11% Plugin Vehicle Share in China!

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Plugin electric vehicles are a hot item in China right now, and they scored a near-record 211,000 registrations last month. That was a 244% jump compared to the same month last year, making it the second best month ever, only behind last December.

Last month’s plugin vehicle share actually reached the two-digit mark for the first time ever, hitting 11% (9.2% BEV). That record performance pulled the 2021 share to 10% (8% BEV). When you consider that January and February are China’s weakest months, we can safely assume that plugin market share will end north of the two-digit mark this year and the total tally of the year will exceed 2 million deliveries!

Following Europe, #EVDisruption is now reaching China.

March’s best sellers were exactly the same as February’s, and in the same order. The Wuling Mini EV led the pack, followed by both Teslas in the remaining podium positions.

#1 – Wuling HongGuang Mini EV

After a small break in February, the Wuling EV is back at full speed, scoring a record 39,745 registrations last month and resuming its long streak of records. Those nearly 40,000 registrations allowed it to reach the 3rd spot in the overall market, with the little Wuling selling some 270,000 units in 270 days, meaning that if the tiny four-seater continues to grow at this pace, a half a million score by the end of the year seems not only feasible, but likely. The Wuling EV is becoming a disruptive force in urban mobility, a true EV for the masses. Unlike what many might think, its success isn’t just happening in the poorer regions of China, as the tiny EV is also selling well in places like Tianjin (3rd best selling EV there), Guangdong (#2), and Fujian (#1), and like a certain 1959 model bearing the same name, or the original Volkswagen Beetle, the Wuling Mini EV is becoming a sort of icon for classless transportation, as the people buying it (mostly females, mostly under 35 year olds) are usually a hard-to-capture audience. This EV has a lot to become a game changer, and not only in China.

Image courtesy of Wuling
Image courtesy of Wuling

#2 – Tesla Model 3

The poster child for electric mobility hit a record 25,327 registrations last month, allowing it to reach the 11th spot in the overall market, a rather surprising result considering past performances. Considering that the made-in-China Model 3 is now being exported to Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, we might start to see end-of-quarter peak deliveries in China, replicating the behavior of the US-made Model 3. Something we will no doubt have the opportunity to check in the next couple of quarters.

#3 – Tesla Model Y

Tesla’s new baby hit 10,151 registrations last month, and while it’s not (yet) a Model 3-beating score, it means that the production ramp-up is going smoothly and should hit its peak during the second quarter of the year. The Tesla midsize crossover’s future cruising speed in China is a big question mark. Traditionally, SUVs/crossovers haven’t sold as much as their sedan counterparts. The truth is that the market is leaning towards higher riding bodies, so the Model Y could still surf the wave and outsell the Model 3 by some margin.

#4 – Great Wall ORA Black Cat (R1)

Ora’s ever-growing Cat Pack is becoming quite popular, and none of them has been as popular as the tiny Black Cat, which had 8,527 registrations in March. So, the Great Wall model continued to be at the forefront of the resurgence of city EVs and might reach new heights soon. Perhaps it will even deliver 10,000+ units in April?

#5 – BYD Han EV

The successful career of BYD’s luxury sedan in China resumed in March, by delivering 7,956 units, enough to beat the 2nd best selling full-size model (Li Xiang One) by a sizeable margin — the big SUV ended some 3,000 units behind. The current poster boy for BYD is expected to continue thriving in the foreseeable future, keeping the category leadership position with an iron fist.

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Looking at the remaining best sellers table in March, a mention goes out to the rise and rise of the small Changan Benni EV, with 4,076 registrations, its 3rd record performance in a row, allowing the Toyota Yaris-like hatchback to reach the 9th position last month, and raising the question of whether we aren’t witnessing the rise of a new star in the competitive Chinese EV market … Discuss.

Another model with surging sales is the new BMW iX3. It was 10th last month with a record 3,519 registrations. The midsize SUV is now BMW’s main bet in China, and the only other foreign model on the table, besides the Tesla siblings.

Local startups continue to shine, and the highlight of the month belonged to Hozon’s small Neta V, which scored a record 3,206 registrations. In total, we had 7 representatives from 6 different startups on the table, with the highest placed being the #7 Li Xiang One (4,900 units). This is creating an interesting phenomenon — while established Chinese makers (FAW, Dongfeng, etc) are apparently oblivious to the current NEV wave, China’s smaller makers, like BYD, and local startups filling the empty space. The most bizarre example is Geely, owner of Volvo and Polestar, two brands that are heavy on plugins. Oddly, Geely itself is leading plugin markets in places like Russia and Belarus, and yet, in its home market, it has less than 1% share….

Speaking of BYD, after a quick transition into using the new Blade Battery in its lineup, the new policy is now starting to bear its first fruits, with the new BYD D1 people carrier showing up at #16, thanks to 2,796 units, its fourth record result in a row, while the new Qin Plus PHEV had its first volume month, allowing it to show up in #18, with 2,509 units.

Below the top 20, a reference goes out to the ramp-up of ORA’s White Cat (2,406 units) and Good Cat (2,116 units). Also, the VW Magotan PHEV (Euro-spec Passat, but made in China) hit a record 2,352 units, and still in the Volkswagen stable, a mention goes to the ramp-up of the ID.4, which reached 990 units last month.

Looking at the 2021 ranking, the Wuling Mini EV is the undisputed leader, and the same can be said about the runner-up Tesla Model 3, so unless something unexpected occurs, the top two positions are already taken for.

Below it, the Climber of the Month was once again the Tesla Model Y, which jumped four positions to #5. This was the only change in the top 10.

There also wasn’t much to talk about in the second half of the table. The NIO ES6 climbed to #11, while the BMW iX3 joined the table, in #16. Interestingly, all three climbers in this top 20 were high-end midsize SUVs. A coincidence?

Just outside the top 20, we have two models on the rise. The #21 BYD D1 just 767 units behind the #20 Ora Good Cat, so the MPV might already join the table in April, while the small Leap Motor T03 could also reach the top 20 soon, with the startup model only 1,074 units below the table.

Looking at the automaker ranking, the SGMW joint-venture (21%, down 1 point) is in the leadership spot, while below it Tesla (14%, up 2 points) is now firmly in the 2nd spot, ahead of BYD (11%).

Below the podium, SAIC (7%, down 1 point) is 4th, followed by #5 Great Wall (6%) and #6 NIO (5%).

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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