China Electric Vehicle Sales Jump 175%, Up To 4.8% Of Auto Market In January!

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Yuan EV Scores 10,000 Sales In January BYD Bonanza

Traditionally, January, along with February, are the two slowest months in the Chinese plug-in vehicle market, but tradition is not what it used to be. Even with disruption hitting the Chinese automotive market (the mainstream market was down 18% last month), plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) sales were up an amazing 175% year over year (YoY), to some 96,000 registrations.

That pulled the PEV market share to 4.8%, already above the 2018 result (4.2%). All of the sudden, my previous forecast for the final 2019 share (8%) seems conservative. Will we see it go north of 10% by the end of December?

With all this continued growth, we should see sales double this year, surpassing the 2 million mark and accounting for some 60% of all global PEV sales in 2019.

This ranking still has some numbers missing — imports — but considering we already have over 90% of this month’s sales tracked, and the exciting results, we decided to publish right now what we have and update the final numbers later.

The total share that foreign brands hold is stuck at 5%, but imports are still missing, so this number should grow a little, to some 8%.

Overall, 2% belongs to Volkswagen, by far the best-selling foreign brand, with the remaining manufacturers sharing the remaining 3% (Tesla should have some 2%, once the final numbers are in).

In January, the headlining news with regard to PEV models was that the BYD Dynamic Duo (Yuan and Tang) continued rise and rise, with the first surpassing 10,000 units in one month for the first time.

Top 5 Best Sellers

#1 – BYD Yuan EV: We all knew that BYD’s new baby crossover was destined for success, and with yet another record of 10,093 deliveries in January, it’s the first time a BYD has hit five digits in one month. The brand’s star player is living up to expectations, eating everybody’s lunch on the way. With a 40,000-long waiting list, demand is no problem, depending mostly on BYD’s ability/willingness to make the vehicle in large volumes (note that the Tang is more profitable…). With unrivaled specs (42 kWh battery, 305 km/190 mi NEDC range, 174 hp motor) for the price ($25,000), success is guaranteed, but for some reason, BYD still thinks it’s not good enough, so the company is going to upgrade the battery to some 58 kWh this year. If BYD has a long waiting list now, imagine then! (Perhaps BYD wants to try to take that world #1 title away from the Tesla Model 3.)

#2 – SAIC Baojun E100: Shanghai Auto and General Motors had high hopes for their tiny two-seater, and despite an irregular career, the tiny two-seater is finally making an impact on the Chinese plug-in market, having registered a record 8,312 units last month. With an updated range in 2018 (250 km NEDC), thanks to a new 24 kWh battery, its price (CNY 93,900 / $14,700) before subsidies is quite alluring, especially considering its modern design and features. Maybe GM should consider exporting it? I mean, it’s not like the company has a strong EV lineup elsewhere…

Photo by Sebastian Blanco for CleanTechnica

#3 – BYD Tang PHEV: After 9 months on the market, the second-generation Tang continues to expand its sales, registering a record 6,908 units. Sales should continue strong for BYD’s successful flagship, and new record sales could still be achieved in the future. Although, the upcoming (and much anticipated) Tang BEV could steal sales from it. As for the current Tang PHEV specs, BYD’s midsize SUV saw its battery grow to 24 kWh, leading to an increased 100 km (62 mi) of range NEDC (around 70 km / 44 mi real world). In the power department, things have stayed the same, but with 500 hp and 0–100 km/h in less than 5 secs, one can’t really say it’s underpowered. All for just CNY 279,800 / $40,816.

#4 – BYD e5: BYD’s bread and butter electric sedan, a favorite among taxi drivers, registered 3,968 units in January, and yet, this performance was overshadowed by team stars Tang and Yuan. This Andre Iguodala (who?) of the BYD lineup has great specs (61 kWh, 405 km / 253 mi range NEDC, 218 hp) considering the price (CNY 220,650 / $34,600). With a new, attractive design (finally!), the nameplate is set to continue its brilliant work as the lesser known team member of an All-Stars-rich Shenzhen Warriors Team.

#5 – BAIC EU-Series: After the record 12,561 units of December, allowing it to be that month’s Best Seller, BAIC’s electric sedan returned to more normal performances, with 3,895 units being delivered last month, narrowly losing out to its BYD e5 nemesis. The revised design and improved specs (215 hp, 416 km / 260 mi NEDC, $32,500) allows it to remain a popular choice and resist the BYD Blitzkrieg (the EC-Series can’t say the same), so it seems the sedan is going to be Beijing Auto’s main bet for 2019.

