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BYD Steps Up (China Electric Car Sales Report)

After the usual off-season (January and February), March came and electric car sales surged to 59,000 units in China, up 85% year over year (YoY). Quarter 1 2018 sales doubled compared to the same period last year, to over 122,000 units.

After the usual off-season (January and February), March came and electric car sales surged to 59,000 units in China, up 85% year over year (YoY). Quarter 1 2018 sales doubled compared to the same period last year, to over 122,000 units.

Consequently, the 2018 plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) share surged to 1.8%, not that far off from the 2.1% of 2017, and with sales expected to pick up significantly as the year advances, the 2018 PEV share should end north of the 3% threshold.

Last month, the Chinese OEMs represented roughly 40% of all PEVs registered globally, an impressive number that is sure to increase during 2018, possibly even beating its 46% record of last year.

With symbolic export numbers, the domestic market is more than enough to absorb current Chinese production, helped by the fact that it is still a protected market and foreign OEMs have had a hard time getting serious and making their way into this niche. With PEV quotas needing to be fulfilled in the near future, foreign brands are finally putting in a strong effort as well. At the moment, overseas manufacturers have a record 7% share of the EV market. Of this small slice of the cake, almost half (3% of the total EV market) belongs to Tesla. BMW has 2% of the Chinese EV market, Cadillac(!) 1%, and the remaining foreign manufacturers share the final 1%.

In March, the main market news was BYD stepping up production, having its second-best month ever (13,100 registrations), only below the 16,000 units of last December. With a new Qin sedan and Tang SUV coming soon, expect the Chinese carmaker to start posting 20,000+ performances in the second half of the year, securing another manufacturer title (its 6th) in its home market. On the global stage, it could be the only OEM playing in the same league as Tesla … once the Californian brand finally steps out of the 9 circles of Production Hell.

Top 5 Chinese Electric Cars in March

#1 — BAIC EC-Series: After a disappointing February, the EC-Series is back on track, crushing the competition with 7,818 registrations last month, up 117% YoY. Sure, it’s not the 16,000 registrations of last November, but the little EV continues its disruption of the Chinese market, winning 6 of the last 7 monthly best-seller trophies. A trendy design helps the EC-Series to be a popular choice in Chinese megacities, where the 200 km range is enough to run around the urban jungle and the small size plus affordable price tag are preferred over other models.

#2 — BYD Song PHEV: The current star product from Build Your Dreams (BYD) had 4,685 registrations in March, the nameplate’s best result in the last 8 months. If the 2018 Best Selling PHEV title seems to be destined to stay with it, one questions if BYD’s “Model Y” can also reach the sales level of the BAIC EC-Series. Consistency and regularity seem to be BYD’s forte — few dramatic drops or dramatic rises — so do not expect it to jump much beyond 5,000 units/month.

#3 — JAC iEV7S/E: JAC has been an EV pioneer in China, selling plug-in cars since 2010. Now, with its iEV crossover, it’s back in the game, winning 4,603 registrations 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 or just don’t desire a BYD Song or Roewe’s eRX5. Instead, with an iEV, they get a good-looking compact vehicle (Kia Soul sized) with just enough power and range (114 hp / 251 km) to not to make it look bad.

#4 — BYD e5: BYD’s Plain Jane electric sedan, a favorite among taxi drivers, landed 3,798 registrations in March, a new record for the nameplate. Offering 97% of the Qin specs (48 kWh battery, 300 km range, 218 hp) in a less fancy suit, and for a significantly lower price, the model is a bit of an unsung hero in the BYD stable, as the 70,000 units sold so far mean that it is the company’s third bestselling PEV, behind the Qin and Tang models. And a top 5 ranking in China isn’t too shabby.

#5 — BYD Qin PHEV: The most common plug-in in China (140,000 units to date) had another good performance in March, with 3,361 registrations hitting the books. This was the 7th consecutive 3000–4000 unit month for “BYD’s Model 3.” (Talk about consistency!) Considering a new Qin is coming in a few months, it is surprising the current one is still going so strong. As for the new generation, sales above 5,000/month should become the norm, rivaling the Song as the best selling BYD.

China March YTD EV Market Share
1 BAIC EC-Series 7,818 19,808 16%
2 BYD Song PHEV 4,685 11,784 10%
3 JAC iEV7 S/E 4,603 10,790 9%
4 BYD Qin PHEV 3,361 9,709 8%
5 Chery eQ 3,279 7,139 6%
6 SAIC Roewe eRX5 PHEV 2,303 5,707 5%
7 SAIC Roewe i6 PHEV 1,865 5,024 4%
8 JMC E200 1,720 4,814 4%
9 BYD e5 3,798 4,398 4%
10 Zhidou D2 EV 3,000 4,023 3%
11 Hawtai EV160 1,731 2,673 2%
12 Geely Emgrand EV 1,527 2,574 2%
13 Changan Benni EV 1,300 2,558 2%
14 Zotye E200 1,532 2,140 2%
15 Tesla Model X e) 1,500 2,017 2%
16 BMW X1 xDrive25Le iPerformance 854 1,762 1%
17 BYD Tang 398 1,691 1%
18 SAIC Wuling E100 901 1,582 1%
19 SAIC Roewe eRX5 BEV 627 1,483 1%
20 Hawtai xEV260 1,350 1,435 1%
Others 10,958 19,667 16%
TOTAL 59,110 122,778 100%

Year-to-Date Ranking

Outside the top positions, which had no major surprises, there were several positive performances below the podium, like the Hawtai xEV260 compact SUV posting its first four-digit performance (1,350 units), allowing it to show up for the first time on the top 20 list … at #20. Speaking of compact SUVs, the Roewe eRX5 PHEV posted a year-best performance, getting 2,303 registrations.

Significant changes in the rankings only happened below 8th place. Nonetheless, the BYD e5 jumping from nowhere into #9 was nothing short of remarkable, and the #6 position is not that far away. I wouldn’t rule out three BYD models in the top 6 soon.

There was another model storming through the top 20 as well — the Tesla Model X returned to the top 20 by landing in the #15 spot, recovering the Best Selling Foreign Model title from the BMW X1 PHEV. Despite being surpassed by the Tesla Sports Minivan/SUV, the German SUV had its best month so far, with 854 deliveries. That actually allowed it to climb three positions into #16.

Looking at the manufacturer ranking, BYD is back on the leader’s throne, having increased its lead to 7 percentage points (24% vs 17%) over runner-up BAIC. Will the Beijing automaker be able to step up the pace and recover ground? It’ll be tough.

In 3rd place, we have a close race, with the Shanghai-based Roewe (11%) being closely followed by JAC (10%). This tight duel does not have a clear favorite, but if I had to bet, I would go for Roewe. The Shanghai carmaker’s lineup is less dependent on a single model’s performance.

Cool New Kids

This month, there are a bunch of New Kids on the Block. We have two large German PHEV sedans (Audi A6 PHEV and BMW 530e), a Chinese barge (Lifan 820 EV), and the Bad Boy/Extrovert Yudo Pi3 compact SUV, but the Justin Timberlake of this quintet (mixing boy band metaphors) should be the…

SAIC Roewe Ei5 — The station wagon body is a rarity in the Chinese automotive market, but nevertheless, Roewe decided to launch the electric-only Ei5 as a VW Golf SW type of vehicle. With its 454 cm (179 inches) and generous trunk, it’s the perfect electric carryall, and with a 35kWh battery, it has just enough range (300 km NEDC — perhaps 220 km in the real world) to go to the countryside(ish).

Based on the same platform as the Buick Excelle (Chinese cousin of the Buick Verano and Opel Astra), the Ei5 design is typical Roewe: Volkswagen-inspired, with an Audi-esque grille, and possibly the most premium for the price interiors coming from China. Saving the best for last, the $34,000 price before subsidies is competitive, especially considering that its eRX5 BEV SUV sibling is being sold for $43,000 … and only has 20 km more range (NEDC) — 320 km.

How many units will Roewe sell? Hard to say. Electric wagons are unknown territory in China (and elsewhere, for that matter), and might put it at a disadvantage, but the promising start (714 deliveries in the landing month) says otherwise. The Ei5 could even become the brand’s best-selling model at 2,000–3,000 units/month if it catches on.

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Written By

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.


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