China Electric Car Sales In January — BAIC EC-Series & Cadillac(!) Shine

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After the December sales peak, January signaled the expected hangover, but still, sales stood at some 35,000 passenger plug-in vehicles (PEVs), up four-fold year over year (YoY), making this by far the best January ever for electric car sales in China.

The PEV share started the year at 1.4%, a step below the 2.1% of 2017, but as sales pick up during the year, the expected 2018 PEV share should be around 3% by year end.

Last month, the Chinese OEMs represented roughly 40% of all PEVs registered globally, an impressive number, especially considering that January is usually one of the slowest months in the Chinese PEV market. (However, that’s also the case in many other markets.)

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. In fact, foreign brands have only 5% of PEV sales. Of this small cake, nearly half (2% of overall PEV sales in the country) belong to Tesla, with the remaining 3% of overall PEV sales being distributed by BMW (1%), Cadillac (1%), and other manufacturers (1%).

In January, plug-in hybrids had an exceptional month, collecting 4 out of the top 6 positions, which can be explained by the fact that they are less dependent on subsidies. Nevertheless, the BAIC EC-Series is still the poster child of the Chinese PEV market, scoring close to 8,000 deliveries. (Hmm, 8,000 is approximately 2,000/week — sound familiar?) Meanwhile, BYD placed two plug-in hybrid models — the Song SUV and the Qin compact sedan — in the top 5.

Top 5 Best Selling PEVs

#1 – BAIC EC-Series: Winning the best-seller status for 6 months in a row in a competitive market like China is no small feat. Even harder is to be the global best-seller during those same 6 months. But that’s exactly what the EC-Series has done, having registered 7,870 units in January. The little city EV is becoming disruptive in its home market, 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). With the Chinese and the global editions of the 2017 Best Selling PEV award in its hands, the EC-Series has started 2018 in the same tone, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that this small EV could outsell the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Model 3 in 2018, becoming the 2018 Best Selling PEV in the World.

#2 – JAC iEV7S/E: One of the EV pioneers in China, selling plug-ins since 2010, JAC is trying to regain relevance with its iEV7S/E compact crossover. The vehicle registered a record 3,356 units in January, allowing it to reach the runner-up position. A vehicle targeted to urbanites, for a competitive $26,000 before incentives, you get a trendy compact vehicle (Kia Soul sized), with the 33kWh battery providing just enough range (251 km or 157 miles NEDC) to cover the needs of the urban jungle.

#3 – BYD Qin PHEV: This is the most common plug-in car in China, with almost 100,000 units registered to date. Thanks to recent changes, BYD’s “Model 3” (0–100 km/h in 5.9s) got its mojo back and is once again a major player, registering 3,339 units last month. With a competitive price ($31,000 before incentives), sales are expected to remain high, as long as BYD manages to make enough of them.

#4 – BYD Song PHEV: The current rising star product from Build Your Dreams (BYD) is the plug-in hybrid version of its Song compact SUV. It had 2,681 registrations in January, a good start of the year, staying above its nemesis, the #5 Roewe eRX5 PHEV. BYD’s “Model Y” won both the Best Selling PHEV and Best Selling Electric SUV trophies last year, but this year, it will have a harder time securing these best seller titles, namely because of…

#5 – SAIC Roewe eRX5 PHEV: … this model. Shanghai Auto has high hopes for its eRX5 twins (BEV and PHEV), and especially for the plug-in hybrid version, having registered 2,217 units last month, earning it its second top 5 position. Will it be able to beat the BYD SUV this year? Despite being beaten on pure specs (60 km of electric range NEDC) compared with the Song (70 km), the Roewe seems to be a more accomplished vehicle, and with time it can win street cred, thus improving sales in the long run.

Outside the top 5, and even in a slow selling month, there are a couple of models beating records, like is the case of the #6 Roewe i6 PHEV — with 2,088 deliveries, it had its best result since it landed 9 months ago.

Another one was the surprising Cadillac CT6 PHEV, a model that so far hadn’t really made an impact in its class. In January, it registered 451 units, shattering its previous record (195 units), managing even to collect its first top 20 presence. That means it outsold even the almighty Tesla Model S in the country (330 estimated deliveries).  It’s not often that you write that Cadillac outsells Tesla…

Two new additions to the top 20 joined the ranking in January, with the promising GAC Trumpchi GE3 jumping to #13, thanks to 536 deliveries ( a new personal best), while the #10 BAIC EX-Series small crossover reminds us that Beijing Auto is not only the EC-Series — there are other nameplates in the stable able to pull top 20 presences.

Looking at the manufacturer ranking, BAIC started the year in the lead, with 25% market share. Last year’s winner, BYD, is not far behind (21%). This was only a first stage of a race that promises to be tough between these two titans, both running hard and fast for the 2018 title.

In third place, we have Shanghai-based Roewe consolidating its bronze medalist status, with 13% share.

China January Market Share
1 BAIC EC-Series 7,870 23%
2 JAC iEV7 S/E 3,356 10%
3 BYD Qin PHEV 3,339 10%
4 BYD Song PHEV 2,681 8%
5 SAIC Roewe eRX5 PHEV 2,217 6%
6 SAIC Roewe i6 PHEV 2,088 6%
7 JMC E200 1,500 4%
8 Chery eQ 1,396 4%
9 BYD Tang 1,089 3%
10 BAIC EX-Series 767 2%
11 Changan Benni EV 680 2%
12 Hawtai EV160 607 2%
13 GAC Trumpchi GE3 536 2%
14 GAC Trumpchi GS4 EREV 507 1%
15 Zotye E200 501 1%
16 Tesla Model X 500 1%
17 SAIC Roewe eRX5 BEV 482 1%
18 Geely Emgrand EV 466 1%
19 Cadillac CT6 PHEV 451 1%
20 Yudo Pi1 356 1%
Others 3,503 10%
TOTAL 34,892 100%

Cool New Kids

This month, we had a number of new additions, from yet another minivan/MPV out of Dongfeng to the cheap & chic Yudo Pi1 small crossover. My favorite landing this month was the…

He Xiaopeng Motors

Xiaopeng XPeng X3 — This Tesla-inspired vehicle is the first fruit of an internet-based startup, which has subcontracted the local manufacturer Haima to make the first units of its XPeng SUV. The vehicle combines striking design with some quite impressive stats on the performance side: 0–100 km/h in 5.9 secs and 190 hp max power, most notably. But for a vehicle with premium aspirations, 300 km (188 miles) of range (NEDC) is not really 2018. … Anyway, as with all EV startups, developing the car is important, but it’s not the most crucial thing. It’s no use to have a disruptive model if you can’t really make it in volume, and that’s the major question here: With volume production only scheduled for 2019, will the company survive a sloooow production ramp-up?

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 466 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes