Plugin vehicles continue to be all the rage in the Chinese auto market. Plugins stayed in the fast lane in August, growing 92% year over year (YoY). They scored over 552,000 registrations last month. Plugin hybrids (PHEVs) surged 137% year over year (YoY). They reached 140,000 registrations in August, which is their fourth record month in row. It seems the Chinese version of PHEVs, with an average of 30-plus kWh batteries and working more as EREVs, has struck a chord with buyers. As for BEVs, they grew a “paltry” 80% … to 412,000 units.
Share-wise, with August showing another strong performance, plugin vehicles hit 30% market share. And the share could have gone higher, if the overall passenger car market hadn’t surged 29% last month thanks to recent registration tax reductions.
Full electrics (BEVs) alone accounted for 22% of the country’s auto sales last month! This kept the 2022 share at 26% plugins and 20% BEVs.
If electrification continues at this pace, this market will be BEV-based by 2025! Imagine that: the largest automotive market in the world being BEV-based in three years time!
Another measure of the importance of this market is the fact that China alone represented over 60% of global plugin registrations last month.
Looking at the August best sellers, the highlight is the BYD Song beating the rest of the competition, including the little Wuling Mini EV!
Here’s more info and context on last month’s top 5:
#1 — BYD Song Plus (BEV + PHEV)
BYD is replicating the Model Y’s success with its own midsized SUV, and its ramp-up is still underway. The PHEV version got a record 36,791 registrations in August, while the BEV hit a record 5,688 registrations. This earned it the August Best Seller title. In fact, its 42,479 registrations were 7,000 units above its previous personal record, which was set in the previous month. The Song ramp-up might start to slow down. After all, it is getting close to reaching the market’s natural limits, but even if the model’s cruising speed is around 40,000 units/month, that should be enough to become China’s best selling model in the plugin market and keep its Tesla Model Y arch rival in the rearview mirror.
#2 — BYD Qin Plus (BEV + PHEV)
With a record 35,688 registrations last month, BYD’s midsize sedan earned itself another podium presence, this time in the runner-up position. Both versions scored record performances (24,242 units for the PHEV, 11,446 for the BEV). It has also beaten all of its rivals. The category runner-up, the GAC Aion S, ended in #8, with only 11,683 registrations, or about a third of the BYD sedan’s result. With increased internal competition (the BYD Destroyer 05 PHEV ended the month in #14 and continues ramping up, while the BYD Seal BEV landed this month and is aiming for the best seller trophy in 2023), one wonders how long the dynasty model will remain immune to BYD’s sales cannibalism.
#3 — Wuling HongGuang Mini EV
With 33,866 registrations last month, the tiny four-seater had to settle with the bronze medal this time. Still, with the little EV now cruising at around 35,000+ units per month, it has become a trendsetter and a disruptive force in urban mobility. It has racked up plenty of big trophies in the cutthroat Chinese market along the way. And while many deride it for “not really being a car,” the truth is that it managed to create a whole new vehicle category, as proven by the large number of Wuling Mini EV copycat/inspired models being launched in this market. The added bonus is that the people buying it (mostly females, mostly under 35 years old) are usually a hard-to-capture audience. The model and its success mark a new chapter in electric mobility.
#4 — Tesla Model Y
With 31,796 deliveries last month, it’s best off-peak result so far, Tesla’s star player joined the top 5, in 4th. This could mean a record result in September, but with the bar already set in rarefied heights (52,000 units), it will be a small feat if the crossover manages to cross that. Then again, if Tesla wants to win the September Best Seller title, it might have to jump in the vicinity of those levels. It seems the BYD Song’s never-ending ramp-up is continuing and it could post a 45,000+ performance next month. With the local order backlog now clear and demand for the Model 3 significantly down (more about this below), maybe it is time for Tesla to make a price cut? I mean, with several competitive models hitting the market soon (BYD Seal, Hozon Neta S, NIO ET5, XPeng G9 …), the market in the vicinity of Tesla’s price category is likely to jump (again) into the next gear — so demand could slow down. … Your move, Tesla.
#5 — BYD Han (BEV + PHEV)
BYD’s flagship sedan secured 25,987 registrations in August, which is the result of a record 13,179 registrations of the BEV version and a record 12,808 registrations of the PHEV version. This is the result of the market launch of a slight facelift and revised specs. The upgrade includes a new 85 kWh battery for the BEV version and up to a 38 kWh battery for the PHEVs, making both versions truly class-leading when we look at their pricing ($33,000 for the PHEV version and $41,000 for the BEV — less than a base Tesla Model 3). This sales surge means the full size BYD might be casting a long shadow over its smaller sibling Qin Plus (as if the midsizer needed more internal competition — see comment above). With the revised Han said to have tens of thousands of orders waiting to be fulfilled, expect the big sedan to stay among the top selling models during the coming months, even if that means a higher ratio of PHEVs in its mix. In fact, with average sales now set at over 220,000 units/year, expect it to win the full size category — not only in China, but also globally.
In addition to placing 5 models in the top 7, the Shenzhen automaker also had the #6 BYD Dolphin score a record 23,469 registrations, its second record performance in a row (proving that the hatchback’s production ramp-up is far from over and that it could reach over 25,000 units/month soon). This also completes BYD’s lineup of sales champs in every category (Han in the full size category; Song as midsize king; Yuan leading the compact category; and Dolphin #1 in the subcompact category). And let’s not forget the upcoming BYD Seagull, the automaker’s future representative in the city EV category.
Looking now at BYD’s future stars, in what is already an all-star lineup, the BYD Destroyer 05 PHEV continues to ramp up production. It ended August in #14 with 8,725 registrations. This month we also celebrate the landing of the much anticipated BYD Seal, with its first 1,726 units officially delivered, no doubt many of them demonstration units. The Seal is indeed one of the stronger candidates for the 2023 Best Seller title.
But enough about BYD — other models also deserve a mention, especially the ones with record scores. As such, there’s the #8 GAC Aion S, with 11,683 registrations; and Hozon’s Neta V, which ended in #10 with a record 10,236 registrations. This was another great month for Hozon, because its other model, the Neta U compact crossover, also scored a record result, 5,781 registrations. It seems its Neta S sedan is landing in a peak period for Hozon. Keep an eye on this startup. This unassuming brand might go places in the future.
In the second half of the table, we see the Dongfeng Fengshen E-Series scoring another monthly record, 8,602 registrations, confirming that Dongfeng has also joined the EV bandwagon. In #17 we have the new Changan Lumin, thanks to a record 8,492 registrations. The cheeky little EV is said to become the automaker’s new star player on the table.
In #19, we have the AITO M5, with the Huawei-backed brand looking to keep its midsized model among the best sellers while it ramp ups its new full size model, the M7, which had 2,668 registrations in only its second month on the market. (Another brand to keep a close eye.)
In #20 we have Geely’s Zeekr 001 model showing up in the top 20 for the first time, thanks to 7,166 registrations, its second record result in a row. The big fastback a la Porsche Panamera is probably BYD’s strongest contender for the future in the full size category. Sure, being a fastback in China is a handicap, compared to the more traditional sedan shape of the BYD Han, but in export markets, the 001’s shape can provide a competitive edge over the competition, just like the Tesla Model S had in its time. With Geely expected to start exporting the Zeekr 001 next year to Europe, possibly as a Lynk & Co model, and other markets said to follow, the big Zeekr could become a major player in the full size segment globally. It’s got the price and specs to get there, but the question mark is probably the looks, which might not be to anyone’s taste….
But the Zeekr 001 is just one in a squad of Geely models on the rise, with four(!) other models scoring record performances. As such, all three Geometry BEV models reached record scores, with the A sedan doing 5,896 units, its second record in a row; the E small crossover reaching 6,314 units, also a second consecutive record; and even the C hatchback, a model designed primarily for export markets (it’s now the #1 EV in Israel), managing to reach a record 3,636 registrations. … Add to this the Emgrand L PHEV’s 6,300 registrations, its second record performance in a row, and we have Geely’s squad going all in on EVs.
With such an impressive lineup, the Chinese automaker hopes to fight BYD’s current domination model by model. BYD regularly places seven models in the top 20, while Geely is now looking to place at least four to five representatives on the table. Will it get there?
Finally, we should highlight the VW ID.6 reaching a record 4,887 units last month. It seems the big SUV could become a second significant player in Volkswagen’s stable, and a much needed one, because as we have seen before (see BYD vs. Geely), to be a big player in China, one needs a full lineup of EVs selling in significant numbers, not just one or two high-volume sellers.
Wuling HongGuang Mini EV Still #1
Looking at the 2022 ranking, the main positions remained the same, with the BYD Qin Plus gaining precious ground on the #4 Tesla Model Y, making it harder for the US model to recover the last place on the podium in September. Meanwhile, the runner-up BYD Song shortened the distance to #1 Wuling Mini EV, to less than 40,000 units. With just four months to go, it will be challenging for the BYD model to reach the back of the little Wuling and compete for #1. But with the SUV’s current record streak, one should not leave that possibility off the table….
Another BYD on the rise was the BYD Tang, which surpassed the soon-to-be-departed Li Xiang One, thus rising to 8th. In #10, the Chery QQ Ice Cream surpassed the Tesla Model 3, which once again had a (very) slow month, with just 3,842 deliveries.
Tesla’s midsize sedan should bounce back in September, likely to #8, but considering that 12 months ago the Model 3 was 2nd, with some 90,000 registrations, we can see that deliveries have dropped a significant 26% YoY. One should be worried about the future of the US model in China, especially considering that this drop happened in the context of a market with three-digit growth rates and that several Model 3-******s (namely, the BYD Seal and NIO ET5) are about to land on the market. Price cut, anyone?…
As further proof of how ruthless the Chinese EV market is, the leader Wuling Mini EV added 25,000 units YoY to the tally it had in the same period last year, and yet, its market share fell to half to what it was in August 2021 (8% vs 16%). In the current market, growing, even if it’s 50% YoY, is not enough. You need to double your output just to keep up with the market average.
As for the second half of the electric car sales table, with the Changan Benni EV now suffering from internal competition, in the form of the new Changan Lumin, the small EV dropped two positions. That was to the benefit of the Chery eQ1 and GAC Aion Y, now #12 and #13, respectively.
Just outside the top 20, we have the rising Dongfeng E-Series with 42,592 registrations in #21, just 1,302 units behind the #20 Leap Motor T03. Soon we might see the taxi companies’ favorite Dongfeng EV model join the table.
Looking at the auto brand ranking in electric car sales, BYD (28.4%, up from 27.8% share) remains the dominant force in the plugin market. Behind the leader we have a shrinking SGMW (9.1%, losing 0.4% share). It is suffering from the fact that it’s currently a one-trick pony (Wuling Mini EV) in an increasingly pulverized market where you need a full lineup of models selling in high volume to remain successful.
Due to the fact that August is an off-peak month for Tesla, the American brand dropped slightly (7.1%, down from 7.2% share) but it is stable in 3rd. Chery (4.8%) stayed in 4th and #5 GAC (4.5%, up from 4.4%) kept its own spot, well above #6 Volkswagen (3.8%, up from 3.7%).
But the real danger for Chery and GAC is now in 7th, with a rising Geely (3.6%, up from 3.3%) sprinting to jump a few positions before the year ends.
Comparing where we are now with what happened a year ago, there are some significant differences. BYD was second, with just 16% share, looking to overtake leader SGMW (17%). Tesla was 3rd, with 10%, or 3% above its current situation.
SAIC was 4th, with 6% share, while now it’s #10, with half that share. GAC was already in #5, with 4.1% share, just 0.4% less than in the present time.
Looking at OEMs/automotive groups/alliances in the electric car space, BYD (28.4%) is comfortably in the lead, while SAIC (12%, down from 12.8%) remains steady in the runner-up spot — despite sliding share for both SGMW and mother SAIC. They need to find another star player, besides the Wuling Mini EV. Maybe it’s the recent MG 4/Mulan?
Tesla (7.1%) is firm in the last place on the podium and should win a little bit of share in September, but certainly not threaten SAIC.
Off the electric car sales podium, things are more interesting, with #4 Geely–Volvo (5.4%, up from 5.1% share) distancing itself from #5 Chery (4.9%, up from 4.8%), while #6 GAC (4.7%, up from 4.5%) and #7 Volkswagen Group (4.3%) are looking to reach Chery.
With Geely–Volvo rising fast, while it shouldn’t be enough to reach the podium this year, expect the Chinese OEM to become a strong contender for the silver medal next year — only behind the all-mighty BYD.
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