Record Month For Plugin Vehicle Sales In China!

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Plugin vehicles are all the rage in China, having scored 355,000 registrations in September, a full 24% increase over the previous record, which was set in the previous month of August. In fact, September was the 3rd record month in the last 4 months!

That pulls the year-to-date (YTD) tally to close to 2 million units, and with further record months set to come through 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 September having a record month and the overall auto market dropping 17% year over year (YoY), market share jumped through the roof, hitting a record 20% (17% full electrics/BEVs). This pulled the 2021 share to 13.3% (10.8% BEV), and considering that the last quarter 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.

Another measurement of the importance of this market is the fact that China alone represented over half of global plugin registrations in September!

Looking at September’s best sellers, we have the usual Wuling Mini EV winner on top, followed by two Teslas and two BYDs.

Here’s more info and commentary on September’s top 5 best selling models in more detail:

#1 — Wuling HongGuang Mini EV

With 35,169 registrations last month, the tiny four-seater won another best seller title and added another runner-up spot in overall ranking. With the little Wuling set to resume its trail of records in November, 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 the model 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 — Tesla Model Y

Tesla’s most recent addition to the lineup profited from the company’s usual end-of-quarter peak month, and also from volume deliveries of the Standard Range version. In total, it scored a record 33,033 registrations, beating expectations and allowing the crossover to end 4th overall, only trailing two fossil fuel vehicles. With a waiting list still several thousands orders long for the Model Y in China, will the Model Y be able to score another record performance in December and win its first podium position in the overall market? Please place your bets now. …

#3 — Tesla Model 3

After a short absence, Tesla’s bread and butter model returned to the podium thanks to the company’s end-of-quarter peak, scoring 19,120 registrations. This allowed the midsize sedan to win the #13 spot in the overall market. That means Tesla had two models in China’s overall top 20 for the first time ever. Still, with the automaker (and buyers) focusing now on the younger sibling, one wonders what the 3’s behavior will be from now on. Will it hang onto its current sales level, or will the Model Y start to cannibalize its sales?

#4 — BYD Qin Plus PHEV

The BYD Qin has been the bread and butter model for the Chinese automaker for a long time, and surfing the wave of the Han’s 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 a top-of-the-range version with an 18.3 kWh battery. Something different 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 …), has transformed the career of BYD’s sedan. The PHEV version once again hit another record, this time 15,164 registrations, and if we add the BEV version to the tally (#6 in September, with a record 8,396 units), the Qin Plus has over 23,000 registrations, which puts it 7th in the overall market! That’s ahead of a peak month Model 3! (Turns out, the Model 3 can be beaten after all….)

#5 — BYD Song Pro/Plus PHEV

The compact-to-midsize crossover from BYD has profited from the spec updates of its Qin Plus sibling to become a force to be reckoned with, becoming not only the best selling domestic model in the category, but also hoping to replicate the success of the Tesla Model Y. Will it be able to do it? I have my doubts. The Qin Plus seems better prepared to race the Model 3, while on the other hand, the Model Y will continue to benefit from the novelty factor for a while, something that the Model 3 lacks. Anyway, with consecutive record performances, like September’s 10,278 units, and the help of an also rising BEV version (4,502 units last month), the current 15,000 units allow it to envision an overall top 10 presence soon. So, we might have 4 or 5 plugin models in the Chinese overall top 10 by December! Imagine that — half of China’s best sellers being plugins! Now, that’s disruption.

Looking at the remaining best seller table in September, one can tell it was a record month, as 11(!) models had record performances. Besides the aforementioned top 6 positions, a mention also goes out to the record scores of the #10 XPeng P7 (7,512 units, 4th record score in a row), #12 Volkswagen ID.4 (7,047 units, 4th record month in a row), #13 Chery eQ (estimated 7,033 units), #15 Letin Mango (6,056, 4th record month), #19 Great Wall Ora Good Cat (5,085 units), and … the two models tied in #20 with 5,009 units, the NIO ES6 and Hozon Neta V. All of those models had record scores!

