After the usual off-season (January and February), the Chinese plug-in vehicle (PEV) market is back at full charge, with 71,000 units registered in April, up 129% year over year (YoY). Overall, 2018 sales have more than doubled compared to the same period last year.
Consequently, the record 3.7% PEV share of April pulled the 2018 share to 2.3%, already above 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, with December possibly reaching 6%.
Last month, the Chinese OEMs represented roughly 50% of all PEVs registered globally, an impressive number that is sure to increase over the remainder of the year.
Chinese automakers have symbolic export numbers, but the domestic market is more than enough to absorb current Chinese production capacity, helped by the fact that it is still a protected market and foreign OEMs haven’t yet looked seriously at this niche. With PEV quotas coming in the near future, foreign brands are finally putting in an effort, proof being that overseas automakers now have a record 7% PEV market share. Of this small cake, 3 percentage points belong to Tesla, 2 percentage points to BMW, and the remaining manufacturers share the final 2 percentage points.
In April, besides the continuous slooow production ramp up from BYD, registering its second-best month ever (13,200 registrations), small city EVs were back in the spotlight. Besides the usual BAIC EC-Series, the Zhidou D2 EV and the SAIC Baojun E100 also joined the top 5 best sellers of the month.
Here are April’s top 5 best selling models:
#1 – BAIC EC-Series: After an outlandish Q4 2017, with three five-digit performances, the EC-Series seems to have stabilized around 7,000–8,000 units/month this year, with April seeing 7,471 registrations, up 72% YoY. The little EV continues to be disruptive on the Chinese market, winning 7 of the last 8 monthly best seller trophies. A cute design helps the EC-Series to be a popular choice in Chinese megacities, where 180 km of range are enough to run around the urban jungle.
#2 – BYD e5: BYD’s Plain Jane electric sedan, a favorite among taxi drivers, got 4,294 registrations in March, a new record for the nameplate — and that’s a new record for the second month in a row. This second youth is due to a facelift this year and, most importantly, a larger battery, allowing it to improve specs (61 kWh, 400 km of range NEDC, 218 hp), for a competitive price (CNY 220,650 / $34,600). The model is a bit of an unsung hero in the BYD stable, as the 73,000 units sold so far mean that it is the brand’s third best selling PEV, behind the Qin and Tang models.
#3 – Zhidou D2 EV: If the EC-Series can be considered “cute,” this bare-basics city vehicle design is as dull as a dishwasher. Nevertheless, the vehicle continues to be sold in large quantities (4,152 units in April) due to a combination of bargain-basement prices and big fleet deals, aided by updated specs in 2018. This vehicle is sold as a quadricycle (think Renault Twizy class) in some European countries. It comes with the following specs: 18 kWh battery, 155 km of range, 100 km/h max speed — all for some €16,000.
#4 – BYD Qin PHEV: The most common plug-in in China (over 140,000 registrations) had another good performance in April, with 4,134 registrations. Thus, BYD’s “Model 3” had its 8th consecutive “3 to 4 thousand unit/month.” (Talk about consistency!) Considering a new Qin is coming in a few months, it is surprising that the current one is still going strong. As for the new generation, sales above 5,000/month should become the norm, making it the best selling BYD.
#5 – SAIC Baojun E100: Shanghai Auto and General Motors have high hopes for their tiny two-seater. With the MY2018 version being ramped up, it is starting to make an impact on the Chinese plug-in market. The model had 3,760 registrations last month, a year best. Will it reach the BAIC EC-Series numbers? I wouldn’t rule out that possibility. There are even export prospects, as it could be marketed as GM’s Smart-like product outside China. Spec-wise, if range (155 km NEDC) and power (39 hp) is not amazing, its price (CNY 93,900 / $14,700) is, especially considering its modern design and features.
|EV Model||April||2018||EV Market Share|
|2||BYD Song PHEV||3,137||14,921||8%|
|3||BYD Qin PHEV||4,134||13,843||7%|
|4||JAC iEV S/E||3,469||13,394||7%|
|6||SAIC Roewe i6 PHEV||3,176||8,200||4%|
|7||Zhidou D2 EV||4,152||8,175||4%|
|8||SAIC Roewe eRX5 PHEV||1,883||7,590||4%|
|11||SAIC Baojun E100||3,760||5,342||3%|
|12||Geely Emgrand EV||2,726||5,300||3%|
|16||Tesla Model X (est.)||700||3,404||2%|
|17||Changan Benni EV||1,170||3,012||2%|
|19||Haima Aishang EV||1,326||2,740||1%|
|20||BMW X1 PHEV||770||2,532||1%|
There were plenty of changes in the top positions in April, the most important being the BYD Qin PHEV climbing to the 3rd spot, putting two BYD models on the podium. Meanwhile, its sibling e5 joined the top 5, underlining a positive month for the brand.
Other significant changes were the Roewe i6 PHEV sedan climbing one position to #6, while small EVs (Zhidou D2 EV, Baojun E100, Chery eQ1) are jumping the ranking ladder now that their specs are complying with the 2018 rules.
Down below, the Hawtai xEV260 jumped two positions, to #18, thanks to 1,418 registrations, a new record for the compact SUV.
Looking at the manufacturer ranking, BYD is on the throne but has lost 3% share (24% to 21%), as the market is growing even faster than the BYD ramp up. Runner-up BAIC also lost ground, though (15%, down 2%).
In 3rd place, Shanghai-based Roewe (10%) is holding the last place on the podium, but if we look at SAIC’s entire corporate result (Roewe + MG + Baojun + Maxus), the share adds up to 14%, confirming it as the 3rd largest Chinese OEM in the New Energy Vehicles field.
Cool New Kids
This was a slow month with regards to new models, with no official landings apart from the first registrations of the…
Nio ES8 – Another Chinese start-up finally delivering units on the road (although volume production is only expected in 2019), NIO has a lot of famous IT backers — like Tencent, Baidu, and Lenovo. This makes NIO possibly the most serious premium-class competitor coming out of China. The ES8, the brand’s first volume model (previously it made some 20 units of the EP9 sports car), is a spacious full-size 7-seat SUV with air suspension (think Audi Q7) with modern design and an aluminum body co-developed by Magna. AI and Autonomous Driving are not forgotten, with Level 3 autonomous driving said to be available later on, through an over-the-air update, thanks to the latest Mobileye system. Spec-wise, if power (644 hp) and 0–100 km/h (4.4 sec) are impressive, the 70kWh battery provides a somewhat underwhelming range (355 km NEDC), but with Nio promising 3 minute battery swaps on a battery renting scheme, it might not be such a deal breaker. As for the price, $68,000 seems a little steep for a Chinese EV, but then again, no other Chinese EV comes even remotely close to what this offers.
You might have noticed that I have avoided the “Tesla Killer” slapstick, and for good reason. The cheapest Tesla Model X 75D starts at $79,500, so the American is more expensive and slower (0–100 km in 5.2 sec), but on the other hand, it has a better range (417 km NEDC) and better autonomous driving capabilities, so it is debatable which is best. In my view, they cater to different audiences, a bit like the Porsche Cayenne and the Audi Q7, and the market will have space for both.
Now, the billion-dollar question is: Will NIO be able to deliver its brilliant SUV in volume deliveries?