10% Plugin Vehicle Share in China!

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Plugin vehicles are a hot item in China, having scored over 175,000 registrations last month. That was a 173% jump compared to the same month last year, with BEVs in particular growing at an amazing 204% rate.

April was the second month in a row that the plugin share reached the two-digit mark, hitting 10% this time (8.2% BEV). That kept the 2021 share at 10% (8.1% BEV). Considering that Q1 is usually China’s weakest quarter, we can now safely assume that the local plugin market share will end north of the two-digit baseline this year, and the total tally of the year will exceed 2 million deliveries.

Following Europe, #EVDisruption is now reaching China. …

Looking at April’s best sellers, the biggest news is the #4 ranking of the Li Xiang One, with the full size SUV ending just 207 units behind the #3 BYD Han EV, something that would be a first for the startup automaker.

Here are more details and commentary on April’s top 5 best selling models:

#1 — Wuling HongGuang Mini EV

With 29,251 Chinese registrations last month, the tiny four-seater continues on its roll, allowing it to keep the 3rd spot in the overall market. If the little Wuling continues to go 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, with the added bonus that the people buying it (mostly females, mostly under 35 years old) are usually a hard-to-capture audience. This EV is becoming a game changer, but like every success story, one wonders what will happen when others start to play in this field.

#2 — Tesla Model 3

The poster child for electric mobility had just 6,264 registrations last month, but fear not. Considering that part of Made-in-China Model 3 production is now being exported to Europe and other parts of the Asia-Pacific region, we should start to see it behave in China like it does elsewhere, meaning poor starts of the quarter, so-so mid-quarter months, and then an end-of-quarter peak. Yes, it will probably replicate the behavior of the US-made Model 3 to some extent, something we will no doubt have the opportunity to check in the next couple of quarters.

#3 — BYD Han EV

The successful career of BYD’s luxury sedan in China has seemed to hit cruise control. It had 5,746 registrations in April, just enough to earn it its first podium presence since last January. The current poster boy for BYD is expected to continue going at 5,000–7,000 units/month in the foreseeable future, looking to keep the full size category leadership from the wheels of the …

#4 — Li Xiang One

… big SUV from Li Xiang. A sort of Dark Horse among the whole Chinese EV startup buzz, the little-talked-about EREV has already delivered over 55,000 units in just 17 months, an amazing performance, especially when we consider that this is a huge 5-meter, 7-seat, full-size SUV. Using an original strategy when it comes to powertrain, the Li Xiang One is one of the few extended-range electric vehicles on the market. It has a 41 kWh battery with fast-charging capability as well as a 1.2 liter gasoline engine that works as a range extender. With production (and demand?) now at cruising speed, one wonders when this EV startup will launch its 2nd album model. After all, its counterparts in the movement (NIO and Xpeng) are already on their 2nd or even 3rd new model.

#5 — Tesla Model Y

Tesla’s new baby had only 5,407 registrations last month, and while at first sight that looks like a disappointing result, this is mostly explained by the 2 week shutdown in April. Expect it to recover soon and maybe resume its records streak by June. The Tesla crossover’s future cruising speed in China is a question mark. Traditionally, SUVs/crossovers haven’t sold as much as their sedan counterparts, but the truth is that the market is now leaning towards higher riding bodies, so the Model Y could surf the wave and outsell the Model 3 by some margin.

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Looking at the remaining best sellers table in April, a mention goes out to the rise and rise of the #10 Hozon Neta V, a small crossover from Hozon that got 3,846 registrations last month, the second record performance in a row for the EV startup model. We might be witnessing the buildup of another star in the Chinese EV startup sky.

Another model with surging sales is the new BYD Qin Plus PHEV, 12th last month with a record 3,603 registrations. That was its third record score in a row, which means the new midsize BYD is still in production ramp-up mode. The Shenzhen automaker is likely hoping to replicate the Han’s success in the category below.

The #18 SAIC Roewe RX5 PHEV had 2,499 registrations last month, the SUV’s best score in 34 months, while the #15 BYD e2 hatchback hit a record score of 2,903 units.

Local startups continued to shine. Besides the aforementioned Hozon Neta V, in total, we had 7 representatives from 6 different startups on the table, with the highest placed startup model being the #4 Li Xiang One.

Below the top 20, a reference goes out to the landing of the GAC Aion Y, with a great 2,000 unit score. The compact MPV (Yay! MPVs rule!) seems to have started off its career on the right foot, after one failure (Aion LX) and one meh launch (Aion V). This is an important model for GAC, which has been solely living off the success of the Aion S for years. It desperately needs more successful metal for the company to grow and avoid the one-trick pony moniker.

On the topic of the Volkswagen Group galaxy, the Volkswagen ID.4 continues to (slowly) ramp up production, with the SUV having 1,644 registrations last month (922 from the ID.4X and 722 from the ID.4 Crozz variants). Their Chinese arm SOL (as in, rebadged JACs) saw the small E10X hit a record score of 2,249 units.

Looking at the 2021 ranking, the top positions all remained the same, with the Wuling Mini EV as the undisputed leader and the runner-up Tesla Model 3 also in a comfortable position.

Below the Model 3, the Tesla Model Y got a little bit closer to the #4 Great Wall Ora Black Cat, which had an off month in April. Tesla’s SUV is set to surpass the small Cat in the next couple of months.

The first position change happened in 10th place, with SAIC’s small Clever EV jumping three spots into the top half of the table. Meanwhile, in #12 we have the Hozon Neta V, which also jumped 3 positions — and we should see it climb even higher, given the current record streak that the small crossover is experiencing.

The BYD Han PHEV is also experiencing a success of its own, having climbed to #16 last month. Another EV startup model has joined the top 20, with the small Leap Motor T03 jumping to #19, making it the 7th EV startup model in this top 20.

Just outside the top 20, we have two models on the rise. The #21 Xpeng G3 is just 70 units behind the #20 Ora White Cat, so the crossover might already join the table next month. Meanwhile, the BYD Qin Plus PHEV is some 800 units below the top 20, and given its current production ramp-up process, it wouldn’t be that surprising if it joined the table already in May.

Looking at the automaker ranking, the SGMW joint-venture (20%, down 1 percentage point) is in the leadership position, while below it, Tesla (12%, down 2 points) is just 2,000 units ahead of BYD (12%, up 1 point) — but expect the US automaker to gain significant ground again in June.

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

Interestingly, the all-mighty Volkswagen Group, owner of 16% of the overall Chinese passenger car market, currently has only 5% of the plugin market, a number that pales next to the 27% share of the SAIC Group, or even the 12% that both BYD and Tesla have. So, a lot needs to be done if the group still wants to keep its grip on the market in the long term.

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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 477 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes