19% Plugin Vehicle Share In Chinese Auto Market

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Plugin vehicles are all the rage in the Chinese Auto Market these days, having scored a record 413,000 registrations in November, up 106% year over year (YoY).

This pulls the year-to-date (YTD) tally to over to 2.7 million units, and with December set to be another record month (half a million units?), 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 November showing another great performance, plugin vehicles hit 19% market share! Full electrics (BEVs) alone accounted for 15% of the country’s auto sales. This pulled the 2021 share to 14.3% (11.5% BEV), and considering that the last month of the year is usually China’s strongest, we can assume that the country’s plugin vehicle market share will end above the 15% mark this year.

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

Looking at November’s best sellers, we have the usual Wuling Mini EV winner on top, followed by one Tesla, two BYDs, and the surprising Li Xiang One.

Here’s more info and commentary on November’s top 5 best selling models:

#1 — Wuling HongGuang Mini EV

With 40,395 registrations last month, the tiny four-seater won another best seller title, and this time added the #1 spot in overall ranking! With the little Wuling set to have a record month in December, 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, and convertible version) 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, with the added bonus that the people buying it (mostly females under 35 years old) are usually a hard-to-capture audience. This is a new chapter in EV mobility.

#2 — Tesla Model Y

Tesla’s most recent addition to the lineup had its strongest off peak month of quarter yet in China (23,117 registrations), which allowed it to land #6 in the overall ranking, but above all, it could mean that the crossover is headed for a record month in December! Perhaps above 40,000 units? With the little Wuling Mini EV surely crossing that barrier in December and the BYD Qin Plus also scoring something close to that number, we might have a 100% plugin podium in December’s overall market! And would it be asking too much for the Model 3 to get a 35,000 peak in December, so that we could get 4 plugins in the top 5?… Please, Santa, please….

#3 — BYD Qin Plus PHEV (& #6 BYD Qin Plus EV)

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. With a 72 kWh battery in the electric version (and a 18 kWh one in the PHEV version), for only 185,000 CNY ($28,300 USD) in the fully electric version, the midsize model is very competitive. Both versions once again hit records in November. The PHEV version reached 18,054 registrations, winning the bronze medal in the November plugin ranking, while the BEV version had 10,097 registrations, and if we add both versions together, we get 28,151 registrations, placing the Qin Plus in 4th in the overall market!

#4 — BYD Song Pro/Plus PHEV

BYD’s compact-to-midsize SUV is looking to replicate the success of the Qin in its category, and its rise and rise is proof of that. November came with the PHEV version ramping up deliveries to 15,097 units, while its BEV version had a a record 4,609 registrations, leading to a total of 19,706 units, which allowed it to rise to #10 in the overall market, thus making it four plugins in the overall top 10! Now that’s disruption!

#5 — Li Xiang One

The big SUV seems to see no end to its success, scoring a record 13,485 deliveries, beating its direct competitor BYD Han in the race for the full size category. Li Auto is the bad boy among Chinese auto market startups. Instead of being BEV only, it uses a range-extended PHEV powertrain with a 41 kWh battery, providing decent electric range. Instead of starting with a flagship model and then going downstream, Li Auto’s next model is an even larger SUV, because 5 meters of SUV might sound small for some. Where will the One reach its cruising speed? I believe the 7-seater should end at some 10,000+ units per month, no doubt helped by its competitive pricing (340,000 CNY/$52,500 USD).

Looking at the remaining best seller table in November, records continue aplenty, as 12 models had record performances in the top 20. Besides the aforementioned BYDs, a mention also goes out to the quick ramp-up of the #8 BYD Dolphin, which hit 8,800 registrations in only its 4th month on sale. Expect the compact EV to reach 5 digits in December. The Dolphin is expected to become BYD’s star player in 2022 — not only at home, but especially in overseas markets, where the automaker has high expectations for it.

Another BYD that is shining is the Han EV flagship, which scored its first 5-digit result, with 10,021 units, while the Tang PHEV finally beat a two-year-old record, by delivering 8,013 units, a new personal best for BYD’s flagship SUV.

But enough about BYD. Other models with record scores were the #10 Great Wall Good Cat (8,429 units, a great result for the quirky hatchback that is preparing for its landing in Europe in a few months) and the #12 Volkswagen ID.4 (8,316 units, showing that it’s continuing to ramp up in China).

A new brand rising is XPeng, with its flagship P7 scoring a record 7,839 registrations, allowing it to be 15th, while the most veteran model of the brand, the three-year-old G3, has made a surprise return to the table thanks to a record 5,620 registrations, placing it in #19. The startup’s future volume model, the midsize sedan P5, had its first volume month, with 2,154 registrations, no doubt just its first step into five-digit scores in a not-too-distant future.

Another startup on the rise in the Chinese auto market is the #15 Hozon Neta V (a record 7,027 registrations), with the small crossover also set to reach 10,000 units per month soon. Meanwhile, its compact crossover, the Neta U, also had a record month, in this case with 2,986 registrations.

But outside the top 20, there is also plenty to talk about. Starting from the bigger models to the smaller ones, Geely’s new luxury EV arm, Zeekr, had its first full month, with 2,021 registrations of the large 001 model being delivered. NIO’s ES8 flagship model had 2,683 registrations last month, its best score in three years, while its slightly smaller sibling, the sporty EC6, had a record 3,486 registrations. The China-made BMW iX3 delivered 2,754 units, while VW’s ID family ramp-up continues. Besides the aforementioned ID.4, the large ID.6 was up to 3,699 registrations, while the compact ID.3 had 2,755 registrations. The ID family had some 15,000 registrations last month, showing that the German brand is starting to become a relevant player. It is a good starting point for Ralf Brandstaetter, VW’s new China boss, who has the herculean task of “Making Volkswagen Great Again” in China’s future EV-based market.

The MPV category (go, team MPV!) also had some highlights, like GAC’s Aion Y compact EV scoring a record 5,207 registrations while Ora’s small White Cat registered a best ever 3,011 units.

Finally, a mention goes out to two clone models, with Dongfeng’s Fengshen EX1 scoring a record 2,724 registrations, a great result for the Dacia Spring lookalike EV, while the amusingly inspired Chery QQ Ice Cream, a model that for some reason resembles the Wuling Mini EV, had its landing month in November, starting out with 4,289 registrations, an already impressive number that could mean that we will see it in the top 10 in coming years as Chery’s Best Selling EV.

Looking at the 2021 ranking, the Tesla Model Y surpassed its Model 3 sibling and is the automaker’s new best seller in China, a surprising development considering that China is still a market where sedans have a large foothold in the market. After all, the Model Y is the only crossover/SUV in the top 5.

Immediately below the podium, the BYD Qin Plus PHEV has secured the 4th spot, and if we were to add both versions of the Qin Plus, BEV and PHEV, together, the midsizer would have some 143,000 registrations, enough to beat the Model Y and become the silver medalist!

The #6 Li Xiang One is now less than 200 units below the full size category leader BYD Han EV, but if we were to add the PHEV version volume (over 20,000 units) to the BEV Han, the big BYD would have enough lead over the startup SUV to take the category title, not only in China, but globally, and the Han sedan would be the first plugin full size model to score over 100,000 units in one year!

But to see further position changes in the Chinese auto market, we need to go down to #9, where the BYD Song PHEV jumped another two positions. Meanwhile, SAIC’s Roewe Clever small EV climbed one position, to #11.

Another model on the rise is Great Wall’s Ora Good Cat, which was up to #16, while the VW ID.4 is now #18, up from #20 in the previous month.

Finally, we have another BYD on the rise, with the compact Yuan EV fewer than 3,000 units from the table. We might see it join the table in the last leg of the 2021 race, which would result in 6 BYDs in the Chinese auto market top 20.


Chinese Auto Market Top 20 List

Looking at the automaker ranking, there’s no major news. BYD (18%) has reinforced its leadership position. The Shenzhen automaker is now preparing to win its 8th automaker title, while the SGMW joint venture (15%) is resisting a slide downward. Tesla did slide down (9%, down 1 percentage point), but expect the US automaker to recover the lost percentage point in December.

Below the podium, SAIC (6%) is stable in 4th, followed by #5 Great Wall (4%), #6 GAC (also 4%), and a rising #7 Volkswagen (4%, up 1 point), which has surpassed Changan. The German automaker is hoping to reach the 5th position in the last days of December.

Looking at OEMs, with BYD’s current takeover of the market, SAIC (21%) is feeling the heat. With just 3 percentage points separating them, we could we be headed for a surprise towards the end of the year?

The same can’t be said regarding the best selling foreigner race. Despite Volkswagen Group’s best efforts, its share (4%) just isn’t enough to bother Tesla (9% market share).

Still, the recent sales uptake has allowed the German conglomerate to reach 4th in the OEM race, having surpassed Great Wall in November.

Now, having gotten to 4th this year, will Volkswagen Group be able to get close to the OEM podium next year? Please place your bets now. …

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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