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China May 2018: SUVs drop share for the first time in 6 years

The VW Lavida is the best-selling vehicle in China for the 2nd month running.

* See the Top 80 All China-made brands and Top 445 models by clicking on the title *

According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), wholesales of new light vehicles in China gain a solid 7.9% year-on-year in May to 1.889.500, lifting the year-to-date volume up 5.1% or almost 500.000 deliveries to a record 9.900.900 units. That’s higher than the CAAM prediction of +3% for the Full Year 2018. May 2018 may be remembered as the turning point where the SUV segment in China has become saturated. Let’s not overreact, but the facts are here: for the first time since 2012 and the start of the SUV tsunami that has engulfed the country, sedans grow faster this month at +12% to 940.100 whereas SUV “only” manage a 6.5% gain to 761.300 which is below the market growth. In other words, SUVs lose market share year-on-year in May for the first time in 6 years. It’s a very unusual month that also sees microvans bottom up (+1.7%) to 49.000 units whereas MPV post a somewhat muted 7.1% decline to 139.100. Of course the May surprises are not enough to dent the longer-term trends just yet, and YTD sedans are now up 4.7% to 4.730.600, SUVs up almost three times that rate at 11.6% to 4.415.700, MPVs down 10.4% to 752.700 and microvans down 30% to 190.800.

The Nissan Sylphy ranks #2 overall for the 2nd time in a row.

Brand-wise, keeping in mind these figures are wholesales excluding imports, market leader Volkswagen posts another very robust month at +8% to just under 248.000 sales, still more than double any other carmaker in the largest market in the world, an outstanding feat. Except even more vigorous growth over the remainder of 2018 as the T-Roc hits dealerships in June. Toyota soars 23%, enjoying the combined benefits of a new generation Camry (+95%) and a very dynamic Levin (+150%) to jump four spots to #2 overall, a ranking it had not reached in almost 3 years (since July 2015). This ends Geely’s streak of seven consecutive months in second place at home, but the carmaker’s most impressive streaks aren’t broken: at +49% year-on-year to 113.834 sales, it’s Geely’s 26th consecutuve month of double-digit gains and 9th month in a row above 100.000 sales. YTD sales are up 37% to above 600.000 units, keeping the #2 spot.

At #3, the Toyota Corolla makes the podium 100% sedan for the first time in 5 years.

Honda (-4%) drops one spot on April to #4 but remains well above the 100.000 unit-mark with Nissan up 13% to a strong showing at 97.309, Baojun slowing down its growth at +16% as the 310 stabilises, the 530 cannibalises the 510 and the 730 freefalls with the arrival of the 360 (more details in our upcoming Focus on all-new models). Hyundai (+71%) continues to erase its paltry scores of 2017 hampered by China-Korea tensions just as Kia (+80%) does further down and Chevrolet (+53%) compensates for the weakness of Buick (-10%) thanks to stunning sales of its low-cost Cavalier sedan (+160%) accounting for 38% of the brand’s sales in China this month. Changan (-9%) is now threatened by Baojun for the title of #2 Chinese brand YTD.

The Emgrand GL (+78%) helps Geely post a 26th consecutive double-digit gain.

Mercedes soars 19% to end the month just 171 sales below archenemy Audi (+2%) but is above the Ingolstadt marque when taking imports into account. BMW (+15%) also outpaces the market but is 8.000 units below. Further down the ranking, Qoros (+541%) continues to run after its survival thanks to much-improved 5 SUV sales (+766%), Changhe (+97%) is back on track thanks to the simultaneous arrival of the A6 hatch and Q7 SUV (covered in our Focus on All-new models), with Citroen (+66% on a nightmarish 2017), MG (+66%), Zotye (+59%), JMC (+54%), Mitsubishi (+50%), Jaguar (+50%), Roewe (+38%), Landwind (+37%), Beijing Auto (+29%), Skoda (+26%), Cadillac (+24%), Maxus (+20%), Chery (+17%) and Hanteng (+16%) all impress with very satisfying gains.

Could Qoros survive after all? Sales are up 541% in May thanks to the 5 SUV.

There are some big names among freefalls this month, starting with Haval (-18%) overly reliant on a stuttering H6 (-13%) that represents almost two-thirds of its May sales just as the H8 (-82%), H1 (-72%), H2 (-67%), M6 (-62% on April), H5 (-58%) and H7 (-32%) all implode. Only positives are the H9 (+30%) and the H4 painfully crossing the 6.000 unit-mark just outside the Top 100. Despite the arrival of the P8 hybrid in the charts in May, WEY cannot compensate for Haval losses: at 11.079 units on three nameplates the semi-premium brand is down 16% on April and down 48% on its high of 21.349 sales last December. In contrast, Geely’s Lynk & Co continues to progress: +2% on last month to a new record 9.234 sales on only one model (01) with the 02 landing in June and the 03 in H2 2018.

MG soars 66% thanks to the new 6 sedan.

Ford (-49%) is the foreign mass carmaker hit the hardest this month, suffering its 11th consecutive year-on-year drop. Jeep (-48%) follows closely and now rests all its hopes on the new China-exclusive Grand Commander (see upcoming May 2018 edition of our Focus on All-new models). Fiat (-96%), Acura (-62%), Suzuki (-37%), Infiniti (-27%), Peugeot (-17% despite the new 4008 and 5008) and Renault (-16%) also struggle. Among local brands, Cowin (-86%) continues to tumble down towards extinction, with Jinbei (-78%), Weichai (-61%), Soueast (-57%), FAW (-39%), Brilliance (-37%), SWM (-32%), Dongfeng (-28%), Lifan (-27%) also hit full frontal.

The Outlander (+89%) propels Mitsubishi sales up 50% in China this month.

Perfectly illustrating the shift of momentum out of SUVs back towards sedans this month, the models podium is composed at 100% of sedans for the first time since August 2013 when the Wuling Hongguang was still counted as a commercial vehicle. Helped by the arrival of a new model, the VW Lavida scores a second consecutive month in pole position with sales up 16%, and is followed by the Nissan Sylphy (+21%) and Toyota Corolla (+22%) also extremely dynamic despite being far into their respective life cycles. Confirming its implacable domination in the segment, Volkswagen places 5 sedans in the Top 8 with the Jetta (+18%), Santana (+25%) and Sagitar (+16%) all roaring ahead while the Magotan (-1%) takes a breather.

Lynk & Co continues to progress on the 01 alone, with the 02 slated for June.

Despite intense competition from the new Baojun 360, the Wuling Hongguang (-11%) manages to outsell all SUVs in market, keeping in mind its sales also include the S3 SUV variant. The Haval H6 (-13%) has now seen through the Baojun 510 threat to its supremacy at the country’s most popular SUV, distancing it by 6,500 units in May to snap the #1 SUV spot for the 57th time in the past 59 months. The VW Tiguan (-16%) also outsells the Baojun 510 to rank #2 SUV in China for the first time in 2018 despite a steep year-on-year drop. Responsible for the 510’s relative weakness this month is the progression of the larger 530, up 13% on April to a new record volume at 17.003 sales, ranking 7th best-selling SUV in the country.

The Cavalier (+160%) single-handedly lifts Chevrolet sales up 53%.

The Geely Boyue (+1%) has plateaued, the GAC Trumpchi GS4 (-46%) now needs a update, with the Chery Tiggo 3 (+96%) Changan CS35 (+94%), Mitsubishi Outlander (+89%), Geely Vision SUV (+28%), Geely Emgrand GS (+27%) and Nissan X-Trail (+18%) also strong in the segment. Geely dominates the Chinese sedan segment head and shoulders, monopolising the podium with the Emgrand (+18%), Emgrand GL (+78%) and Vision (+62%) distancing the Chery Arrizo 5 (+4%) and Baojun 310 (+9%). The BAIC EC-Series is up 3-fold on May 2017 (+224%) to retain the lead of new energy vehicles at #37 ahead of the BYD Qin (+365%) and JMC E200 (+654%). The Roewe RX8 (+169%) and FAW Jumpal CX65 (+320%) fare best among April launches whereas the Nissan Terra (-38%) and most strikingly the Hyundai Encino (-86%!) just can’t match their inaugural scores.

Previous month: China April 2018: Geely, Hyundai, Chevrolet lift market up 11.5%

One year ago: China May 2017: Second consecutive month of decline at -2.6%

Full May 2018 Top 80 All China-made brands and Top 445 models below.

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