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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

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