2017 China Electric Car Sales Blow World Out Of The Water — BAIC EC-Series Is A Superstar

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China’s EV Market Share Hits 3.3%,
BAIC EC-Series = Superstar

The rise and rise of the Chinese plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) market is unstoppable, with yet another record performance in December. A total of 102,000 new passenger PEVs were registered last month, up 130% year over year. Yes, that was just December, and it pulled the year-to-date count to over 600,000 units, up 71% compared to 2016.

As consequence of this rapid growth, in December, the PEV share hit a record 3.3% market share of the entire Chinese auto market, while the entire 2017 PEV market share ended at 2.1%. That’s firmly ahead of last year’s score (1.5%) and above the USA (1.2%) and Europe (~1.9%).

The Chinese PEV market represented roughly half of the 1.2 million plug-ins sold worldwide in 2017, while Chinese carmakers made 47% of all PEVs sold last year.

Despite exports still being symbolic, the domestic market is more than enough to absorb the current production, helped by the fact that it is a highly protected market — foreign brands represent only 4% of PEV sales. Of this small cake, 2% belongs to Tesla, with the remaining 2% being divided by all other automakers.

In December, small city cars had the upper hand again, with the BAIC EC-Series being the poster child of them. The BAIC EC-Series saw over 13,000 sales, which allowed it to reach #30 in the mainstream automotive ranking in China. It was a good month also for the BYD plug-in hybrids, with the Song and Qin joining the top 5 ranking in December.

Top 5 Best Selling Electric Models in December 2017

#1 – BAIC EC-Series: After a series of ever improving performances, it looks like the BAIC EC-Series has found its cruising speed, at over 10,000 units/month. It earned a whopping 13,169 registrations in December. The little city EV is proving to be disruptive in China, owing its success to a trendy design (reminiscent of a crossover), improved specs (now with 200 km, or 125 miles, of range) and competitive pricing ($22,000), all in a booming market segment. With the Chinese AND the global editions of the 2017 Best Selling PEV Award in BAIC’s hands, the EC-Series is now looking into 2018. A six-digit performance is likely — how far above 100,000 is pretty much open to discussion, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that this small EV could outsell the Tesla Model 3 and become the 2018 Best Seller … in the World. Again.

#2 – Chery eQ: One of the EV pioneers in China, having won the model title three times in a row (2011, 2012, 2013) with the QQ3 EV, Chery is trying to regain relevance with the eQ, which got a record 5,650 registrations in December, allowing it to reach the runner-up position last month. A vehicle targeted at city dwellers, for $24,000 before incentives, you get a funky city vehicle and the 22kWh battery provides enough range to cover the needs of the urban jungle (200 km, or 125 miles, according to the NEDC system).

#3 – SAIC Wuling E100: Shanghai Auto and General Motors have high hopes for their tiny two-seater, and the production ramp up is starting to make an impact on the Chinese plug-in market, having landed a record 5,545 registrations last month, earning its first podium place. Will it replicate the BAIC EC-Series success? I wouldn’t rule out that possibility, or even export prospects, as it could be marketed as GM’s Smart-like product outside China. For more info on this tiny two-seat electric car, please check here.

#4 – BYD Song PHEV: The current star product from Build Your Dreams (BYD), the plug-in hybrid version of its Song compact SUV had 4,643 registrations, its best result in the last 5 months. It seems BYD’s “Model Y” has stabilized around 4,000–5,000 units. In the future, though, that might not be enough to secure the best selling status in its class, despite its top-of-the-class specs (70 km / 44 miles of range; 0–100 km/h in 4.9 seconds).

#5 – BYD Qin PHEV: This is the most common plug-in car in China, with some 90,000 units registered to date. Thanks to recent changes, BYD’s “Model 3” (0–100 km/h in 5.9 seconds) got its mojo back and is once again a major player, grabbing a record 4,543 registrations in December. With a competitive price ($31,000 before incentives), sales are expected to remain high, as long as BYD manages to make enough of them.

While the leaders are fun to follow, we also thought we’d start creating additional sales charts that include “others” — electric models outside the top 20 — to highlight how many sales come from a diverse range of models. Have a look:

Year-to-Date Ranking – BAIC EC-Series Wins Model of the Year, BYD Wins Manufacturer Title

The BAIC EC-Series won the 2017 Best Seller award, a first for a BAIC model and the end of a three-year rule by BYD (Qin PHEV won in 2014 and 2015, Tang PHEV won in 2016). The breakthrough model recorded 78,079 registrations in 2017, a new all-time record.

Second was the Zhidou D2 EV, scoring 43,342 units, with 2017 being by far the most successful year for the tiny two-seater.

In third, we have the first BYD, with the Song PHEV ending the year in the last podium position. With some 31,000 units, that’s roughly the same number that allowed the Tang to win the 2016 title. But with the market growing 70% per year, more was expected from the BYD best sellers.

In a stable market, the big news was the Chery eQ climbing to #4. The BYD Qin PHEV also had a big lift, rising to #8. And the BAIC EU-Series climbed to #14, thanks to 3,247 sales, a year best.

Two new additions to the Top 20 joined the ranking in December, with the promising Wuling E100 jumping to #17 while the old-timer BYD e6 (no doubt helped by fleet deals) scored its best score in December (3,818 registrations) — that’s a best ever since it landed something like 600 years ago in 2010, helping it to reach the Top 20 … in #20.

Looking at the manufacturer ranking, BYD (18%, down 1%) won its fourth title in a row, but the 2017 award was the most difficult of them all, because it watched the runner-up BAIC (17%) get closer and closer every passing month, with the Shenzhen giant perhaps fearing a last-minute change in the leadership.

Looking into 2018, BAIC has beaten BYD in the last 3 months of the year, thanks to the EC-Series success, so if BYD wants to secure a 5th title, it will probably need a small city car to fight the EC-Series. In case BYD does offer that, I ask only one thing: A 100+ hp motor. The world needs tiny electric hot hatches…

In third place, taking the bronze medal, we have a last-minute change. Profiting from an underwhelming Zhidou performance (1,271 registrations, its worst result in 2017), Roewe (7%) climbed to the last place on the podium. The Shanghai-based manufacturer confirmed its status as one of the “Big Four” PEV carmakers in China with that surprise (the others are BYD, BAIC, and Geely) .

EV Model December 2017 EV Market Share
1 BAIC EC-Series 13,169 78,079 13%
2 Zhidou D2 EV 1,187 42,342 7%
3 BYD Song PHEV 4,643 30,920 5%
4 Chery eQ 5,650 27,444 5%
5 JAC iEV6S/E 1,122 25,741 4%
6 BYD e5 1,146 23,601 4%
7 Geely Emgrand EV 2,764 23,324 4%
8 BYD Qin PHEV 4,543 20,738 3%
9 SAIC Roewe eRX5 PHEV 2,687 19,510 3%
10 Zotye E200 2,488 16,751 3%
11 JMC E100 1,922 15,491 3%
12 BYD Tang 1,505 14,592 2%
13 Changan Benni EV 2,829 14,549 2%
14 BAIC EU-Series 3,247 13,158 2%
15 JMC E200 2,605 12,340 2%
16 Hawtai EV160 3,521 11,823 2%
17 SAIC Wuling E100 5,545 11,420 2%
18 Zotye Cloud EV 2,099 11,038 2%
19 SAIC Roewe eRX5 BEV 1,629 10,436 2%
20 BYD e6 3,818 10,023 2%
Others 38,334 176,877 29%
TOTAL 102,635 600,174  

Cool Kids

This month, we had a number of new additions, a PHEV version of the MG6 sedan (think: Roewe i6’s sporty cousin and you are not far off), a taxi-friendly Great Wall C30 EV, an RR Evoque-inspired compact crossover (GAC Leopaard CS9), an electric van from Chery (Karry EV), and my favorite landing this month, the…

BAIC Arcfox Lite – This is a sort of premium and individualistic alternative to its EC-Series best seller. The Arcfox Lite is actually hard to define. It’s a small city car, but in a cheap and chic kind of way, you can even say it’s a coupe … well, sort of. Targeted at young, hip urbanites, the little two-seater has an extroverted style and it’s new from the ground up. It features lightweight materials (aluminium, carbon fiber), contributing to a light 900 kg curb weight. Being part of BAIC’s new “Arcfox” premium electric sub-brand, and despite having average specs (50 hp motor, 170 km or 106 mile range), it comes loaded with tech. That includes 3 screens on the inside and LED displays on the outside (front and rear), showing whatever passengers want. Starting at 94,000 Yuan ($14,500), this is something of an oddball — either it could be a major success, selling 5,000–10,000 units/month, thanks to its unique mix of individuality and hipsterness, or … it could tank because it’s too weird.

Also published on EV Obsession’s Electric Car Sales page.

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José Pontes

Always interested in the auto industry, particularly in electric cars, Jose has been overviewed the sales evolution of plug-ins on the EV Sales blog, allowing him to gain an expert view on where EVs are right now and where they are headed in the future. The EV Sales blog has become a go-to source for people interested in electric car sales around the world. Extending that work and expertise, Jose is also market analyst on EV-Volumes and works with the European Alternative Fuels Observatory on EV sales matters.

José Pontes has 473 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes