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China EV Sales Report — Foreign Brands Shine In Cooling Market (May 2019)

After a strong start of the year, May saw the Chinese plug-in market hit the brakes. With some 104,000 registrations in the month, the plug-in vehicle (PEV) market was up only 2% year over year (YoY). However, because the mainstream market is falling significantly (−17%!), the May PEV share reached an amazing 6.6%, pulling the 2019 PEV market share to 5.6%, well above the 2018 result (4.2%).

After a strong start of the year, May saw the Chinese plug-in market hit the brakes. With some 104,000 registrations in the month, the plug-in vehicle (PEV) market was up only 2% year over year (YoY). However, because the mainstream market is falling significantly (−17%!), the May PEV share reached an amazing 6.6%, pulling the 2019 PEV market share to 5.6%, well above the 2018 result (4.2%).

At this pace, this market could reach some 7% share by the end of this year and cross the 10% share in 2020. And that’s when things start to get interesting. … Maybe it’s still early to say that part of the mainstream market drop comes from the EV Osborne effect, but at this point, I wouldn’t bet against it.

One thing is certain — this is without doubt the most fascinating plug-in market on Earth, with several seismic changes happening at the same time. It’s not only the Tesla Model 3 joining the party — it’s also foreign brands scaling up plug-in production to meet this year’s quotas, it’s local startup companies hitting relevant volumes in the race to survive, all while the local big players race between each other to see who gets to launch more models faster (right now the race is between Geely and BYD, with each launching around 1 new model … per month!), with some of them no longer being BEV conversions made on the cheap, but instead dedicated EVs with world-class style and specs.

This month, foreign OEMs shined, with their market share surging to a record 14%. Volkswagen jumped to 5% share (currently, VW has 6% share in Europe) and is followed by Tesla (3%), BMW (2%), and Nissan (1%).

In May, the first surprise came in the #3 spot, with the Roewe Ei5 EV scoring a record 5,488 registrations. In #5, we have the JAC E-Series, with 4,505 registrations.

Here’s a closer look at May’s top 5 best selling models:

#1 – BAIC EU-Series: The hot electric sedan scored 7,079 registrations last month, confirming its position as the brand’s main bet for this year. The revised design and improved specs (215 hp, 416 km / 260 mi NEDC, $32,500) allows it to remain a popular choice, but with new sedans coming from seemingly every corner of the universe, Beijing Auto will soon need to update the specs again, especially when a certain GAC Aion S promises 510 km / 318 mi NEDC range for less than $30,000…

#2 – BYD Yuan EV: The BYD Baby Crossover continues along the road of success, with the new 58 kWh version helping to keep the fire alive. With 6,044 units being delivered in May, BYD’s star product continues to be delivered at a fast pace almost unmatched in China and globally. Also, with a thousand-long waiting list, demand is no problem — results seem to depend more on BYD’s ability/willingness to make the Yuan EV in large volumes (the Tang and Qin Pro are more profitable models). With unrivaled specs (58 kWh battery, 410 km /255 mi NEDC range, 163 hp motor), and price ($25,000), this is the year’s strongest candidate for the best seller title.

#3 – SAIC Roewe Ei5 EV: This model was something of a shot in the dark for Shanghai Auto, as station wagons aren’t common in China, but it has paid off, as the nameplate is not only the automaker’s best selling plug-in model, but it had its best month ever in May, with 5,488 units registered. Based on the GM platform Delta II (think Chevrolet Cruze, Opel Astra, or Buick Velite 6), the Chinese wagon profits from a quality design and unique body, compensating for the middle-of-the-road specs (35 kWh battery; 301 km / 187 mi range). The price is compelling as well (~$33,000).

#4 – JAC iEV E-Series: The city EV is the new star in JAC’s lineup, having scored 4,505 registrations in May, mostly thanks to competitive specs relative to price ( 42 kWh, 310 km / 194 mi range NEDC) / $16,300). With a distinctive design (for some reason the front reminds me of a mix between a bulldog and a panda), the nameplate is continuing its brilliant work as the piano-carrier of the Hefei maker.

#5 – Chery eQ: One of the pioneering EV brands, Chery once upon a time won China’s best selling EV title three years in a row (2011, 2012, 2013). The automaker has regained relevance with the small eQ EV, and it registered 3,818 units last month. That allowed it to collect yet another top 5 position. But the increased competition (JAC iEV E-Series, BYD e1, etc.) might make a dent in the nameplate’s success, especially considering it has a range (200 km / 120 mi) that falls well below what the competition (see JAC E-Series) has to offer.

Rank Model May 2019
2019 PEV Segment Share
1 BYD Yuan EV 6,044 36,918 8%
2 BAIC EU-Series 7,079 31,160 7%
3 BYD e5 3,173 22,302 5%
4 BYD Tang PHEV 2,458 21,178 5%
5 Geely Emgrand EV 3,348 19,250 4%
6 SAIC Roewe Ei5 EV 5,488 18,078 4%
7 Chery eQ 3,818 17,317 4%
8 Great Wall Ora R1 EV 3,790 14,883 3%
9 JAC iEV E-Series 4,505 14,120 3%
10 SAIC Baojun E-Series EV 546 12,318 3%
11 VW Passat GTE PHEV 3,293 12,139 3%
12 BYD Qin Pro PHEV 1,026 8,710 2%
13 Great Wall Ora iQ5 EV 751 8,368 2%
14 JMC E200 500 8,294 2%
15 SAIC Roewe Ei6 PHEV 1,592 8,001 2%
16 Changan Eado EV 1,892 7,946 2%
17 BMW 530Le 2,878 7,883 2%
18 Tesla Model 3 e) 2,000 7,392 2%
19 Xiaopeng Xpeng G3 2,704 7,359 2%
20 BYD Qin Pro EV 2,936 7,242 2%
+ Others 43,853 179,410 38%
= TOTAL 103,674 470,268 100%

2019 Ranking

The market is as dynamic as ever, with plenty of changes and record results in May. The most important position change in the year-to-date rankings was the Roewe Ei5 EV climbing to #6, with SAIC’s station wagon now looking to reach the #5 Geely Emgrand EV, preferably with another record month.

It’s also good timing for the Ei5 EV to go up, because its stablemate the Baojun E-Series is dropping like a rock, having scored just 546 registrations and dropping below the #8 Great Wall Ora R1 EV and #9 JAC iEV E-Series, both direct competitors in the race to displace the #7 Chery eQ from the Best Selling City EV throne.

Great Wall is surely happy with its Ora lineup — not only was the R1 up, but the strange looking iQ5 EV SUV also climbed one position, to #13.

There were actually three new faces in the top 20, with the highest entry being the BMW 530Le, in #17, which became the highest standing full-size model and the 3rd foreign nameplate in the ranking, together with the #11 VW Passat PHEV and the #18 Tesla Model 3. This is the first time that 3 foreign nameplates have appeared in the Chinese top 20.

The Xpeng G3 EV, from startup Xiaopeng, also joined the top 20, in #19, surpassing at the same time other local startups Weltmeister and Nio. Though, Nio is keeping the best selling full-size SUV title, with its ES8 SUV in #21, and its smaller (and cheaper) ES6 SUV lands in June, so expect Nio to recover the “Best Selling EV Startup” title soon.

The final entry in the ranking is the BYD Qin Pro EV, with the midsize sedan scoring a record 2,936 registrations. Interestingly, the other two additions to the ranking also had record performances, with the Xpeng G3 doing so with 2,704 units and the 530Le with 2,878.

Despite this record performance, the BMW wasn’t the best selling foreigner last month, and it wasn’t the Passat PHEV (3,293) either. Rather, the Nissan Sylphy EV, which came out of nowhere to score 3,335 units in May, was #1. If the Japanese sedan manages to keep this pace in the coming months, expect another foreign nameplate in the top 20 soon.

Looking at the manufacturer ranking, BYD (22%, down 1%) is still leading without any stress, thanks to the success of its broad lineup (there are 3 BYD models in the top 4 spots, and 5 in the top 20). Below BYD, SAIC (9%) is ahead in the race for 2nd, closely followed by BAIC (8%). Meanwhile, #4 Geely (6%, down 1%) lost some ground to the podium bearers.

Cool New Kids

May had four new models landing — another small (and forgettable) EV from Dongfeng, two new Geely PHEVs: the Star, a BMW X4-like SUV-Coupé, and the Binyue compact crossover. But this month’s headlines go to a model from a brand that has been far from the top position.

GAC Aion S – Geely Geometry A, meet your nemesis. Another sedan has clearly been inspired by the Tesla Model 3 formula, and GAC has high hopes for its new dedicated EV lineup, the Aion. Right now we have the Aion S sedan being launched, with a midsize SUV, the LX, set to be launched later in the year and promising 600 km / 373 mi NEDC range. But getting back at the Aion S, beyond the stylish (and aerodynamic — 0.245 cd) looks, this new model bears some impressive, almost Tesla Model 3–like, specs: a 59 kWh CATL NCM 811 battery, 510 km / 318 mi NEDC range, and Level 2 driving aids (well, on this last topic, Tesla does better, but moving on…). But the real killer is the price: around 180,000 CNY ($26,000) … before subsidies. This undercuts not only the premium competition, but also the mainstream best sellers, so we might be witnessing the landing of a game changer.

For now, GAC claims to have received over 23,000 pre-orders for its new sedan in the first 45 days after it was presented, which is perfectly believable. The only real challenge for GAC is to scale up production fast enough in order to profit from this wave of orders, something that is not certain to go well, as GAC hasn’t yet done large-scale (think 10,000 units per month) plug-in vehicle production before. But we applaud GAC’s daring plans, so from the 668 units of May, we expect some 10,000 units/month for the Aion S once production is at full speed. Add some 5,000 units/month for the LX SUV and we could see GAC becoming a force to be reckoned with in 2020.

Below are the charts from above but with “Others” added.

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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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