800-101.800) and the brand’s very first offer in the segment, the T600 (79.800-142.800 yuan).

Zotye T500 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Add to these two additional nameplates sold under different brands but remaining “Zotye-at-heart”: the Hanteng X5 (59.800-106.800 yuan) and Traum S70 (81.900-115.900 yuan). Local outlet Autohome.com.cn pits the T500 against such blockbusters as the Haval H6 (103.000-146.800 yuan), Changan CS55 (83.900-132.900 yuan) and Baojun 530 (75.800-115.800 yuan). Zotye has got us used to having its best-selling SUVs cross the monthly 10.000 unit-mark, such as the T300 (personal best of 12.093 in December 2017), T600 (15.547 in November 2015), T700 (14.411 in December 2017) or Damai X5 (12.266 in December 2015). Given its price, the T500 should also achieve this milestone to be deemed a success.

Bar for success: 10.000 monthly units

Haval H4 (red label)Haval H4 (blue label)

2. Haval H4 (#255 – 1.429 sales)

Haval being the #1 SUV brand in China, every new nameplate launch by the Great Wall-owned brand is an event. Unveiled at the Guangzhou Auto Show in November 2017, the H4 unfortunately looks like many of the brand’s or WEY’s recent launches, and is instantly available in red or blue label versions that only differ with their front and back body design. The H4’s interior is of great quality as we have come to expect from the brand, but a little schizophrenic, hesitating between the straight lines of its strangely floating touch screen and the more rounded aspects of the rest of its cockpit.

Haval H4 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The H4 is powered by a choice of two engines: a new 139hp 1.3 turbo and a 170hp 1.5 turbo, both mated to a seven-speed DCT. It is priced between 106.000 and 116.000 yuan (US$16.900-18.500) and slots in-between the H2s (84.000-103.000 yuan) and the new H6 (118.800-132.800 yuan), two Haval nameplates from which it only differs very slightly. Both Haval’s previous two launches have crossed the 10.000 unit-mark once since their launch: the H7 appeared in April 2016 and hit 10.852 in December 2016 while the M6 landed in August 2017 and reached 10.059 deliveries in November of the same year. We should expect the same from the H4, which autohome.com.cn pits against the H6, H6 Coupe, Geely Boyue (98.800-159.800 yuan) and Changan CS55 (83.900-132.900 yuan).

Bar for success: 10.000 monthly units

3. Roewe Ei5 (#312 – 714 sales)

The Roewe Ei5 is a rarity: it’s the first pure electric station wagon by a Chinese brand to be launched here. Under a stylish exterior in fact hides the platform of the Buick Excelle GX, thanks to the fact that SAIC, Roewe’s parent company, is one of the joint-venture partners of General Motors. The two models however do not compete with each other as the Excelle GX (119.900-146.900 yuan, or US$19.100-23.400) isn’t available as an electric variant while at this stage the Ei5 only exists as such, and is priced from 213.800 to 223.800 yuan (US$34.000-35.600) before government subsidies. The Ei5 follows a new naming pattern inaugurated by the i6 sedan launched a year ago in March 2017.

Roewe Ei5 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The Ei5 is powered by a 116hp electric motor, with Roewe announcing a 300 km range and 145 km/h top speed. Later in 2018, the carmaker will release petrol version of this model which will be called i5. They will be powered by the same engines as the Buick Excelle GX: a 125hp 1.0 and 163hp 1.3. Competitors for the Ei5 are spread across a large spectrum going from fellow station wagons – such as the Excelle GX itself, the VW Gran Lavida (112.900-162.900 yuan) and the C-Trek (116.900-162.900 yuan) – to similarly-sized New Energy vehicles such as the BYD Qin (185.900-260.700 yuan) and the Roewe RX5 EV (265.900-296.800 yuan).

Bar for success: (Ei5) 2.500 monthly units, (i5) 5.000 monthly units

4. DS 7 (#379 – 174 sales)

DS (pronounced déesse, French for goddess) is a French premium marque launched as a sub-brand in 2009 by PSA Peugeot-Citroen, then becoming a standalone brand in 2014. Its name is a reference to the historical Citroen DS and is an abbreviation of Different Spirit. The new DS 7, launched in late last year in Europe, has now reached Chinese shores and is the brand’s new flagship. I talked about it in my Guangzhou Auto Show 2017 highlights. Although all Peugeot and Citroen models are made in China by the Dongfeng-PSA joint-venture, DS cars are manufactured by the Changan-PSA joint-venture. DS is in dire straits in China with last year’s sales imploding 64% from 16.156 in 2016 to just 5.847 in 2016.

DS 7 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The DS 7 is thus awaited like the messiah but the task at hand is monumental: the DS brand hasn’t had a four-digit sales month since January 2017 and with just 174 sales for its very first appearance in the Chinese wholesales charts it already accounts for 56% of the brand’s volume in March… The rest of the lineup is all but dead: 72 DS 4S, 35 DS 5LS, 25 DS 6 and just 4 DS 5. Powered by a 217hp 1.6 turbo engine, the 7 is 4.57m long and based on the PSA EMP2 platform. It is priced between 213.900 and 314.900 yuan (US$ 34.000-50.100). If in Europe the DS 7 aims at the Volvo XC60 (369.900-479.900 yuan) and Audi Q5 (399.600-519.200 yuan), in China DS has priced its new flagship a lot lower. The result: the local press doesn’t really consider it premium and pits it against compatriots the Peugeot 4008 (185.700-273.700 yuan) and Renault Koleos (179.800-269.800 yuan) which actually makes more sense.

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units

5. Yudo π3 (#398 – 70 sales)

Yudo New Energy is a new electric vehicle manufacturer partly owned by Fujian Motor and the Putian city, located in the eastern Fujian province. The brand’s first two production models, the π1 and π3 crossovers, were both unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2017, with a commercial launch for the π1 happening in July 2017. We detailed its actual appearance in the wholesales ranking last January. Now is the turn of the much more extravagantly designed π3, landing just inside the March Top 400 with a very modest 70 sales for now. The initial annual capacity of Yudo’s factory in 80.000 units, so this figure can climb up comfortably in the near future.

Yudo π3 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Priced between 170.800 and 186.800 yuan before green cars subsidies (US$27.200-29.700) and announcing a 250 km range, the π3 competes with the likes of the Changan CS15EV (189.400-196.400 yuan) and JAC iEV7S (207.100 yuan).The success of electric vehicles remain for now heavily dependent on car-sharing schemes in China, with private ownership still nascent. Yudo’s association with a province may restrict its expansion across the nation and muzzle its sales though.

Bar for success: 2.000 monthly units

Previous month: China February 2018: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago: China February-March 2017: Focus on the All-new models

China February 2018: Focus on the All-new models

As per the BSCB tradition, after covering February sales in detail, we now focus on the all-new locally produced launches so you can stay up-to-date on the fastest-evolving automobile market in the world. After 7 new entrants in December and 9 in January, the February 2018 class amounts to a very lonely single new start, due to the fact that the Chinese New Year Holiday falls right in the middle of the month this year. But as far as new starts are concerned, this could be one of the most anticipated this year. You can stay up-to-the-minute on the fast expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 144 Chinese Brands.

1. Baojun 530 (#182 – 2.005 sales)

Just this month, the Baojun 510 has managed to dislodge the Haval H6 from the SUV throne it held for the past 55 consecutive months. Yet at the time of launch in February 2017, the 510 was an audacious design bet, parting with the conservative (but extremely successful) lines of the 730 MPV and 560 SUV. A bet it has transformed in the most spectacular way: with 416.883 sales in its first 12 months, the Baojun 510 has become the most popular new car ever introduced in the world, beating the previous record held for the past 40 years by the Ford Fairmont with 405.780 units sold in its first year of sale in the US in 1978. The 510 also became the fastest nameplate in China to 300.000 units (10 months vs. 11 for the Baojun 560) and to 400.000 units (12 months).

Baojun 530 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The Baojun brand was founded in 2010 and is owned by the SAIC-GM Wuling joint venture. The low-cost marque builds on the extraordinarily successful 510’s sharp design with this larger 530 which has large shoes to fill to say the least. At 4.66m long, the 530 however remains a 5-seater and is priced from 75.800 to 115.800 yuan (US$11.970-18.300), to be compared with the 510 at 54.800-76.800 yuan and the 560 at 69.800-117.800 yuan, making the 530 Baojun’s new flagship. It is powered by a 150hp 1.5 turbo coupled with a six-speed manual or DCT or a 137hp 1.8 coupled with a 5-speed manual. No all-wheel-drive option is available.

The 530 enters a rapidly saturating market, competing with the likes of the Haval H6, Changan CS55 and CS75, all blockbuster sellers. Before it, the Baojun 560 managed to sell 112.000 units it its first 5 months and 319.536 it its first 12 and the 510 is the most successful car launch in history. Given how similar the 530 looks to the 510, it would be unreasonable to expect the same performance level, but Baojun should count on at least 20.000 monthly units to deem the 530 a success. The main challenge for the 530 will however be internal: minimising cannibalisation of the 510, as the latter has totally annihilated the 560.

Bar for success: 20.000 monthly units

Previous month: China January 2018: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago: China February-March 2018: Focus on the All-new models

China January 2018: Focus on the All-new models

Traum S70

As per the BSCB tradition, after covering January sales in detail, we now focus on the all-new locally produced launches so you can stay up-to-date on the fastest-evolving automobile market in the world. After seven new entrants in December, the 2018 year starts with 9 newcomers for January vs. just 6 a year ago, but none reach 2.000 units for the month. Illustrating the incredible dynamism of local manufacturers, 7 of these 9 new entrants are Chinese, 3 of them inaugurating a new brand – as many as last month. One is Japanese and one is Czech, while in terms of segments we have 5 SUVs and 4 Sedans, the latter being interestingly high. But fear not, you can stay up-to-the-minute on the fast expanding list of all active Chinese brands by consulting our Exclusive Guide to all 143 Chinese Brands.

1. Traum S70 (#245 – 1.519 sales)

First off the starting blocks in January is new brand Traum, created by Zotye Auto in June 2017 and German for dream. The Chinese name is Junma (君马) translated as Supreme Horse. All Traum-branded vehicles will be manufactured by Jiangnan Auto, a subsidiary of Zotye which until now was reduced to selling a 1985 Maruti 800. Traum already has two nameplates to its name: the MEET3 based on the Zotye SR7 and this S70, looking pretty sharp with a gaping grille, aggressive headlight and a floating roofline. Priced from 81.900 to 115.900 yuan (US$12.900-18.300) and powered by a 156hp 1.5T engine mated to a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic, the S70 enters the most cluttered segment in China: compact SUVs, that also houses the best-sellers in the overall SUV segment such as the Haval H6, GAC Trumpchi GS4 and Geely Boyue. The task is difficult but not impossible, as Zotye has already demonstrated with the success of the Hanteng brand.

Traum S70 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The S70’s pièce de résistance is, as it is the case for more and more Chinese vehicles, to be found inside with a tremendous 25 inch touch screen combining the instrument panel and entertainment unit looking very luxurious indeed, especially for the price it’s asking. A seven-seat variant will be launched later, putting all the cards in its game to guarantee a solid success. All the elements are united for the S70 and future Traum nameplates to find its place in the crowded Chinese SUV market. A long-term objective of 5.000 monthly units will establish the brand the same way Hanteng did 18 months ago.

Bar for success: 5.000 monthly units

2. Lifan X70 (#263 – 1.238 sales)

Alternating ok months with disastrous ones (-27% in October, -16% in December, +10% in January), Lifan edged up 3% in 2017 at home with just under 110.000 units. The carmaker knows its salute is in the SUV segment, but after showcasing a stream of concepts in the local Auto over the past 3 years, the actual launches have been far and few between. The Myway managed to stir some interest at launch (10.080 units in December 2016) but has been down roughly 50% year-on-year every month since last June, and the X80 has but registered a blip on the radar. We are still waiting for the X40, just as both the X50 and X60 are starting to painfully show their age. In comes the X70, and it does show some significant improvement design-wise, thankfully staying clear of copycats such as the outrageous Xuanluan MPV, a clone of Ford S-Max.

Lifan X70 interior.

Launched as a concept at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2015, it took almost three years for the X70 to hit the market, and strangely it seems to have reached faraway shores faster than its home turf, with the X70 already featured and test-driven on both Argentinean and Russian car websites, markets where Lifan has managed to make some significant in-roads accompanied with Chery. Interior-wise, the progress is also showing, but the comparison set is particularly low, with Lifan still creating some of the worst-finished cockpits in the Chinese industry. No price info yet for the X70, but expect it to start around 70.000 yuan (US$11.000). The X70 is powered by a 2.0 engine mated with a 5-speed manual or CVT.

Bar for success: 4.500 monthly units

3. GAC Trumpchi GA4  (#269 – 1.164 sales)

Present at the Detroit Auto Show both in 2017 and 2018, GAC has reaffirmed its plan to enter the hyper-competitive (and saturated) U.S. market by the end of 2019. An ambitious target that would make it the first Chinese manufacturer to venture into the home of Donald Trump. GAC is counting on its Chinese joint-venture with FCA (Jeep and Fiat) to ease the process. At home, the carmaker has had a very impressive run over the past three years. The GS4 crossover has put the brand on the map with an unthinkable 800.000 units now in market, and the GS8 was the first large Chinese SUV to hit 10.000 monthly sales. The GM8 MPV is intending to reproduce the same segment-bending prowess just as the GS3 crossover is looking like a hot shot already. Sedans: like the majority of Chinese carmakers, not GAC’s forte.

GAC Trumpchi GA4 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

That doesn’t mean GAC should give up, and it is launching this GA4, as polished outside and inside, to try and follow in the steps of Geely which has been hugely successful with its sedan lineup lately. The GA4 is powered by a 137hp 1.3T or a 114hp 1.5 mated with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed auto and is priced from 73.800 to 115.800 yuan (US$11.600-18.300). It will compete full-frontal with the Geely Emgrand GL (78.800-115.800), MG 6 (96.800-132.800), Venucia D60 (69.800-111.800) and Changan Raeton CC (89.900-138.900), a really tough bunch to compete with as they all offer wildly improved perceived quality and aggressive designs. The GA3 hit 8.585 sales for its 5th month of sales in December 2014 but has only hit 1.000 units three times in the past 3 months, while the GA6 lately oscillates between 2.000 and 3.200 sales and the GA8 just crossed the 1.000 unit-milestone for the first time this month. GAC should contain its enthusiasm for the GA4: high volumes are reserved to crossovers nowadays.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

4. Skoda Karoq (#341 – 380 sales)

Launched in April 2017, the Skoda Kodiaq hit 7.000 sales in December. Skoda is on a roll, and just launched the locally-produced Karoq only a couple of months after its European debut. The Kamiq, slotted below the Karoq, will follow shortly with an official presentation scheduled for the Beijing Auto Show next April. The Karoq is set to replace the Yeti, launched here in October 2013 and whose 8.101 sales in January seem highly dubious, given they constitute – and by far – the nameplate’s volume record (previous best: 5.561 in December 2015). Skoda will want the Karoq to improve on the Kodiaq as it is smaller but also more affordable. Skoda’s positioning in China is much more high-market than it is in Europe, trying for a level of sophistication rivalling Volkswagen by playing on heritage with the “Since 1895” tagline – something that VW can’t emulate.

Skoda Karoq interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

If this is good for the bottom-line, sales volumes in turn can’t be expected to match those potentially reached in parts of Europe. Local press pits the Karoq against the blockbusters Haval H6, Changan CS75, Roewe RX5 and Geely Boyue as these four nameplates have managed to lift the brand image of Chinese manufacturers to such a level that the question is now genuinely raised as to whether to choose a foreign brand – traditionally always considered superior – or the best of the Chinese crop. Competing with local brands is not what Skoda had in mind and it indicates their ambitious aim at sophistication cannot really gel once the cockpit betrays its low-cost European origins.

Bar for success: 7.000 monthly units

5. Yudo π1 (#344 – 356 sales)

Yudo New Energy is an electric vehicle company partly owned by Fujian Motor and the Putian city, located in the eastern Fujian province. The brand’s first two production models, the π1 and π3 crossovers, were both unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show in April 2017, with a commercial launch for the π1 happening in July 2017. Delayed reporting means wholesales figures have only become available in January 2018 at a low 356. Retail figures sourced elsewhere nevertheless indicate 2.258 sales for 2017 including 2.029 π1 in December.

Yudo π1 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Priced between 138.900 and 197.500 yuan before green cars subsidies (US$21.900-31.100), the π1 competes with the 2017 best-seller in the segment, the BAIC EC-Series (151.800-164.800 yuan) as well as other electric vehicles such as the smaller Changan Benben EV (154.800-171.800 yuan) and the larger BAIC EX-Series (192.900-202.900 yuan). The success of electric vehicles remain for now heavily dependent on car-sharing schemes in China, with private ownership still nascent. Yudo’s association with a province may restrict its expansion across the nation and muzzle its sales though.

Bar for success: 2.500 monthly units

6. FAW Junpai A50 (#349 – 321 sales)

Founded in 1953, First Automotive Works, or FAW, was the very first Chinese carmaker. Its state-owned structure has traditionally hampered its development but thanks to a slew of low-cost crossover the brand is up 3% at home in 2017 to 191.000 passenger car sales. FAW has remained far from the headlines though and in just over a decade has become almost anonymous, whereas it had China’s passenger car best-seller in 2005 with the Xiali N3. Far are the times Heavy trucks are another specialty. FAW splits itself into a handful of sub-brands rebadging the same vehicles. Besturn is for slightly more sophisticated fares whereas both Senya and Junpai are manufactured by FAW-Jilin, the latter specifically aimed at replacing Xiali low-cost models. Accordingly, the A50 sedan is available at cut-throat pricing: from a mere 60.000 to 68.000 yuan (US$9.500-10.700)! That’s a lot of – relatively modern and good-looking – car for the money, the A50 coming in at 4.59m long.

FAW Junpai A50 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Powered by a 112hp 1.5 engine mated with a seven-speed DCT, it also has some oomph and a respectable interior (especially for its price) that will surely help it fight the likes of the Chery Arrizo 5 (63.900-97.900 yuan), Geely Vision (53.900-72.900 yuan) and Great Wall C30 (54.900-74.900). The Junpai A50 will exclusively be aimed at third- and fourth-tier cities as well as rural areas. Unfortunately the precedents for Junpai sedans are dismal: launched in August 2016, the A70 only managed two 4-digit sales month and a grand total of 8.103 units since launch. FAW will rather look to the similarly-sized (but frankly dearer) Besturn B30 for inspiration: a personal best of 6.219 units in January 2016.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

7. Cowin E3 (#372 – 151 sales)

In 2014, Chery decided to graduate its Cowin lineup into a fully fledged low-cost brand aimed at younger first-time buyers in second and third tier cities. But despite the services of a new design agency led by Pininfarina’s ex-director Lowie Vermeersch and two large and affordable crossovers, the V3 and X3, Cowin sold less than 50.000 new cars in 2017. Worse: sales are freefalling 66% at the start of 2018. Chery seems to already have given up: the X5 crossover is a rebadged Chery Tiggo 5 and for this E3, Cowin doesn’t makes the effort of renaming the car! This is indeed a Chery E3 with subtle cosmetic adjustments.

Cowin E3 interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

Problem: this is a very low margin, highly competitive segment with numerous Chinese offerings already well established and the Chery E3 wasn’t even a blockbuster to start with, peaking at 10.678 wholesales for its 5th month in market in January 2014 but failing to hit 2.500 monthly sales since March 2016…  Powered by the same 109hp 1.5 engine as the Chery mated with a 5-speed manual, to add insult to injury the Cowin E3 is not even particularly cheap: priced from 52.900 to 72.900 yuan (US$8.300-11.500). It is undercut in price by larger and arguably better vehicles such as the Geely King Kong (43.900-65.900 yuan), BYD F3 (43.900-77.900 yuan) and even a foreigner: the Hyundai Verna (49.900-73.900 yuan). You will have guessed it, the very launch of the Cowin E3 seems like a waste of marketing money.

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units

8. Acura TLX-L (#377 – 137 sales)

Acura is a newcomer on the local production scene, with its first China-made nameplate being the CDX crossover launched in March 2017 and exclusive to this market. After 10 consecutive months above 1.000 units and a peak at 1.962 in December, the CDX crumbled in January at just 500 wholesales, coinciding with the release of the brand’s second local product: the TLX-L, an extended wheelbase variant of the TLX sold in America. It follows in the steps of almost all premium carmakers selling extended variants of their worldwide best-sellers to satisfy a Chinese clientele that gets chauffeured and therefore needs extra space in the back.