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2019 Ranking

In such an amazing month, there were plenty of models shining. Besides the aforementioned records mentioned in the top 5 best sellers, there were fresh faces scoring record results, like the #9 Geely Emgrand GSE EV, a compact SUV registering a record 2,808 units. Also, the #14 Great Wall Ora iQ5 EV crossover scored 2,036 units, a new personal best for the Great Wall nameplate. And the #18 Lifan 820 EV midsize sedan delivered a record 1,682 units.

Another interesting feature in the big reshuffle of the January ranking is that in the middle of the large number of new faces on the top 20, we have a couple of export-minded models that are finally surfacing in the top 20. The full-size SUV Nio ES8, in #16 with 1,803 deliveries, was January’s best selling luxury model, while the #17 GAC Trumpchi GE3 compact crossover registered 1,683 units.

Looking at the manufacturer ranking, BYD (22%) is the comfortable leader, thanks to the success of the Yuan and Tang (plus the #4 e5, the #7 Qin, and the #15 Song … it’s a true BYD bonanza). Below BYD, there are significant shifts, with SAIC (14%) in the 2nd spot and Geely (7%) in 3rd, while BAIC (5%) had a terrible entry into 2019, dropping to 4th, tied with Chery.

A special word for BYD’s never ending expansion plans: besides the current lineup, which can already be considered quite complete (a subcompact crossover, compact sedans and SUVs, a flagship midsize SUV, and also a complete range of commercial vehicles), the brand will join new segments this year, with the e1 trying to get a piece of the large City EV market, while the Song MAX, both in PHEV and BEV formats, will join the 7-seat MPV/Minivan category. Even more models are coming in 2020, including a mysterious Han sports car that is said to have Tesla-like acceleration specs and over 700 km of range.

One wonders where BYD will get enough batteries for all that, but then again, it is its own supplier, so just like Tesla, BYD is not very dependent on third party supply issues and contracts, which really separates both EV makers from the rest of the competition in a league of their own, allowing them also to upgrade their batteries more frequently and thus win a critical advantage over their competitors.



Rank PEV Model January 2019 PEV Segment Share
1 BYD Yuan EV 10,093 10,093 11%
2 SAIC Baojun E100 8,312 8,312 9%
3 BYD Tang PHEV 6,908 6,908 7%
4 BYD e5 3,968 3,968 4%
5 BAIC EU-Series 3,895 3,895 4%
6 Chery eQ 3,375 3,375 4%
7 BYD Qin PHEV 3,023 3,023 3%
8 SAIC Roewe Ei5 EV 2,999 2,999 3%
9 Geely Emgrand GSE EV 2,808 2,808 3%
10 JMC E200 2,763 2,763 3%
11 JAC iEV E-Series 2,745 2,745 3%
12 Geely Emgrand EV 2,578 2,578 3%
13 Changan Eulove EV 2,049 2,049 2%
14 Great Wall Ora iQ5 EV 2,036 2,036 2%
15 BYD Song PHEV 1,855 1,855 2%
16 Nio ES8 1,803 1,803 2%
17 GAC Trumpchi GE3 1,683 1,683 2%
18 Lifan 820 EV 1,682 1,682 2%
19 Hawtai Santa Fe xEV 1,568 1,568 2%
20 SAIC Roewe Ei6 PHEV 1,318 1,318 1%
+ Others 28,539 28,539 30%
ALL TOTAL 96,000 96,000 100%

Cool New Kids

January is a slow news month, and it shows, with only two new models landing, both coming from foreign OEMs. The first is the landing of the Ford Fusion/Mondeo Energi in China. I know, it sounds soooo 2013, but what else could Ford do? It’s not like the company has anything else available to comply with the new EV quotas. Yes, it’s a compliance EV and I suspect it won’t be enough to fill the quotas, which should be good news for GAC, which lately has been specializing in badge-selling its plug-ins to companies in desperate need to comply with quotas (ahem, Toyota, Honda…). Anyway, let’s talk about the other debut.

Kia KX3 EV – Looks like a Kia Niro, doesn’t it? Only it isn’t, at least not entirely. Based on the same platform as the aforementioned crossover, this can be considered Niro’s slightly smaller, lower-specced Chinese cousin. With only 109 hp and 300 km / 188 mi range (NEDC) coming from a 45 kWh battery, it is no doubt an inferior model to the Niro EV, but the price is not a whole lot cheaper, at $35,700, which poses the question: Will it have a chance against the local heroes from BYD, SAIC, Geely, BAIC, and others? Well … no. The game has moved on a lot in China. For less than what Kia is asking for its KX3 EV, there are compact crossovers with 200 hp and 60 kWh batteries, like the BAIC EX-Series, while the all-conquering BYD Yuan EV is significantly cheaper, more powerful, and has more range. So expect it to be another model sold in the hundreds per month, at best, which will be useful for Kia to comply with the new EV quotas but raises yet another question: Wouldn’t it be easier just to sell the regular Niro EV in China?

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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 472 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes