8% Plug-In Electric Vehicle Market Share In China!

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After a 3 month streak of record-breaking sales, plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) in December just kept on pushing forward. China registered over 180,000 PEVs in December, making it the 4th record month in a row and achieving 70% year-over-year (YoY) growth. That meant that 2018 sales ended north of the 1 million units mark. Yes, over 1 million PEVs in one year. And to think that 2017 was the first year that plug-ins reached 1 million sales globally. Whoa.

With all this continued growth, and the recent decline of the mainstream market (-16% in December), the PEV market share hit yet another all-time best, ending the month with 8% share. The 2018 PEV market share ended at a record 4.2% share, double the share of 2017 (2.1%), with sales expected to continue growing fast throughout 2019. In a year, we should be talking about 8% in 2019 and some 15% in December … amazing, isn’t it?

Foreign brands’ share of the PEV market was 6%, with Chinese brands absolutely dominating the sales. Of this small cake, 2 percentage points belonged to BMW, the best selling foreign brand, 1 percentage point belonged to Tesla, and 1 percentage point to Nissan, with the remaining manufacturers sharing the final 2 percentage points.

In December, headlining news was the BAIC EU-Series becoming the Best Seller of the Month, with an amazing 12,561 units, being only the second model to surpass 10,000 units in one month in China, after its smaller sibling EC-Series opened the gates last year.

Here’s November’s top 5 best selling models:

#1 – BAIC EU-Series: Beijing Auto’s electric sedan has been evolving throughout the years, and now, thanks to a modern design and some solid specs (215 hp; 420 kms / 260 mi NEDC range; $32,500), it is finally making an impact on the Chinese plug-in market, having registered a record 12,561 units last month, almost as much as it sold during the whole year of 2017. It seems BAIC found another solid best seller in its stable. The question is how it will deal with it — will it give priority to the most expensive and profitable EU-Series over the EC-Series?

#2 – BAIC EC-Series: After the record 20,648 units of October, BAIC’s small EV has been dropping seeing its registrations drop, with only 8,407 units being registered in the last month of the year, which led to it losing the #1 position in December to its sedan sibling EU-Series. Considering the EC-Series still has a waiting list, it seems the maker is prioritizing production of the sedan over its smaller EV. The revised design and improved specs (new 30 kWh battery) will allow the EC-Series to remain a popular choice in Chinese megacities. That’s also helped by a competitive price ($25,000, before subsidies).

#3 – BYD e5: BYD’s bread and butter electric sedan continues to profit from the recent redesign, having registered a record 8,234 units in December thanks to an attractive design (finally!) and strong specs (61 kWh, 405 km / 252 mi range NEDC) for a competitive price ($32,500). Expect this model to continue shining in 2019, now that the Qin has become a more upscale model.

#4 – BYD Yuan EV: We all knew that BYD’s new baby crossover was destined for success, and with a record 8,021 deliveries in December, BYD’s new baby is living up to expectations. Will the Yuan be the fiercest competitor in 2019 to the all-conquering BAIC EC-Series (and EU-Series)? With a waiting list thousands of buyers long, demand is no problem. I guess it mostly depends on BYD’s ability/willingness to make them in large volumes (note that the Tang/Song/Qin are more profitable). Sitting on a sparsely populated part of the market (small BEV crossover) and with unrivalled specs relative to price (42 kWh battery, 305 km/190 mi NEDC range, 174 hp motor, $25,000), BYD might have found in this new model its star player, crowning what it is already a strong lineup.

#5 – BAIC EX-Series: The third musketeer of BAIC’s latest generation of star players, the EX-Series crossover, scored a record 6,844 registrations in December. Sales should continue strong for this BAIC model, possibly becoming the third model in the brand lineup to cross the 10,000 units/month mark. As for the EX-Series specs, the battery has 62 kWh, resulting in an interesting 415 km (259 mi) NEDC range. In the power department, there’s a decent 215 hp to pull it. All of this comes for just $41,000.

Rank Model December 2018 PEV Market Share
1 BAIC EC-Series 8,407 90,637 8%
2 BYD Qin PHEV (Gen I & II) 4,654 47,424 4%
3 JAC iEV S/E 6,818 46,586 4%
4 BYD e5 8,234 46,213 4%
5 Chery eQ 4,732 39,374 4%
6 BYD Song PHEV 4,544 39,318 4%
7 BAIC EU-Series 12,561 37,343 3%
8 BYD Tang PHEV (Gen. I & II) 6,807 37,146 3%
9 BYD Yuan EV 8,021 35,699 3%
10 SAIC Roewe Ei6 PHEV 1,473 33,347 3%
11 BAIC EX-Series 6,844 32,810 3%
12 JMC E200 4,846 31,750 3%
13 Geely Emgrand EV 2,808 31,426 3%
14 Hawtai EV160 680 29,731 3%
15 SAIC Roewe Ei5 EV 3,301 26,008 2%
16 SAIC Baojun E100 4,692 25,888 2%
17 SAIC Roewe eRX5 PHEV 575 22,711 2%
18 Dongfeng Junfeng Skio 4,104 19,226 2%
19 Zotye E200 2,293 18,865 2%
20 Hawtai xEV 1,878 17,776 2%
+ Others 84,991 410,873 37%
ALL TOTAL 181,385 1,102,375 100%

2018 ranking

The 2018 winner isn’t at all surprising, with the BAIC EC-Series clearly winning its second model trophy months in advance. Below it, however, there were plenty of models shakin’n shining, the biggest of all being the BAIC EU-Series shooting seven spots to … #7, thanks to the aforementioned 12,561 registrations. Another hot model joining the top 10 in the last month of the year was the BYD Yuan EV, jumping two positions to #9. That makes 5(!) BYDs in the top 10. Talk about a strong lineup…

There were also some significant changes in the ranking below the top 10, with the BAIC EX-Series climbing to #11 and the SAIC Baojun E100 up one spot to #16. The Dongfeng Junfeng Skio reached #18 after jumping two positions.

In such a fast-growing market, it has become the norm that models break their all-time highs all the time. In this top 20 ranking, 8 beat their personal best last month, 5 of them either belonging to BYD or BAIC.   

Outside the top 20, there’s much to talk about. The BMW 530e ended the year as the best-selling foreign model, with 13,493 registrations, ending the year as the best seller in the premium class. But in December the BMW model lost the month’s premium best seller title to the Nio ES8. Thanks to 3,318 deliveries of that model (11,348 in 2018), the ES8 beat all the foreign competition.  Will Nio be able to do the same during 2019?

With the new ES6 midsize SUV said to start deliveries by the middle of 2019, the Chinese startup is making the best use of the short time it has to grow, so let’s wait and see.

Looking at the manufacturer ranking, BYD (20%) was a comfortable winner, winning its 5th title in a row, while runner-up BAIC (15%) is finally profiting from a stronger lineup, now that it isn’t so dependent on one key player. In fact, BAIC could run head to head with BYD in 2019.

In third place, Shanghai-based Roewe (7%) managed to keep off Chery (6%), retaining the same medal it won in 2017.

Cool New Kids

Several models landed in the last month of 2018, some with a few hundred units and a select few even managing to land with four-digit numbers. But only one model landed with a big bang:

Buick Velite 6 — Is it a bird?… Is it a plane?… No, it’s just a Buick. But not just another Buick. With a scarcely believable 5,000 registrations in its landing month (the best landing month for a model since the BAIC EC-Series), the GM compact wagon has left many with their mouths open and wondering if this is just a one-time stunt. It seems there’s more to it than that, as GM hopes to make some 90,000 Velite e6 during 2019. 90,000!

Surely without coincidence, the internal combustion engine counterpart to this model, the compact Buick Excelle, is said to have its production capacity cut by some 90,000 units this year. … Based on the SAIC Roewe Ei5 wagon, itself based on a GM platform (think: extended Bolt platform), the swoopy and original Velite 6* is larger and has more space than its Volt sibling, but it is hampered by a small battery (35 kWh), giving it a small range (291 km / 182 mi NEDC) compared to the best players in the market (e.g., the BYD e6 has a 61 kWh battery). Maybe the badge and originality of the model could help it fulfill GM’s big dreams?

*I mean, just the fact that it is a wagon is something to write about, right?

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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