February is traditionally the slowest selling month in China, but with electric car sales at around 34,000, there’s not much to complain about — numbers were up 88% year over year (YoY), making this by far the best February ever.
The plug-in vehicle (PEV) share dropped slightly, to 1.3%, a smidge below the previous month (1.4%) and a step below the 2.1% of 2017, but on the bright side, from now on, sales are expected to pick up significantly as the year advances, with the 2018 PEV share expected to end at around 3%.
Last month, Chinese OEMs represented roughly 40% of all PEVs registered globally — an impressive number, especially considering that February is the slowest month in the Chinese PEV market.
With 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, as foreign brands only had 3% of PEV registrations last month. Of this very small cake, 2 percentage points belonged to BMW, while the other manufacturers (Tesla included) divided the remaining 1 percentage point.
In February, the main news was the surprisingly low sales of the BAIC EC-Series, with only 4,120 registrations, dragging down with it mothership BAIC and allowing nemesis BYD to pay back the defeat it had in the previous month, all while dethroning the Beijing brand from the 2018 Best Selling Brand position.
Best Selling Electric Vehicles In China In February
#1 — BYD Song PHEV: The current star product from Build Your Dreams (BYD) had 4,481 registrations in February, underlining a good start of the year. If the 2018 Best Selling PHEV title seems to be destined to stay with this model, one questions if BYD’s “Model Y” can also reach the sales level of the BAIC EC-Series. Maybe, maybe not. Consistency seems to be BYD’s forte, so if the EC-Series goes into a series of uninspired performances … who knows?
#2 — BAIC EC-Series: After winning the best-seller title for six months in a row, the EC-Series had a disappointing February, having registered just 4,120 units last month. Sure, 4,000 units should be enough to give it a podium place in the February Global Best Selling PEVs competition, but when you reach almost 16,000 registrations in a month, 4,000 seems like you’re not trying hard enough. … It’s a bit like Lionel Messi just offering an assist for the victory goal. When you get people used to hat tricks & other magic numbers, people think you are being lazy with just a victory assist. Anyway, the little EV continues to be disruptive in the Chinese market, leading the pack by a large distance after the first couple of months of the year.
#3 — BYD Qin PHEV: The most common plug-in vehicle in China had another good performance in February, with 3,009 units delivered. That makes it the sixth consecutive 3,000–4,000 unit month for BYD’s “Model 3” (talk about consistency). This is another of BYD’s hard-working Oompa-Loompas. Sure, they do not wow the world with peak performances of 15,000 units/month, like the EC-Series does, but on the other hand, they get s*** done. In a way, they’re a bit like Ronaldo — while Messi amazes the world with his magic and wins the popular vote, at the end of the day, the Real Madrid striker takes home its own awards, just like BYD did in the last 3 years.
#4 — JAC iEV7S/E: JAC is one of the EV pioneers in China, selling plug-ins since 2010, and now with its iEV7S/E crossover, it’s back at the game, registering 2,831 units last month. With a competitive price of $26,000 before incentives, this is a vehicle targeted at trendy urbanites that for some reason can’t reach a BYD Song or Roewe’s eRX5, getting in return a good-looking compact vehicle (the size of a Kia Soul) with just enough zoom (114 hp) to avoid making it feel underpowered.
#5 — Chery eQ: Chery was another one of the Chinese brands to bet early on plug-ins, having won the EV model title three times in a row (2011, 2012, 2013) with its tiny QQ3 EV. Now, the automaker is trying to regain relevance with the eQ, the spiritual (and material) successor to the QQ3, having registered 2,753 units in February and allowing it to collect a top 5 position last month. A vehicle marketed to city dwellers, for $24,000 before incentives, you get a funky city EV. The 22kWh battery provides just enough range (200 km / 125 miles NEDC) to cover the needs of the urban jungle.
Outside the top 5, and even in a slow selling month, there are a couple of models with positive performances. For example, there’s the SAIC Wuling E100, which after a dismal January (only 80 deliveries), registered 601 units in February, allowing it to return to the top 20. Its direct competitor, Zhi Dou D2 EV, did even better, registering 893 units, a far cry from the meager 130 deliveries of January and pulling it to #12 in the yearly ranking.
On a not-so-positive tone, the BYD Tang only delivered 204 units, its worst performance in all three years on the market. The most likely reason for this sudden drop is the fact that a new one is announced for this year.
Looking at the manufacturers ranking, after losing in January by some 1,600 units to BAIC, BYD had its revenge in February, beating the crap out of Beijing Auto by almost doubling sales of its direct competitor in that month (8,200 units vs 4,400). That allowed it to recover the yearly leadership title, with 24% share — BAIC now has 20%.
But we are only on the second game of a 12-round final, so buckle up and bring the popcorn, because it will be an entertaining race until December between these two.
In third place, we also have a close race, with the Shanghai-based Roewe (11%) being closely followed by JAC (10%), so there’s more to watch in the Chinese New Energy Vehicle Games than just BYD vs BAIC.
|BYD Song PHEV||4,418||7,099||11.1%|
|JAC iEV7 S/E||2,831||6,423||10.1%|
|BYD Qin PHEV||3,009||6,348||10.0%|
|SAIC Roewe eRX5 PHEV||1,187||3,404||5.3%|
|SAIC Roewe i6 PHEV||1,071||3,159||5.0%|
|Changan Benni EV||578||1,258||2.0%|
|Geely Emgrand EV||581||1,047||1.6%|
|Zhidou D2 EV||893||1,023||1.6%|
|GAC Trumpchi GE3||442||978||1.5%|
|SAIC Roewe eRX5 BEV||374||856||1.3%|
|SAIC Wuling E100||601||681||1.1%|
|BMW X1 xDrive25Le iPerformance||320||664||1.0%|
Cool New Kids
This month, there are a couple of new kids, but I wouldn’t call them cool. … We have another “me too” crossover from Chery (Tiggo 3 EV), a good looking Pininfarina-designed Southeast DX3 EV (which had 1 — yes, one — unit registered), and also this month’s top new entry, the Mitsubishi Qizhi PHEV…
Mitsubishi Qizhi PHEV — When I first saw the new name on the sales table, I thought: “What do you know, the Outlander PHEV has arrived to China” … not. This is actually a badge-engineering exercise, as this vehicle is none other than the GAC Trumpchi GS4 but with a Mitsubishi badge. This is something new. So far, we were used to seeing Chinese carmakers copying entire vehicles from Europe or elsewhere. Now, we are seeing the other way around — placing a Japanese badge on a Chinese model. Why the change? One word: Regulations. With the Chinese government imposing NEV quotas on carmakers, foreign brands see that they need to comply with the new rules but can’t easily do so. Those that have plug-ins in their portfolio see themselves with a multitude of obstacles (import tariffs, low-range PHEVs not qualifying for subsidies, high prices, etc.). So, what better way to comply than to buy some units from a local manufacturer? And it’s not only Mitsubishi. It has been said that GAC will also make badge-engineered models for Fiat and Toyota. Anyway, we salute the arrival of the Mitsubishi Qizhi PHEV and its 247 registrations made in its maiden month. The more plug-ins, the merrier, right?
Also published on EV Obsession’s Electric Car Sales page.
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