But outside the top 20, there is also plenty to talk about. The tiny Wuling Nano EV, a rebadged Baojun E200 two seater, landed with a solid 1,251 registrations (SGMW may have another winner on its hands). The little Sol E10X hit a record 4,290 registrations. BYD’s compact Dolphin (3,000 registrations) and e3 (4,129 registrations) were on the rise, as were the Hozon Neta U (2,690 registrations) and Weltmeister E.5 (2,370 registrations) startup models. In the larger vehicle categories, the Volkswagen ID.6 continued ramping up, scoring 3,243 registrations last month, and the same happened with NIO’s most recent model, the EC6 (3,390 registrations).

And in the taxi shared mobility vehicle category, a mention goes out to two stalwarts that have experienced a second youth recently (a high tide lifts all boats). Both the Geely Emgrand EV (3,588 registrations) and the Dongfeng Fengshen E-Series (4,729 registrations) hit their best scores since June 2019.

Looking at the 2021 ranking, the podium positions remained the same. But immediately below the podium, there was a significant change, with the BYD Qin Plus PHEV jumping 3 spots and landing in 4th. The top 6 are now made up of 3 midsize models (Model 3, Model Y, Qin Plus), 2 full size models (Han and Li Xiang One), and one tiny 4-seater (Wuling Mini EV).

Where are all the compacts and subcompacts? With the best selling model of this category only in #14 (Hozon Neta V), one can say that there is a lot of room to grow here. …

Speaking of compacts, Great Wall’s Ora Good Cat, the 1950s Porsche-inspired compact hatchback, joined the top 20 in #19, surpassing its BYD e2 rival.

Speaking of BYD, besides the Qin Plus PHEV jump, the Shenzhen automaker had more reasons to celebrate, with the BYD Song PHEV climbing to #13 while the Qin Plus EV jumped to #15 and the Tang returned to the best sellers table in #18.

Finally, the GAC Aion S was up to #8, while the VW ID.4 came close to joining the top 20, losing out to the #20 BYD e2 by just 223 units. Regardless, considering the current Volkswagen production ramp up, expect the German crossover to join the table next month.

Looking at the automaker ranking, we have a change at the top, with the SGMW joint venture (16%, down 1 percentage point) being kicked out of the throne by BYD (17%, up 1 point). The Shenzhen automaker is now in its usual position (the leadership position) and is now preparing to win its 8th automaker title.

Tesla (11%, up 1 point) is comfortable in 3rd, while below the podium, SAIC (6%) is stable in 4th, followed by #5 Great Wall (4%, down 1 point) and #6 GAC (4%). Those are followed by a pack of brands with 3% share, among them a rising Volkswagen.

Looking at OEMs, with BYD’s current takeover of the market, SAIC (22%, down 1 point) is starting to feel the heat. With 5 percentage points separating them, there might still be a surprise towards the end of the year.

The same can’t be said regarding the best selling foreigner race. Despite the Volkswagen Group’s best efforts, its share (4%) just isn’t enough to bother Tesla (11%).

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, and the problem isn’t just the Volkswagen brand itself. One of the strong points of the Volkswagen Group is the large portfolio of brands available, which appeal to different kinds of customers, but in China, the remaining brands of the automotive group (Audi, Porsche, Skoda, etc.) represent just 1% of the market. As such, it’s not only the Volkswagen brand that needs to double its share. For that, the ramp-up of the ID.4 and ID.6, along with the introduction of the ID.3, will be important — in order to reach some 6% share. But Audi also needs to launch MEB-based models (Q4 and Q5 e-tron) soon, while it is beyond me why Volkswagen hasn’t yet authorized Skoda to market its successful Enyaq in China….

Only acting this way, placing all available firepower in use, is Volkswagen Group going to have a chance to catch Tesla in China.

And let’s not forget, if Volkswagen Group wants to catch Tesla globally, it is essential that it recover ground in the largest EV market in the world.

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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 446 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes