China Electric Car Sales — 26% Fully Electric, 35% Have A Plug

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Plugin vehicles continue to be all the rage in the Chinese auto market. They grew 78% year over year (YoY) in September. They scored over 636,000 registrations last month, a new record. Plugin hybrids (PHEVs) surged 148% year over year (YoY). They reached 161,000 registrations in September, which is their fourth fifth record month in row. It seems the Chinese version of PHEVs, with an average of 30+ kWh batteries and working more as EREVs, has struck a chord with buyers. As for BEVs, they grew a “paltry” 62% … to a record 475,000 units. In just one month. 😮

Share-wise, with September’s record performance, plugin vehicles hit 35% market share. And the share could have gone higher, if the overall passenger car market hadn’t grown also — in this case, by 10% last month.

Full electrics (BEVs) alone accounted for 26% of the country’s auto sales last month! These brilliant results pulled the 2022 share to 29% plugins and 22% BEVs.

If electrification continues at this pace, expect in a year from now the plugin share to be at some 45%, with BEVs owning one third (33%) of the Chinese market!

And expect BEVs to cross the 50% share threshold 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 half of global plugin registrations last month.

With such high market shares, it would only be natural that the plugin market would merge further with the overall market, and that was the case, with 7 fully plugin models in the top 10, leaving only 3 ICE-based models in the overall top 10!

Here is last month’s top 10 in the overall market:

  1. Tesla Model Y
  2. BYD Song
  3. Wuling Mini EV
  4. Nissan Sylphy
  5. BYD Qin Plus
  6. VW Lavida
  7. BYD Han
  8. Tesla Model 3
  9. BYD Dolphin
  10. Toyota Corolla

One interesting coincidence of the three ICE models is that all three are compact(ish) sedans, so this category is probably one of the last low-hanging fruits still waiting to be electrified in China’s automotive market.

But back at the plugin category, here’s more info and context on last month’s top 5:

#1 — Tesla Model Y

With 46,694 deliveries last month, Tesla’s star once again won the monthly leadership, not only in the plugin category, but in the overall auto market! But unlike the first time it achieved such a feat, last June, this time it wasn’t able to break into the 50,000 unit threshold. It ended with a quarterly average* of 28,710 units/month in Q3. One of the reasons for not getting there was the fact that it had exhausted the order backlog before the month ended, forcing Tesla to export the last week of September’s production to overseas markets and offer insurance subsidies in order to move metal. With the subsidy said to be offered until the end of the year, Tesla expects to keep demand at its current level, without having to provide a price cut. Will Tesla be able to do it? I mean, with several competitive models hitting the market (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. …

(*Always the best way to compare Tesla’s performance with that of the competition.)

#2 — BYD Song Plus (BEV + PHEV)

Despite narrowly missing the #1 spot to the Tesla Model Y, “BYD’s Model Y” continues its success story. This midsized SUV continues to ramp up its deliveries. The PHEV version got a record 39,983 registrations in September, while the BEV hit a record 5,951 registrations, leading to a grand total of 45,934 registrations, a new record for the BYD model. That helped it to have a quarterly average of 42,066 units/month last quarter, the highest among the models here — above the Tesla Model Y or even the YTD leader Wuling Mini EV! The Song ramp-up should start to slow down because it is getting close to reaching the market’s natural limits, but even if the model’s cruising speed is at around 45,000 units/month, that should be enough to become China’s best selling model in the overall market!

#3 — Wuling HongGuang Mini EV

With 37,416 registrations last month, the tiny four-seater won another bronze medal. Still, with the little EV now cruising at around 35,000+ units per month, it had a quarterly average of 36,137 units/month in Q3. It has become a trendsetter and a disruptive force in urban mobility. The Wuling Mini EV 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. This model’s success story marks a new chapter in urban mobility.

#4 — BYD Qin Plus (BEV + PHEV)

Despite a record 36,058 registrations last month, BYD’s midsize sedan failed to reach a podium presence, ending the month in 4th. Both versions scored record performances (24,452 units for the PHEV, 11,606 for the BEV). It has also beaten all of its rivals. The category runner-up, the Tesla Model 3, despite scoring a record 30,919 sales, ended in #6. Looking at the quarterly average, the BYD model scored a 33,946 units/month result in Q3, against only 11,861 units/month of the Tesla Model 3 or 10,890 for the GAC Aion S. With the external competition selling at about a third of the BYD sedan, the Qin’s main competition could be in-house. The BYD Destroyer 05 PHEV ended the month in #16, with 9,101 units, and continues ramping up, while the BYD Seal BEV already landed on the table this September, in #19 (7,473 units) — in only its second month on the market! With this last one aiming for the best seller trophy in 2023, one wonders how long the dynasty model will remain immune to BYD’s sales cannibalism.

#5 — BYD Han (BEV + PHEV) 

BYD’s flagship sedan secured 31,497 registrations in September, which is the result of a record 13,230 registrations of the BEV version and a record 18,267 registrations of the PHEV version. The last result in particular is quite extraordinary, because it is a 5,000+ unit increase over the previous record, set in August! This means that the production ramp-up of the flagship BYD is still very much in action. One wonders how high it can go? One thing is for certain: with a quarterly average of 27,585 units/month in Q3, translating into a yearly average of over 330,000 units, these are not only extraordinary numbers for a full size model in China, all powertrains counted, but this starts to get dangerously close to the global numbers of the full size perennial leader, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

In addition to placing three models in the top 5, the Shenzhen automaker also had the #7 BYD Dolphin score a record 24,956 registrations, its third 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). Additionally, the #8 Yuan Plus scored a record month, with 23,069 registrations, and ditto regarding the #9 Tang, with a record 15,058 registrations. 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.

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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 September in #16 with 9,101 registrations, while the much anticipated BYD Seal joined the table in #19 with 7,473 registrations. Expect a swift production ramp-up of the Seal, probably ending December already on the top 10.

But enough about BYD — other models also deserve a mention, especially the ones with record scores. As such, GAC’s dynamic duo deserve a nod, with both the #10 GAC Aion S (13,522 registrations) and the #11 Aion Y (13,408 registrations) scoring record results. Hozon’s Neta V ended in #12 with a record 11,935 registrations. This was another great month for Hozon, because its other model, the Neta U compact crossover, also scored a record result, 6,070 registrations, its third record in a row. With the startup registering its first six units of the Neta S flagship sedan last month, expect Q4 to be a peak period for Hozon. Keep an eye on this startup. This unassuming brand might go places in the future.

But the biggest surprise in the second half of the table was the 13th spot of the recently landed Li Xiang L9. The first full sales month of this Cadillac Escalade-sized land yacht had an amazing start, with over 10,000 deliveries in one month, which makes me wonder if this sales level is even sustainable for such a large (and expensive) vehicle. Nevertheless, it is proof of the Chinese EV industry’s talents, that the market can deliver large numbers of EVs in just about every category (and size) of the automotive market — be they tiny, cheap EVs, like the Wuling Mini EV, or gigantic, soccer-mum-like tanks SUVs, like the Li Xiang L9.

In #14 we have the new Changan Lumin, thanks to 10,010 registrations, its third record month in a row. The cheeky little EV is not only the automaker’s new star player, but is already a significant player on the city EV category.

In a month when only four of the top 20 models haven’t scored a record result(!), we still need to mention Geely’s rising squad.

The Zeekr 001 continues to ramp up, ending September in #18 with 8,276 units. That’s its third record month in a row, and this time the big fastback had company, with its cousin the Geely Geometry A/G6 joining the table in #20 (the Geometry G6 is the recently facelifted version of the Geometry A). Thanks to 7,293 registrations, that’s its fourth record performance in a row! The other star players of the team also had consistent performances, with the surprise being the veteran Geely Emgrand EV scoring 5,964 registrations, its best score since … December 2016! Whoa!

With such an impressive lineup, the Chinese automaker hopes to fight BYD’s current domination model by model. BYD placed 8 models in the top 20 last month, while Geely is now looking to place at least 4 to 5 representatives on the table. Will it get there?

Finally, we should highlight the landing of the Leap Motor C01, with the big sedan joining the market with an impressive 4,398 registrations. This could be another model to look out for. Still on the theme of recently landed startup models, AITO’s M7 flagship SUV scored 4,746 registrations in only its third month on the market. the Huawei-backed startup seems to have another winner on its hands, on top of the already well known AITO M5.

Wuling HongGuang Mini EV Still #1

Looking at the 2022 ranking, the main positions remained the same, with the BYD Qin Plus resisting the Tesla Model Y’s attack on the last place on the podium. Meanwhile, the runner-up BYD Song shortened the distance to #1 Wuling Mini EV to some 30,000 units. With just three 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….

While the Tesla Model Y wasn’t able to join the podium, the Model 3 managed to jump a few positions thanks to its record end-of-quarter month. It rose to the #8 position. And, frankly, at this point, this is the best we can expect from the midsize Tesla. With the Fab Five BYD models, its sibling Model Y, and the Wuling Mini EV far outselling it on a quarterly basis, the Model 3 will need to concern itself more with the models coming up behind than the ones ahead.

Of course, a price cut could change everything. … (wink, wink :D)

Another model on the rise is the GAC Aion Y (go, MPVs!), which jumped three positions to #10. This highlighted another great month for the Guangzhou make. Its other model in the table, the Aion S, was also up, in this case to #14.

Regarding the second half of the electric car sales table, another position change happened in #18, with the Great Wall Ora Good Cat surpassing the XPeng P7.

Just outside the top 20, we have the rising Dongfeng E-Series, with 49,725 registrations putting it in #21. It’s just 249 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 (28.9%, up from 28.4% share) remains the dominant force in the plugin market. Behind the leader we have a shrinking SGMW (8.7%, losing 0.4% share). It is suffering from the fact that it’s currently a one-trick pony (Wuling Mini EV) in an increasingly mature market where you need a full lineup of models selling in high volume to remain successful.

Benefitting from its peak-month effect, Tesla’s share jumped (7.9%, up from 7.1% share). Tesla could try to steal SGMW’s runner-up spot in December. Chery (4.5%, down 0.3%) stayed in 4th, but now has #5 GAC (4.5%) fewer than 500 units behind. So, there could be a position change here in October.

Volkswagen (3.5%, down from 3.8%) lost the 6th position to a rising Geely (3.8%, up from 3.6%). The Chinese OEM is now looking to reach a top 5 position before year end.

Looking at the overall market brand ranking, BYD was 2nd in September, only behind the all-mighty Volkswagen, while Tesla also featured in the top 10, in this case in 6th. So, one could assume that BYD is getting close to the ceiling in its native market. If it wants to continue growing crazy fast in 2023, there’s only one way to do it: exports.

As for the YTD numbers, BYD is now the 3rd biggest seller, behind Volkswagen and Toyota, while Tesla is the second best selling US brand in China, only behind Buick. Yep, Tesla is already bigger in China than Chevrolet and Ford….

Looking at OEMs/automotive groups/alliances in the electric car space, BYD (28.9%) is comfortably in the lead, while SAIC (11.3%, down from 12%) so far remains in the runner-up spot — despite sliding shares for both SGMW and mother SAIC. They need to find another star player besides the Wuling Mini EV. Maybe it’s the recently introduced MG 4/Mulan?

Tesla (7.9%) is firmly holding the last place on the podium and should stay there until the end of the year.

Off the electric car sales podium, things are more interesting. #4 Geely–Volvo (5.6%, up from 5.4% share) keeps distancing itself from the 5th position, now in the hands of GAC (4.7%), which benefitted from a slow month from Chery (4.6%, down from 4.9%). #7 Volkswagen Group (4.1%, down from 4.3%) slid in September and now has #8 Dongfeng (3.9%) looking to catch it.

Looking to where we were a year ago, BYD jumped 11% in plugin market share(!), SAIC lost a sizeable 8%, Tesla dropped 2%, Geely–Volvo gained 3%, GAC is up 1.7%, Chery dropped 0.9%, and Volkswagen Group stayed the same.

Forecasting the near future, expect BYD to remain the undisputed king in 2023. Geely–Volvo will probably steal the runner-up spot from SAIC. Tesla will have to defend its position from GAC, all while Volkswagen Group remains outside the top 5.

Looking further into 2024, expect Volkswagen Group to be finally in a position to challenge Tesla in China for the title of Best Selling Foreign OEM*.

*Unless, of course, geopolitics come into play. … But more on that in the next Global EV Sales Report.

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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