Acura TLX-L interior. Picture courtesy autohome.com.cn

All-in-all, 13.191 China-made Acuras were sold in China over the Full Year 2017, less than half the amount of China-made Infinitis sold in the same period (27.826) and only one-tenth of all imported Lexus (130.348). In other words, a disappointment. And given the SUV craze that is hitting China much like the rest of the world, it’s not certain that a sedan will help. Powered by a 208hp 2.4 engine mated with an 8-speed DCT, the TLX-L is priced from 279.800 to 379.800 yuan (US$44.100-59.900) and enters a segment already cornered by the Audi A4L (292.800-409.800), Mercedes C-Class L (312.800-489.000), BMW 3 Series L (288.000-486.900), Cadillac ATS-L (298.800-428.800) and Infiniti Q50L (279.800-409.800). Brand loyalty is much higher with premium marques in China, therefore convincing German premium owners to switch to little-known Acura that offers no price advantage will prove a challenge, a very big challenge indeed. An improvement on the slow-selling CDX is expected.

Bar for success: 2.500 monthly units

9. XPeng G3 (#403 – 39 sales)

Third new Chinese brand to make its first appearance in its home sales charts this month, Xiaopeng Motors or XPeng was founded in 2014 as an R&D bureau but is now launching its first vehicle, the electric crossover G3. XPeng Motors recruited former employees from Guangzhou Automobile, BMW, Lamborghini, BYD, ALi, Tencent, Huawei, and Samsung to help with the creation of the G3. Smartly, XPeng has chosen to opt out of manufacturing the G3 itself, instead giving this responsibility to Haima Auto in a factory located in Guangdong Province.

XPeng G3 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

That will help reduce fixed costs and may mean the company will be able to provide high volumes if the G3 is met with success: the factory’s initial annual capacity is 50.000 cars, with a full capacity of 100.000 cars. It’s hard not to mention the Tesla Model X when looking at the G3, whose angled lines and extravagant touch screen remind of the American superstar. For a fraction of the price, Chinese carbuyers can now afford to drive a local equivalent that has started being surrounded with significant buzz. Initial sales are contained but the sky is the limit for this new startup. Based on the factory’s capacity, 3.500 monthly sales as a long term target seem like a reasonable bar for success.

Bar for success: 3.500 monthly units

Previous month: China December 2017: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago: China January 2017: Focus on the All-new models

China December 2017: Focus on the All-new models

The Lynk & Co brand has now launched in China.

As is the tradition on BSCB, after covering December sales in detail, we now focus on the all-new locally produced launches so you can stay up-to-date on the fastest-evolving automobile market in the world. The December 2017 class has a clear air of Guangzhou Auto Show with almost all newcomers having made their debut there in mid-November. Make sure you check out our Guangzhou Auto Show coverage for more details on this month’s new launches. Six of December’s seven new entrants are Chinese with the only odd one out being the Jaguar XEL. We have two SUVs, two electric cars, two sedans and one MPV and, undoubtedly a first, no less than three new brands make their debut this month in China – adding to the total count of 136 Chinese Brands covered in our Exclusive Guide.

1. Chery Tiggo 5x (#79 – 10.693 sales)

Originally slated to replace the ageing Chery Tiggo 5, the 5x finally takes its place alongside it, but is priced more aggressively at 79.900-110.900 yuan (US$ 12.500-17.300) vs. 88.800-123.800 for the Tiggo 5. The 5x is also shorter at 4.34m vs. 4.51m for the Tiggo 5. In Guangzhou, the Tiggo 5x impressed me with with its interior quality but most strikingly with the design flair displayed in the cockpit, something Chery had not got us used to. The Tiggo 5x is the first car on Chery’s new T1X platform which will next be used for a seven-seat variant of the same crossover. The Tiggo 5x is priced very competitively and it will need it as it enters one of the most contested segments in the whole of the Chinese market: Chinese-branded compact crossovers. No less than 20+ other contenders are already playing in the same sandpit.

Chery Tiggo 5x interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Among them the Changan CS55 (83.900-132.900 yuan), the 2nd best-selling 2017 launch in China, the Soueast DX3 (67.900-105.900) posting a 100.000+ sales result for its first full year in market, the MG ZS (73.800-115.800) enabling the brand to double its sales year-on-year, the Zotye T300 (56.800-93.800) already above 10.000 monthly units a few months after launch and the GAC Trumpchi GS3 (73.800-116.800). Sales-wise, the Tiggo 5x lands with a bang: directly above 10.000 units which places it by far atop the Tiggo lineup this month (the Tiggo 7 is at 6.021, the Tiggo 3/3x at 7.400 and the Tiggo 5 is obliterated at -92% to just 265 sales). In terms of all-time highs, the Tiggo 7 peaked at 11.039 units in December 2016, the Tiggo 3 at 17.081 in December 2015 and the Tiggo 5 at 12.469 in December 2014, so in a sense the Tiggo 5x has already accomplished its mission but let’s give it a stretch goal at 15.000.

Bar for success: 15.000 monthly units

2. Lynk & Co 01 (#138 – 6.012 sales)

Unveiled a year ago in October 2016, Lynk & Co is a semi-premium marque owned by Geely and positioned in-between Geely and Volvo, also a Geely property. Its models are using the same platform that underpins the new Volvo XC40. In Guangzhou, the Lynk & Co stand was the hippest around with a pleasing sense of confidence peppered with some irreverent streaks. The manufacturer put the first batch of 6.000 pre-sales cars for sale online in November 2017, and they sold out in 2 minutes and 17 seconds, making the 01 the fastest-selling car in the world. These are translated into the car and brand’s first ever month of official sales in China.

Lynk & Co 01 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

It’s a solid start for the brand, which will have to confirm with growing figures over the coming months and a short-term target of 10.000 monthly units, a milestone both WEY models launched this year already reached. Yes, Great Wall Motors semi-premium SUV brand WEY is the natural local competitor for Lynk & Co but the latter also has its sights firmly set on foreign manufacturers. The 01 is priced from 158.800-220.800 yuan (20.300-28.300 € or US$24.400-33.950), to be compared with 150.000-163.000 for the WEY VV5 and 167.800-188.000 for the WEY VV7. But foreign blockbuster SUV pricing shows where Lynk & Co’s true competition is: the Honda CR-V (169.800-259.800), Toyota RAV4 (179.800-269.800), Nissan X-Trail (179.800-268.800) and VW Tiguan (199.800-237.800) are all in the 01’s line of fire.

Bar for success: 12.500 monthly units

3. Changan Raeton CC (#152 – 5.440 sales)

Another Guangzhou unveiling, the Changan Raeton CC confuses us with its naming as it has nothing to do with a Coupe version of the much larger Raeton, rather it is the successor to the best-selling Eado sedan. It stands on a new Changan-developed platform, the P3, which will also underpin an upcoming crossover. It features the new signature grille of the brand which is far from being unattractive. Power comes from a new 155 hp 1.5T engine mated to a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. Changan has meticulously updated every inch of the old car that was the Eado to release this very accomplished sedan that had the international press buzzing with flashes and video cameras at the Guangzhou Auto Show. It is deserved, as the car offers all the sophistication you would expect from a model one or two segments above and is priced at a cut-throat 89.900-138.900 yuan (US$ 14.000-21.700),

Changan Raeton CC interior. Picture autohome.com.cn 

This throws the Raeton CC in the same bath as the recently overhauled MG6 (96.800-132.800), Roewe i6 (89.800-143.800) and Geely Emgrand GL (78.800-115.800) as far as locals are concerned. But Changan will also eye the foreign competition and aim at reclaiming buyers that had fallen for western charms. For this, it undercuts such blockbusters as the Toyota Corolla (107.800-175.800), VW Lavida (109.900-159.900), Buick Excelle (109.900-150.900) and Honda Civic (115.900-169.900). The Eado was one of the very rare Chinese sedans to cross the 20.000 monthly units milestone (22.964 in January 2015), including the XT hatchback which is now a separate model, so Changan will be tabling on high volumes for the Raeton CC.

Bar for success: 14.000 monthly units

4. Jaguar XEL (#302 – 1.328 sales)

The XEL is a long-wheelbase version of the Jaguar XE extended by 10cm to make more legroom for the back seats, as is the custom in China. It is manufactured by the Chery-JLR joint-venture and is the second China-made Jaguar after the XFL launched in September 2016. It offers a choice between two 2.0T engine with either 200 or 250hp. Power comes from two 2.0 turbocharged engines; one with 200 and one with 250 horses. Producing the XE locally enables a drastic price drop: the imported variant, still on sale alongside the XEL, starts at 417.500 yuan (US$ 65.200) whereas the XEL is priced from 288.800 to 428.800 yuan (US$ 44.950-66.900).

Jaguar XEL interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The Jaguar XEL will be competing against the leaders of its segment, all featuring long wheelbases: the Audi A4L (292.800-409.800 yuan), BMW 3 Series L (288.000-486.900) and Mercedes C-Class L (312.800-489.000) as well as the Volvo S60L (266.900-390.900). Priced at 388.000-688.000 yuan, the larger Jaguar XFL just reached its all-time high monthly volume this month at 2.559 units. Jaguar will want to easily top this for the US$15.000-cheaper XEL.

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units

5. GAC Trumpchi GM8 (#365 – 550 sales)

Logically unveiled at the Guangzhou Auto Show last November, the GM8 is the largest vehicle ever produced by GAC at 5.07m long. The company just announced at the Detroit Auto Show that it would enter the U.S. market in 2019. This is GAC’s first foray into the MPV segment and the carmaker’s intention is to reproduce the astonishing success it has enjoyed with the GS4 and GS8 in the SUV segment. If all other Chinese carmakers have entered the MPV segment from the low-cost door with tremendous success (Wuling Hongguang, Baojun 730, Chana offers), no one has managed to be successful yet at the more premium end.

GAC Trumpchi GM8 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

Jinbei did attempt this feat with the Huasong brand but has bitterly failed so far. Luxury MPVs are used by hotel companies to transport VIP guests and luxury interiors are the norm. Buick has dominated the segment with the GL8 and a new generation launched this year has propelled the nameplate to never-seen before volumes (14.332 in November 2017). This is where the GM8 comes, priced from 176.800-259.800 yuan (US$ 27.600-40.600) which, although high for a Chinese nameplate, greatly undercuts both the Buick GL8 (229.900-449.900 yuan) and Honda Odyssey (228.800-354.800) while offering similar levels of sophistication.

Bar for success: 7.500 monthly units

6. Arcfox Lite (#375 – 472 sales)

The Arcfox Lite is perhaps the coolest EV launched by a Chinese company so far. Arcfox is a brand by Beijing Auto BJEV and it had dozens of them inundating the Guangzhou Auto stand in both bright and pastel colours. There are two main attractions in the Lite: first, the interior which is one of the most exciting ever launched for a Chinese brand, featuring not one but three 8 inch screens forming a full digital bar. Second, it has LED displays at the front and rear of the car where both the driver and passenger can ‘advertise’ their own messages, in Chinese or Western alphabets, and even emoticons. So you get to be able to write anything you want, including insults. Now that’s cool.

Arcfox Lite interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

The Lite is under 3m long and is powered by a 49hp electric motor mated with a 16.4 KWh battery located below the floor. Range is just 170km which keeps the Lite firmly put in the city. Top speed is 110 km/h and fast charging takes half an hour to 80% battery and the manufacturer is using advanced materials to keep the car light to fit its name at 895 kg. Price before subsidies is 152.800-162.800 yuan (US$ 23.850-25.400) down to 93.800-106.800 (US$ 14.600-16.700). The Lite will compete with the Zotye E200 (181.800-185.800 before subsidies), Zhi Dou D2 (151.800-188.800) and Chery eQ1 (155.900-205.900).

Bar for success: 3.000 monthly units

7. Dearcc EV10 (#419 – 109 sales)

The last launch of the month is the third brand to make its very first appearance in the Chinese sales charts: Dearcc, an EV brand by Soueast whose Mandarin name Dianka weirdly translates as “electric coffee“… Dearcc was created by Beijing Dearcar Auto Technology, a tech firm based in Beijing devoted to research and development of new energy vehicle/electric vehicle platforms and smart technologies. Unveiled at the 2016 Guangzhou Auto Show, the EV10 had to wait over a year to launch in market. It is rather trendy, especially when compared to the rest of the Soueast line-up, with a dual tone colour scheme.

Dearcc EV10 interior. Picture autohome.com.cn

It is powered by a 57hp electric motor giving the 3.69m 5-door hatch a 150km range and 100 km/h top speed strictly limiting it to city driving. 80% battery charge is reached in 48 minutes on a fast charger. The EV10 is priced from 133.800 to 141.800 yuan before subsidies (US$ 20.900-22.100) and will compete with some of the best-selling EVs of the moment such as the BAIC EC-Series (151.800-164.800), Changan Benben EV (154.800-161.800) and the Chery eQ1 (155.900-205.900).

Bar for success: 2.000 monthly units

Previous month: China November 2017: Focus on the All-new models

One year ago: China December 2017: Focus on the All-new models

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