The overall Chinese market remained positive in September (+8% year over year/YoY), with plugin vehicles faring even better, growing by 66% YoY in September to 131,000 registrations. That’s a new year best for plugin vehicles, with full electrics (BEVs) growing faster (+73%) than plugin hybrids (+43%), allowing pure electrics to have 80% of plugin sales last month, slightly above this year’s average of 79%.
Last month, plugin vehicle market share reached 6.3% (5% BEV), pulling the 2020 share to 5.2% (4.1% BEV). That is still slightly below the 5.5% of 2019, but it is a step in the right direction and China should surpass last year’s score by the end of the year.
Looking at September best sellers, we have two midsize sedans (#2 Tesla Model 3, #4 GAC Aion S) and 3 city EVs, confirming the return of small EVs to the spotlight. The Wuling EV even managed to beat the almighty Tesla Model 3 in the race for best selling model.
Here’s more information on September’s top 5 best selling models:
#1 — Wuling HongGuang Mini EV
A big name for a small car, the Wuling EV scored a record 14,495 registrations last month, meaning that the production ramp up continues, so expect the tiny four-seater to continue growing in the next few months. The reason for the overnight success? Well, it is one of the cheapest EVs on the market ($4,200!!!), and yet, it’s not all that bad, as the SAIC-GM-Wuling joint-venture model can seat 4 people (or 3 people and a bit of cargo, or 2 with a fair amount of cargo — 741 liters) in a car that is a tad larger (2,917 mm/114.8 in) than a Smart Fortwo EV.
Sure, range is not brilliant (the smaller battery version has a 9.2 kWh battery, the top spec version has a 13.8 kWh battery), and neither is the motor (27 hp), but it has only 665 kg curb weight to carry around and is highway capable. In order to get the low price of $4,200, without subsidies, one can’t expect miracles! At this price level, the Wuling EV is in position to be a disruptive force in urban mobility, not only against 4-wheeled private transportation, but also against 2 and 3-wheelers. This EV could be a game changer, and not only in China. …
#2 — Tesla Model 3
The poster child for electric mobility hit 11,329 registrations last month, and while that’s not its all-time best, Tesla’s midsizer continued firmly above the 10,000 mark and should have a bump in deliveries during the next few months as the new Standard Range Plus with an LFP battery begins deliveries. The Model 3 is close to getting in the way of the category best sellers in the overall market, as the Californian is not that far off from the BMW 3 Series (15,900 registrations), Mercedes C-Class (15,700 registrations), and Audi A4 (14,300 registrations), so the Tesla sports sedan still has some room to grow. Will we see it reach some 15,000 units/month cruising speed this year?
#3 — Great Wall ORA Black Cat (R1)
A few decades ago, Hollywood had a Rat Pack, and maybe inspired by that one, Great Wall decided to create its own Cat Pack, transforming its tiny R1 Smart-lookalike into the Black Cat, launching the R2 model (think Scion XB/Toyota Urban Cruiser kind of vehicle) as the White Cat, which had 1,035 registrations last month, and then leading the Pack, Great Wall is now preparing the launch of the Good Cat, a chunky (and funky) compact hatchback (Volkswagen Golf size) that kinda looks like a Porsche 356 in the front, a Toyota from the side, and the back … well, it’s its own thing. But enough of the Good Cat; we are here to talk about the Black Cat, which scored 5,141 registrations in September, the city EV’s best score since the new subsidy rules were enacted back in June 2019. It looks like the new name is allowing a second youth for the Ora model, which is also benefitting from the revenge of city EVs.
#4 — GAC Aion S
GAC’s sleek sedan was 4th in September, having gotten 4,548 registrations, a new year best, so it looks like the Aion S has found its space, sharing the stage with its crossover sibling, the new Aion V (2,183 units last month). One of the most competitive domestic electric sedans on the market, the Aion S should continue to be a regular in this top 5, and is a strong candidate for the 2020 bronze medal position.
#5 — SAIC Baojun E-Series
Compared with the basics of the Wuling EV, the Baojun E-Series (E100/200/300) includes more hip, upmarket city models. They have seen their demand stay high during the past few months, winning the #1 spot in September thanks to 4,236 units last month. Access to the current subsidy, added to competitive pricing before subsidies (CNY 93,900/$14,700), makes it an appealing model for young urban drivers, as well as carsharing companies and other kind of fleets.
Looking at the remaining best sellers in September, a mention is due to a few record performances, from the Li Xiang One (3,830 units), the NIO ES6 (3,226), and the hot Xpeng P7 (2,573), confirming the good moment of these local EV startups. Two recent additions to the market, the GAC Aion V (2,183 units) and the BYD Han EV (3,624 units), continue their production ramp-ups, with the Han EV becoming last month’s best selling BYD, and if both the BEV and PHEV versions were counted together, the full-size Han would have been 3rd last month.
Below the top 20, a reference goes out to the ramp-up of Geely’s Geometry C, with 1,156 registrations. The Chinese automaker hopes to succeed with a hatchback where the sedan (Geometry A) failed. With Polestar, Lynk & Co, and Geely itself also going for dedicated BEVs, one wonders how the Geometry lineup sits in the middle of all this.
barge flagship SUV, the ES8, scored 1,435 registrations last month, its best score since May 2019, mostly thanks to the new 100 kWh version. Meanwhile, another EV startup is starting to gain momentum, with Hozon’s Neta N01 small crossover hitting a record 1,332 deliveries.
Looking at the 2020 ranking, while the Model 3 is the undisputed leader, below it the Wuling Mini EV is stealing the show. After joining the table in July in #13, it kept on rising, and in September, it jumped four spots, to #2.
This move highlights the latest trend — city EVs returning to the spotlight, not only with the Wuling EV, but also the #5 Baojun E-Series, while the newly named Great Wall Ora Black Cat was up to #6 and the Chery eQ was up to #8, thus making it four city EVs in the top 8.
But it wasn’t only city EVs shining, as the local EV startups continued climbing the sales ladder as well. The Li Xiang One rose to #10, and with just 234 units separating it from a falling BMW 530Le, the big SUV should become the best selling PHEV on the table by October. The Weltmeister EX5 also had reasons to celebrate, as the crossover was up one spot, to #12.
BYD also had a positive month, as the Han EV joined the table, in #19, making it 6 BYDs in the top 20.
Looking at the manufacturer ranking, BYD (15%) is in the leadership, followed by #2 Tesla (12%, down 1 point) and the SGMW joint venture (9%, up 2 point) in 3rd.
Below the podium, the race is tight. Volkswagen (6%) is holding on to #4, with #5 SAIC and #6 GAC fewer than 500 units away from the German automaker, so anything can happen here, while NIO (4%) has surpassed BAIC and is now #7.
Cool New Kids on the Block
This was a slow month for new launches. Besides a couple of Dongfeng and Changan new (and irrelevant) badge-engineered models, the only significant model to land in September was the Chery ANT.
Chery ANT — While Great Wall has now chosen cats as it preferred type of pet EV, Chery chose ants. … But enough of pet talk. Chery, one of the EV pioneers in China, currently has only the small eQ model selling in significant numbers, but the brand knows that fat profits (and export perspectives) are only possible in the upper-echelons of the market, so they now launched the ANT midsize SUV to go after the current category leaders, like the NIO ES6 or BYD Tang. And in order to succeed, besides a Pininfarina-like design (I leave that to your judgement, but for me, the front seems too “inspired” by Lynk & Co models), it needs some competitive specs to go with it. Here’s what it has: 70/88 kWh batteries, 150 kW top spec electric motor, and 620 km/385 mi NEDC range with the 88 kWh battery (510 km/316 mi range with the 70 kWh version).
The vehicle has a new aluminium-magnesium platform. Chery threw everything it had into the interior, making it tech-laden (5G, driving aids, OTA updates, etc., etc.). With prices starting at CNY150,000 ($22,000) after subsidy, the ANT is Chery’s main bet for 2021, offering a contemporary design in and out (it is the first Tesla-like Chery on the market). It has good enough specs to ride along with the best, and competitive pricing is the icing on the cake. Will the ANT become a success story for Chery? With just 140 units in its landing month, one can say the entry of Chery’s new EV on the market was unremarkable, but this might not mean much in the future, because like in the tale of the ant and the grasshopper, this could be a case where slowly but surely this ANT will become a volume seller, perhaps 1,500 units/month.
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