Geely & AITO (Who?!?!) Shine In China — In Rising 18% Market Share In January

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After the December sales peak, the year started with an expected sales slump, but smaller than expected, with numbers almost doubling compared to last year. Although, January 2023 had a lot going against it (a covid surge, the end of EV subsidies on January 1st, the Lunar New Year celebrations happening in January). Still, 2024 started at some 668,000 passenger new energy vehicle registrations.

Due to the aforementioned factors that depressed January 2023, the overall market also jumped, by over 44% year over year (YoY) to over 2 million units. Still, this allowed the plugin vehicle (PEV) share to start the year at a high 32% (18% BEV). Although this score is below the final 2023 result of 37% PEV share (25% BEV), expect that mark to be achieved sometime in the summer, and the year to end at 45%+ share. Some months in the last quarter of the year should end above 50% share.

In January, pure electric models (which were up 55% YoY) lost some of their dominating position in the market, as they represented just 56% of sales, down 8 percentage points compared to the same period in 2022.

Illustrating the current trends of the Chinese EV market, in last month’s top 5, we have 3 BYDs, AITO’s M7 SUV, and then the Tesla Model Y.

Here’s a closer look at January’s top 5 best selling models:

#1 — BYD Song (BEV+PHEV)

BYD’s bread and butter model model is currently at cruising speed, floating above everyone else in China thanks to 52,219 registrations. The midsizer regularly touched the ceiling in the past few months. Will it win the best seller trophy in the overall Chinese auto market this year? Maybe, but the competition, both internal (Sea Lion 07, Song L, Denza N7…) and external is fierce, so one can expect a lot of surprises throughout the year.

#2 — AITO M7

After a shot in the arm by Huawei in the second half of last year, with a refresh and lower prices, the joint venture brand between Seres Group and Huawei has found its mojo, with the full size SUV becoming an instant success. While its first surging sales months last year might have raised some eyebrows and raised the question of whether they could replicate Li Auto’s successful formula (5-meter EREV SUVs with 40 kWh-ish batteries), it seems not only can they replicate the startup’s success, but also make it a market disruptor and revolutionize the full size category! I mean, a full size SUV ending January in 2nd place in the table? Wooooow. … Expect the competition to launch copycatslarge EREV SUVs soon. In January, the AITO model hit 29,997 registrations, its 4th record in a row.

#3 — Tesla Model Y

The poster child for electric mobility got 29,912 deliveries in January, and while this isn’t the disruptive result that many would expect from Tesla’s crossover, let’s remember that this is still the first month of the quarter. The midsizer is expected to peak in March, possibly to a 45,000+ result, which would place it on the podium of the overall market.

#4 — BYD Qin Plus (BEV+PHEV) 

While the behaviour of the BYD Song is impressive, its lower-to-the-ground sibling is no less awesome, with the added bonus that with the recent price drops, the midsize sedan could see its sales jump even further in the next few months. The sedan scored 29,244 registrations last month, and expect it to return soon to some 35,000+ units/month performances. With this model being one of the tools in the recent War on ICE, declared by BYD, and with killer prices, expect it to continue competing for podium positions during the next few months.

#5 — BYD Seagull

Things continue to go well for the hatchback model, with the small EV securing another top 5 presence thanks to 28,050 registrations. With part of production now being diverted to export markets, it seems demand for the little Lambo is now in cruising speed in China, with the perky EV now in top 5 territory. Even with the attention now diverted to other geographies, like Latin America and Asia-Pacific (and maybe Europe later this year?), expect the little BYD to continue being part of the BYD pack that populates the Chinese top 10.

Outside the top 5, we have a few surprises, like the Changan Lumin showing up in 8th, with a strong 16,041 registrations. It was immediately followed by the #9 Wuling Mini EV (15,520 units), while its bigger sibling, the Wuling Bingo, was 11th, with 11,746 registrations.

On the topic of full size yachts models, while AITO’s M7 took all the headlines, Li Auto’s performance wasn’t all that bad, placing the L7 in 10th with 13,343 registrations. Meanwhile, the slightly bigger (and 7-seat) L8 ended in 19th, with 9,061 registrations. With 40 kWh batteries and range extenders, these two models give an idea of what would have happened if GM had decided to continue developing the Volt powertrain and placing it in the group’s full size models. But I digress.

With all these large SUVs now on the spotlight, the daddy of them all, the one that was for years the category leader, the BYD Tang, is now suffering, barely starting the year on the table. The 20th spot was secured by just 76 units (over the #21 Lynk & Co 08).

One of the main surprises was the 16th spot of Geely’s Galaxy L7, with the crossover model joining the little Geely Panda Mini, 13th in January, as the two representatives of the Chinese make. Also important was Changan’s Deepal S7 starting the year in 18th, with 9,109 registrations, allowing Changan’s premium SUV to remain a contender in its category.

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Finally, outside the top 20, there were several models shining, starting with the Geely Galaxy L6. The sedan hit a record 6,389 registrations last month. Still on the Geely Group mothership, the highly anticipated Zeekr 007 had its first volume month, with 5,853 registrations. That is definitely a good start, so expect the striking looking Zeekr to join the table soon.

Speaking of models joining the table soon, another model that will surely join the table soon will be the BYD Song L, currently ramping up production. BYD’s take on the Tesla Model Y formula is now at 7,374 units, in only in its 3rd month on the market. Expect it to start cannibalizing sales of the regular BYD Song (bad for BYD) and Tesla Model Y (good for BYD).

Looking at the manufacturer ranking, things started this year how they ended the previous, with BYD hovering above everyone else with 28.5% share. It was followed by a distant Geely, in 2nd with 6.2%, closely followed by Tesla in 3rd with 6% share, and then Wuling in 4th (5.9%).

As it appears, the race for the 2nd spot seems very much open, at this stage, expect Tesla to ramp up deliveries towards the end of the quarter, but with Geely also ramping up their Galaxy sub-brand, the US carmaker, 2nd in 2023, could have stiff competition this year for silver.

#5 Li Auto (4.7%) rounds up the top 5, closely followed by its new nemesis AITO (4.6%), which is less than 1,000 units behind it, while #7 Changan (4.5%), is also close.

Looking at the OEM level, BYD is comfortable in #1, with 31% share, while Geely–Volvo is a distant runner-up, with 9.6% share, but with the OEM firing on all cylinders (L&K 08, Geely Galaxy, Zeekr 007…), expect the Taizhou-based OEM to consolidate its status as the main alternative to BYD in China, possibly ending the year north of the two-digit mark.

Changan is 3rd, with 7.7% share, profiting from the good results of the small Lumin and its Deepal premium brand.

SAIC (6.2%) is 4th, mostly thanks to the Wuling brand, but Roewe’s D7 (6,001 units) is also helping, while in 5th we have Tesla (6%). Outside the top 5, at a distance, was GAC (5.1%), which suffered from a poor start of the year from its all-electric brand Aion.

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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 479 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes