Record Month For Plugin Electric Vehicles In China! 15% Share!

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Plugins are on fire in China, having scored a record 235,000 registrations last month, pulling the year-to-date (YTD) tally to 1.1 million units, a far cry from the 360,000 units that this market had 12 months ago.

Share-wise, June also witnessed a record month, hitting 15% (12% full electrics/BEVs). This pulled the 2021 share to 11% (9% BEV), and considering that the second half of the year is usually China’s strongest, we can now safely assume that the country’s plugin vehicle market share will end well above the 10% mark this year, and the total tally of the year will exceed 2 million deliveries!

Not long after Europe, #EVDisruption has reached China.

Looking at June’s best sellers, the biggest news items were the BYD Qin Plus PHEV and the Li Xiang One reaching the top 5, while the podium bearers were the usual ones, with the Model 3 beating the Model Y this time.

Here are June’s top 5 best selling models in more detail:

#1 — Wuling HongGuang Mini EV

With 29,143 registrations last month, the tiny four-seater continues on a roll, winning not only another best seller title, but also allowing it to win another top 5 presence in the overall market. If the little Wuling continues at this pace, a half a million score by the end of the year remains a possibility for the small EV. 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 in every success story, one wonders about the impact that copycat models from the competition will make to match the little Wuling.

#2 — Tesla Model 3

The poster child for electric mobility had 16,514 registrations last month, confirming that the sports sedan is behaving in China like elsewhere, with boom–bust performances, where the last month of each quarter corresponds to boom months and the first month of the quarter busts. This is happening because the Made-in-China Model 3 production is now being exported to Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, so the Shanghai-made Model 3s now behave like those made in Fremont. Still, considering past performances, one can say that the sedan has found its cruising speed in China, running with the best of the overall midsize market, like the BMW 3 Series or the Toyota Camry.

#3 — Tesla Model Y

Tesla’s new baby scored 11,623 deliveries last month, failing to score a record month in June. This could have been one of the reasons for the launch the Standard Range (SR) version. The midsize crossover’s future cruising speed in China is a question mark. While it may seem that the Model Y recently flattened out at around 12,000 units/month, one wonders how much more volume the SR version add to the current average. While, traditionally, SUVs/crossovers haven’t sold as much as their sedan counterparts in China, the truth is that the market is leaning towards higher riding bodies now, so the Model Y could surf the wave and outsell the Model 3 by some margin.

#4 — BYD Qin Plus PHEV

The BYD Qin had been a bread and butter model for the Chinese automaker for a long time, but in the last few years, it seems to have been impacted by the arrival of new, more competitive models. With this in mind, in 2018 BYD launched a new generation of its compact-to-midsize sedan, called Pro, but it failed to meet the success that the company was expecting, so early this year, it launched a refreshed version, the Plus, and surfing the wave of the Han full-size sedan sedan’s success, BYD went all in with its slightly smaller Qin Plus. In the case of the PHEV version, this meant the launch of two versions, a lower priced one with an 8.5 kWh battery and 55 km (34 mi) of range on the NEDC testing cycle (which is overly generous), and a top-of-the-range version with an 18.3 kWh battery and best-in-class 120 km (75 mi) NEDC range. Something new in this new generation is that the internal combustion engine works mostly as a range extender, improving efficiency. The model refresh added to the new PHEV specs (and LFP batteries …) have transformed the career of BYD’s sedan, with the PHEV version hitting a record 9,269 registrations last month. And if we were to add the BEV versions to the tally (#14 in June, with 4,272 units), the Qin would have 13,541 registrations … which is almost Tesla Model 3 territory.

#5 — Li Xiang One 

Li Auto, the Chinese startup living in the shadow of the more media-friendly and fully electric NIO and Xpeng, has been selling its one full-size SUV with remarkable success, and in June it got another record performance, delivering 7,713 units. That allowed it to reach a top 5 position, at the same time beating the BYD Han EV in the full-size category (although, if we include the PHEV version to the tally of the Han, the big BYD still manages to keep the #1 position). Expect the range-extended SUV to continue seeing success, partly due to its unique powertrain proposition. With a 41 kWh battery with fast-charging capabilities, it is far more efficient than its PHEV competitors, like the BYD Tang PHEV, but on the other hand, it is cheaper than comparable fully electric propositions, like the NIO ES8.

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Looking at the best sellers table in June, one can tell it was a record month, as 9(!) models had record performances. Besides the aforementioned BYD Qin Plus PHEV and Li Xiang One, a mention also goes out to the record scores of the #12 Xpeng P7 (4,730 units), #15 Leapmotor T03 (4,029), #17 NIO ES6 (3,755), and #19 Hozon Neta V (3,533). Interestingly, all 4 models belong to Chinese EV startups … and if we were to add the record score of the #5 Li Xiang One and that of the Weltmeiter EX5, #23 with a record 3,258 units, then the trend becomes clearly visible — 6 startup models hit record highs in June. Chinese EV startups are clearly growing fast and gaining scale, as these 6 models alone registered 27,018 units in June, which is almost as much as the market leader, the Wuling Mini EV.

But startups didn’t have the exclusive on record performances, as BYD had 4 models on the table hitting new highs. Besides the already mentioned Qin Plus PHEV, its sleek midsize BEV-sedan twin scored a record 4,272 registrations in June, in what was only its 3rd month on the market. Also, the #10 Song Pro PHEV (5,450 units) and the #16 e2 hatchback (3,972 units) also had record scores.

Another worthy mention is the Pocco Mei Mei, a Wuling Mini EV competitor that landed with 3,658 units, allowing it to be #18 in June. This instant success is surprising, to say the least, so we have to wait a couple more months to see if this is replicated, or if it was just a one-off thing. The other surprise in the bottom half of the table is the return from obscurity of Dongfeng. Its Fengshen E70 joined the table in #20, thanks to 3,427 units, no doubt helped by the new 50 kWh battery version. That helped the vanilla-like sedan to score its best performance since June 2019. But Dongfeng needs new, attractive metal to really recover relevance in the EV market, as is current sedan lineup now looks dated next to the current market best sellers.

Below the top 20, we should mention the production ramp up of several models, like the 2,881 units of the full size luxury (and exotic-looking) Hongqi E-QM5 sedan, and the GAC Aion Y (2,234 registrations in its 3rd month on the market). The compact MPV (Yay! MPVs rule!) seems destined for higher places. In addition, Great Wall’s Ora Good Cat hatchback did well at #21, with a record 3,405 units, and the small Sol E10X continues to be on a roll, scoring its 5th record in a row thanks tot 2,801 registrations.

Speaking of the Volkswagen Group galaxy, the Volkswagen ID.4’s deliveries also hit a record 3,291 units, which wasn’t yet enough to join the table (better luck next month?), and the larger ID.6 landed last month — with a decent 1,685 registrations. So, we could actually see the bigger SUV doing better in China than its smaller sibling, which would A) be a surprise and B) raise questions as to why Volkswagen isn’t marketing the big SUV in North America and Europe.

The ID.6’s good start is a welcome sign for Volkswagen, as the automotive group really needs success stories in China. The German conglomerate has only 5% of the local plugin market, less than half of global rival Tesla (12%) and far less than current leader SAIC (25%).

Looking at the 2021 ranking, the top positions remained the same, with the first position change not coming until the #7 spot, with the Li Xiang One climbing one position. The BYD Qin Plus PHEV continued to jump positions month after month, having hopped a considerable 5 spots in June, to #10. Expect it to go up a couple more positions in the near future.

In the second half of the table, things were a tad more interesting, with the small Leapmotor T03 jumping two positions, to #16, and now threatening #15 NIO EC6. Meanwhile, another startup model, the Weltmeister EX5, rose to #18.

We also have a new face in the top 20! The BYD e2 joining the table in #20, and expect it to climb a few more positions soon.

Just outside the top 20, we have another BYD on the verge of showing up on the table, with the SUV Song Pro PHEV in #22. So, we could have a 5th BYD in the table soon, but only if the #21 Great Wall Good Cat doesn’t get there first….

Looking at the automaker ranking, the SGMW joint venture (18%, down 1 percentage point) is in the leadership position, while below it, BYD (14%, up 1 point) has cemented its runner-up status ahead of Tesla (12%), with the Shenzhen automaker now having its eyes set on recovering the leadership position. Is it possible?

Below the podium, SAIC (7%) is stable in 4th, followed by #5 Great Wall (5%) and a number of automakers with 4% share.

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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 478 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes