Record Month For Plugin Vehicles In China! Wuling EV #1 In Overall Auto Market!

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Plugin vehicles are all the rage in China, having scored 286,000 registrations in August, a full 22% increase over the previous record, which was set in June when 235,000 registrations were made. That pulls the year-to-date (YTD) tally to 1.6 million units, and with further record months set to happen until December, we should have over 3 million registrations by the end of the year … almost three times as many as the 2020 result!

Share-wise, with August having a record month and the overall auto market dropping 12% year over year (YoY), market share jumped through the roof, hitting 19% (15% full electrics/BEVs). This pulled the 2021 share to 12.4% (10.1% 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 above the 15% mark this year.

Looking at August best sellers, the biggest news item was the fact that the Wuling Mini EV was not only leader in the EV category, but also in the overall ranking!

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

#1 — Wuling HongGuang Mini EV

With a record 41,118 registrations last month, the tiny four-seater continued on its roll, winning another best seller title and for the first time adding a gold medal in the overall ranking to its trophy closet. If the little Wuling continues at this pace, a 400,000+ score by the end of the year is likely for the small EV. With this kind of scale, it is natural that the joint venture is turning a profit on its star EV (probably a small one, admittedly), which opens up the prospect of exporting the vehicle. It also opens up the prospect of further product development. An announced refresh (slightly longer wheelbase, 26 kWh battery, more powerful electric motor, updated features) is already coming our way, in order to keep it one step ahead of the competition. The Wuling EV has become a trendsetter and 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 marks a new chapter in EV mobility.

#2 — BYD Qin Plus PHEV

The BYD Qin has been a bread and butter model for the Chinese automaker for a long time, and surfing the wave of the Han success, BYD went all in with its 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. The PHEV version hit a record 13,043 registrations last month, allowing it to be August’s silver medalist. And if we were to add the BEV versions to the tally (#7 in August, with 7,633 units), the Qin Plus would have over 20,000 registrations, which puts it 7th in the overall market!

#3 — Tesla Model Y

After an absence in July, Tesla’s most recent addition to the lineup returned to the podium, with 11,576 registrations, and expect September to present an even better score. (25,000?) There are a few reasons for this behavior. Deliveries of both Made in China models are now in Tesla mode (slow first month of the quarter, so so speed in the 2nd, and all hands on deck, this is going ballistic in the 3rd). Also, the Standard Range version of the Model Y, which has dominated new orders (there are rumors that 70% of new Tesla orders in China are for this version), started getting delivered in the last days of August. A large volume of deliveries can be expected for September. There’s a several-thousands-long waiting list for the Model Y in China.

#4 — 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 August it got another record performance (its third in a row), delivering 9,433 units. That allowed it to once again beat the leader in its class, the BYD Han. With such success, it would have been expected that the startup’s next step would be to follow “Tesla’s playbook” and go down market, with a smaller and, above all, cheaper model. But Li Auto is a sort of bad boy among Chinese EV startups and prefers to play by its own rules (just look at the powertrain). Its next step is to launch an even bigger SUV (as if the 5-meter One model just wasn’t big enough …) in 2022. We can expect it to be a sort of Cadillac Escalade–sized land yacht with space for your better half, kids, in-laws, dogs … and with range-extended technology. Will this strategy work? Who knows? Few thought that its bet on an EREV powertrain would be successful (just ask GM’s management), and yet here we are. To have an idea of how fast this EV startup is growing, just think of this: Tesla took 4 years from the first Model S deliveries to reach a 100,000 unit milestone (cumulative sales), NIO did the same in 3 years, XPeng is expected to break the 100,000 mark soon (taking a little less than 4 years), while Li Auto is expected to reach 100,000 deliveries in less than 2 years! With just one model!! And a full size one!!! [Editor’s note: Mind blowing.]

#5 — SAIC Roewe Clever EV

At first sight, compared with its cousin, the Wuling Mini EV, SAIC’s iteration of a city EV doesn’t sound as appealing. It is more expensive and has just 2 seats. On the other hand, its 27 kWh battery, slightly longer length, better safety features, and more powerful electric motor (37kW/50 hp) allow it to be considered a real car, not something bordering on a heavy quadricycle. Moving on, Roewe’s small EV had a record 8,913 units delivered in August, profiting on the boom that city EVs are now experiencing in China, much thanks to the Wuling Mini EV success story. The Clever EV sits as the sensible choice in the SAIC Group stable of city EVs, above the bare-basics Wuling Mini EV, but below the more trendy and fashionable Baojun Kiwi (known previously as the E300).

Looking at the remaining best sellers table in August, one can tell it was a record month, as 12(!) models (and 6 out of the top 7) had record performances. Besides the aforementioned top 5, a mention also goes out to the record scores of the #11 XPeng P7 (6,165 units, 3rd record score in a row), #16 Volkswagen ID.4 (4,679 units, 3rd record month in a row), #17 Hozon Neta V (4,611 units), #18 Leapmotor T03 (4,409, 4 record months in a row), #19 Letin Mango (4,372, 3rd record months), #20 GAC Aion Y (4,124), and … two BYDs that continue their never ending production ramp up — the #6 Song Pro PHEV & #7 Qin Plus EV (it was their 4th record month in a row).

BYD’s battery availability now allows it to open the floodgates to most of its models, like in the case of the #12 Tang PHEV (5,433 units, its best result since January 2019) and the #15 Yuan EV (4,782 units, its best score in 2 years), while below the top 20, other beneficiaries of this battery bonanza are the Song Pro EV (3,579 units) and the BYD e2 (3,513). There are literally a dozen models from BYD going up the ranking, with an important addition last month to BYD’s arsenal: the much hyped BYD Dolphin hatchback, which landed with a solid 1,755 units.

While the new small-to-compact hatchback from BYD isn’t expected to go after best selling titles at home (that is the task of the Qin Plus), the new Dolphin is right sized to be BYD’s star player in export markets, namely in South America, Europe, and a number of Asia/Pacific markets. It is expected to fill the same role for BYD that the MG ZS EV is filling for SAIC.

But this month wasn’t only about BYD and record scores. Outside the top 20, we should mention the little Sol E10X hitting 3,255 registrations, Ora’s Good Cat hatchback reaching 4,005 registrations, and the large Volkswagen ID.6 scoring 2,276 registrations. If you add the ID.6 total to the ID.4 score, that gets Volkswagen close to 7,000 units on its MEB-based EVs. While this result in isolation is positive, the number still gets dwarfed by Tesla’s score, which was almost twice as much last month.

Volkswagen still has a long way to go to come close to the American automaker in the race for best selling foreign OEM in China (with SAIC and BYD so far ahead that the overall manufacturer race is only between these two domestic players right now). If Volkswagen Group wants to catch Tesla globally, it will need to recover ground in the largest EV market in the world.

Fortunately, Volkswagen Group still has a lot of firepower to deploy in the coming months, as the Volkswagen ID.3, Skoda Enyaq, and Audi Q4 are said to land soon. Will this be enough to reach Tesla’s sales level?

Finally, besides the BYD Dolphin’s landing, other important EVs made their debut last month. The refreshed (and rebadged) Baojun Kiwi EV, previously known as E300, started its career with 1,931 registrations. Weltmeister’s E.5 compact sedan debuted with 1,559 registrations. The new Pocco brand continues to impress — after launching the tiny two-seat Meimei a couple of months ago (2,522 registrations last month), August was time to launch the Pocco Duoduo, a rather quirky Kei-car-like small four seater, and it landed with an impressive 2,100 registrations. Is Kaixin, Pocco’s parent company, another startup to look out for?

In the words of Kaixin Chairman and CEO Mingjun Lin: “The era of small size electric vehicles has come, and Kaixin will not be absent from this feast!”

Looking at the 2021 ranking, the top positions remained the same. But expect the ever rising Li Xiang One to soon surpass the BYD Han EV and become the new #4 on the table.

Although, if we were to add both the BEV and PHEV versions of the BYD Han (they are essentially the same car, but with different powertrains), the full-size sedan would not only be out of the Li Xiang’s range (the Han would have 69,000 units, versus Li’s 48,000), but would also steal Model Y’s #3 spot and become the bronze medalist.

Speaking of BYD, despite having the Han EV’s #4 spot in danger, the Shenzhen brand had a perfect month in the YTD chart, as all models that climbed up the table belonged to BYD — the Qin Plus PHEV jumped 3 spots into #7, the Song Pro PHEV jumped two positions to #14, the BYD e2 was up to #19, and the Qin Plus EV joined table, in #17, thus making it 6 BYDs in the top 20!

And do not expect this trend to end soon, as just outside the top 20 we have another BYD on the verge of showing up on the table, with the Tang PHEV in #21, some 200 units behind the #20 position. So, we might have a 7th BYD model in the top 20 soon.

Looking at the automaker ranking, the SGMW joint venture (17%) is still in the leadership position, but it is losing ground to rising BYD (16%, up 1 point). The Shenzhen automaker now has its eyes set on recovering the leadership position and winning its 8th title.

Tesla (10%, down 1 point), is comfortable in 3rd, while below the podium, SAIC (6%, down 1 point) is stable in 4th, followed by #5 Great Wall with 5% and a trio of automakers (GAC, NIO, and Changan) with 4% share.

Looking at OEMs, despite BYD’s current takeover of the market, SAIC (23%) is too far ahead to be bothered, with 7 percentage points separating them. With just 4 months to go, Shanghai Auto can already start to prepare the coronation event.

It’s essentially the same story in the Best Selling Foreigner race. Despite the Volkswagen Group’s best efforts, its share (4%) just isn’t enough to bother Tesla (10%). Better luck next year?

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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 487 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes