Monday, January 20, 2020

China December 2019

Resultado de imagem para baic eu-series
BAIC EU-Series: 2019 Best Seller in China

The light at the end of the tunnel?   

After some terrible months (-42% on November), the Chinese plugin market seems to have bottomed out, falling just 22% YoY in December, to 149,000 units, with both powertrain technologies dropping, but with BEVs faring better (only -17% YoY) than PHEVs (-45%), as the market adjusts to a new, less subsidy-dependent, reality.

A significant consequence of the subsidy changes last summer is the fall from grace of PHEVs, because despite the drops in the second half of the year, BEVs still managed to end the year with a 13% growth rate, while plugin hybrids went down by 13%...

And the trend is becoming more visible every passing month, as in December BEVs represented 86% of registrations, against the 80% average of 2019, which tells a strong message to the players in the market: “Go BEV, or Go Home”.

Interestingly, the overall automotive market also seems to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, after 2019 (-10% YoY!) witnessing the second year on a row of sales drops, something unprecedented in the last 30 years, in December the market only dropped 1% YoY, so we could see a return to growth in 2020, which could mean even better growth perspectives for the local plugin market.

In fact, in the midst of this adverse environment, December’s PEV share reached a pretty good 6.8% share (5.8% BEV), pulling the 2019 PEV market share to its final 5.5% (4.4% for BEVs alone), which is significantly above the 2018 result (4.2%), but on the other hand, it is still well below than the 6.3% peak of last June.

Maybe we’ll get there again in the second half of 2020?

While many models saw their sales dry up, and even full brands have gone the way of the dodo, like Hawtai, new models are taking over the void, while the most expensive end of the market continues to thrive, helping foreign OEMs to increase market share, and in this particular case, Tesla was the winner, with the California-based brand taking 4% of the Chinese plugin market.

But to be fair, while as an individual brand, Tesla was the winner, with almost 43,000 units, looking at Automotive Groups as a whole, the Volkswagen Group took the trophy, with some 47,000 units.

Was this particular race (Best Selling Foreigner) in China the opening salvo for a Apple/Microsoft-like global rivalry in the foreseable years? Discuss.

In December, Beijing Auto (BAIC) had a smashing month, with the EU-Series sedan scoring 21,963 units, a new monthly record for a single model in China, while the smaller EC-Series also registered a five-digit result, its first in 2019.

But the surprise of the month was the new FAW Bestune B30 EV sedan coming out of nowhere to 8,735 units in December. Fleet deal?

Here’s last month Top 5 Best Selling models individual performance:

Resultado de imagem para baic eu-series

#1 – BAIC EU-Series: The electric sedan took the usual December peak to score a record performance, with the 21,963 units of last month being a new monthly high for a single model in China. In fact, if we disregard the Tesla Model 3 performances in the USA, it was the best performance ever, by any EV, anywhere. What it is the secret to its success? An attractive design and specs (215 hp, 416 kms / 260 mi NEDC, US $32,500) help, but there must be more to it, than just specs...

Resultado de imagem para 2019 baic ec-series

#2 – BAIC EC-Series: Next to the record performance of its EU-Series sibling, the 11,409 units of BAIC’s small EV might seem puny, but it was enough for a #2 position, being also the first (and only) time in 2019 that the city EV managed to score a five-digit number. Will the EC-Series recover its mojo this year?

Resultado de imagem para 2019 FAW bestune B30 EV 

#3 – FAW Bestune B30 EV: FAW’s bread and butter electric sedan was something of a underdog, with its sales paling next to the category best sellers, as an example, it had sold 3,434 units in the whole year of 2018. Then, out of the blue, the electric sedan registered a record 8,735 units in December! No doubt due to fleet deal(s), because despite an ok design, its specs (33 kWh battery, 80 kW motor) are really weak next for the category. Expect this model to continue throughout 2020 because of fleet deals (Taxis, etc), but one thing is certain: FAW, one of the leading automotive makers in China, really needs a shot in the arm, when it comes to EVs.

Resultado de imagem para gac aion s

#4 – GAC Aion S: The rise and rise of the Aion S continues, as the sleek sedan is improving its performance every passing month, having scored yet another record, with 8,460 units, reaching the 4th place last month, its 6th Top 5 spot in a row. And if we add the 1,178 units of the badge-engineered Toyota iA5 EV, that is nothing else than a Aion S with a Toyota badge, the GAC sedan would have registered 9,638 units, which would place it in 3rd. But back to the Aion S, beyond the stylish (and aerodynamic - 0.245cd) looks, this new model bears some impressive specs: a 59 kWh CATL NCM 811 battery, 510 km / 318 mi NEDC range and Level 2 driving aids, but the real killer is the price: Around 180,000 CNY / $26,000. Before subsidies.

Resultado de imagem para Baojun E200

#5 – Baojun E-Series: With the end of subsidies for most of the small city EVs, unable to reach the minimum 250 kms range, the Baojun E-Series won the lottery, with the Shanghai Auto and General Motors offspring watching its sales jump in the past few months, winning consecutive podium positions, even if last month was only 5th, having registered 8,352 units last month. The access to the current subsidy, added to its competitive price (CNY 93,900 / USD 14,700) before subsidies, makes it an appealing model for car-sharing companies, as well as other kinds of fleets. 

Resultado de imagem para 2019 Buick Velite 6
Buick Velite 6: Now imagine this, an electric Station Wagon, being sold in Europe...

2019 ranking

We’ll start by celebrating the first Best Seller trophy of the BAIC EU-Series, with a new yearly record (111,047 units) as the cherry on top, with the risky bet of Beijing Auto, by switching its focus from the small EC-Series, two times Best Seller (2017 and ’18), to the larger EU-Series sedan, has payed off, it’s like BAIC was already guessing what was ahead of them…

The runner-up spot went to the BYD Yuan EV, that at a given time seemed to be a strong contender for the leadership, but then it was hit full frontal by the subsidy changes, while the opposite happened to the 3rd placed Baojun E-Series, since the new rules, sales went up through the roof, allowing it to jump from obscurity into the podium…Which in turn, was the first podium for a SAIC model since 2012, when the small Roewe E50 was #3, with 238 units…Yeah, that many.

There were plenty of last-minute position changes, with the Roewe Ei5 recovering some positions and ending the year in 7th, a great improvement over the #15 spot of 2018. It seems Chinese buyers do like station wagons, after all…

But the Climbers of the Month were once again the GAC Aion S, jumping 6 positions, to #6, while the Tesla Model 3 joined the Top 10, ending 2019 in #8, with the Californian being the first foreign nameplate to end a year in the Top 10.

What’s impressive on these two models performance, is that if both ended the year with record performances, both have even bigger growth perspectives for 2020, with the Aion S growing fast (it has always grown month-on-month since it landed), while its badge-engineered Toyota twin, the iA5, is already in four-digits (1,178 units) in only its second month on the market, so adding both together, as basically they are the same model, we get 9,638 units in December, so…I guess over 100,000 units will be impossible for the Aion S in 2020, something that the Tesla Model 3 should also be able to reach, thanks to the start of local production in Shanghai (The first 30 Made-In-China units were delivered in December).

With the BAIC EU-Series already at 100,000 units/year and SAIC’s Baojun E-Series regularly at 8,000-something performances, we could see at least 4 models hit the 100k mark in 2020…Which would make the Top 5 race in 2020 quite interesting, wouldn’t it?.

The BAIC EC-Series had a deliveries peak (11,409 units, year best) last month, allowing it to jump 6 spots, to #13, while the MG eZS EV joined the ranking in the last month of the year, thanks to a record 4,714 units, allowing it to be #19 in 2019.

But another important metric for the Shanghai Auto electric crossover is the behavior in overseas markets, with the Sino-British EV scoring close to 2,000 units in export markets, last month, the best result ever for a China-made EV.

In fact, this electric crossover has several waiting lists to be fulfilled outside China, after all there are already 2,100 orders for it in India, even before it landed there, while in the UK, I heard the interesting story that days after the price being announced in the UK, a few months ago, MG representatives were already asking for more units to the HQ in China, as the 2019 allocation had already been fully booked…As it seems demand won’t be a problem for it, we have a question:

-           -   Will SAIC have enough production capability to satisfy demand? 


-     -   Does the MG crossover have enough demand (and production) to reach 100,000 units globally, in 2020?

With a ruling presence in the City EV field with the Baojun E-Series, and the MG eZS EV succeding both in the domestic and export fronts, SAIC is becoming a fierce rival for both BYD and BAIC, and we could even see it overcome them during 2020.

(General Motors could profit from the rise of Shanghai Auto, considering the special relationship it has with it, but for that to happen, GM management would need to play its cards right, something that it has failed to do when comes to electric cars…)

Speaking of General Motors, among the several good results outside the Top 20, the Buick Velite 6, GM’s (stylish) twin to the Roewe Ei5, had a record month in December, with 1,005 units. Will the Buick electric station wagon finally start to sell in significant numbers this year?

Also outside the Top 20, a mention to the ramp-up of the VW e-Lavida, now at 3,872 units, while the Audi Q2L e-Tron registered 1,049 units in only its second month on the market. Volkswagen Group is rising…

A final reference to the 3,455 units of Dongfeng’s Venucia D60 EV, will this new electric sedan become the maker’s bread and butter EV? 

Looking at the sub-categories, the BYD Tang PHEV was this year Best Selling PHEV, succeeding its stablemate BYD Qin PHEV, the Baojun E-Series was the 2019 Best Selling City EV, replacing the BAIC EC-Series, while on the full size categories, the BMW 530Le repeated last year Best Selling Car trophy, while the Tesla Model X this time managed to outsell (9,400 vs 8,900 units) the 2018 Best Seller Nio ES8, recovering the title that had belong to it in previous years.

Despite this setback, Nio kept the Best Selling Startup title, thanks to the recent success of the midsize ES6 (2,537 units in December alone).   

Looking at the manufacturers ranking, BYD (19%) won its 6th trophy in a row, while below it, the #2 BAIC (14%, up 1%) and #3 SAIC (12%, up 1%) benefitted from strong performances in December to gain share.

Outside the podium, Geely (6%) ended far from the podium, and had to keep a close eye on GAC (5%), in order to keep the 4th position until the end.

Interestingly, the podium performers have been repeating these exact same positions since 2017, but by the look of things, 2020 will be a much more balanced race in the manufacturers ranking, with the Top 3 makers closer today than in the past, and GAC and Tesla (and Volkswagen?) running as dark horses.


  1. It seems that Tesla had registered 6.643 cars in December:
    How many of them have been effectively delivered to their is difficult to say.
    Now, if only 4.800 of them were Model 3, so Model S and X did their best month in China this year....Wonder how many of these two have been sold in China in 2019. José, any insight on that?

    1. The same article mentions 42,715 total for Tesla in 2019 -- so going by José's 29,389 estimate for Model 3, that would make some 13,300 for Model S+X. (A bit down from 16,360 in 2018...)

    2. The Tesla numbers are (semi-)oficial, but the breakdown between them is my own guessing. In the text i say "9,400 Model X in 2019"

      Yep, the Model S & X have already met their demand limits. Not only in China, but everywhere.

      As for the Model 3, i have a few doubts on demand in H2 '19 in the US, but i guess we will know better in Q1 2020.

      Also, if not before, the Model Y will limit the Model 3 demand, as it has a more appealing body shape.

    3. About the reduction of Tesla Model S and X sales in 2019, I still don't understand the move from Tesla to end all Model S 75 and Model X 75 at the end of 2018. I don't think it would be a big problem for Model 3 and Model Y high end version demand at all.
      I remember that in Norway, these two base version made more than 70% of sales in 2018 in Norway and maybe elsewhere too.

    4. It's also more expensive, has lower range, worse acceleration, and worse driving dynamics... There is a reason sedans exist: elevated vehicles offer more space and convenience, but they do come with a whole bunch of trade-offs as well.

      I don't expect the Model Y to cut into Model 3 demand all that much, just as Model X hasn't significantly cut into Model S demand. These are mostly different buyers: people who really want a Model Y aren't usually buying a Model 3 instead, as if they couldn't wait another year or so for the car they actually want...

    5. @Marsusul: You're right, for some reason, Tesla decided to go upmarket with the Model S/X, when they should have gone the other way around.

      @Antrik: In Europe at least, it's not entirely correct to extrapolate the Model S/X behavior to the Model 3/Y, because on of the reasons for the Model S success in Europe is the fact that it has a hatchback and an enormous boot, which is a good alternative for the popular station wagons.

      So when the Model X appeared, the Model S kept on racking up sales, as only SUV or 7 seater buyers were going after the Model X, which also had to deal with the divisive Falcon doors.

      On the other hand, the Model Y won't have a divisive design (basically it's a Model 3 hatchback, with a slightly raised suspension), AND will have a hatchback, something that the Model 3 sorely lacks, so those station wagon seekers will prefer the Model Y instead of the Model 3.

      So, how i view them, the Model 3 will suffer more with the Model Y than the Model S did with the Model X, but the good news is that the Model Y will be a more successful product regarding the Model 3, than the Model X is regarding the Model S.

    6. @Marsusul I'm pretty sure Norwegian sales of the 75 kWh Model S dropped a lot even before it was discontinued: a lot of people simply wanted the cheapest Tesla they could get: they bought the entry-level Model S when nothing else was available, but moved to Model 3 once they could.

      It's also a matter of margins. The margin on the higher-end variants is significantly bigger. While not all potential buyers will move to the higher-margin variants, those who do probably make up for the loss of those who don't... Especially since the majority of people in the latter group most likely just move to higher-end Model 3, as there are still no real competitors otherwise.

    7. @José I think I said it before, and I'll say it again: nobody ever moves an existing model down-market. It just makes more sense to "milk" an established brand than to devalue it.

      If Tesla feels the need to have something above the Model 3 but below the current Model S, they can introduce another model in-between. I think it likely they will do so at some point -- though it's probably still years out, because of other priorities...

    8. @José interesting point about the hatch on the Model S...

      Still, I think that the majority of people who actually have a problem with Model 3's trunk surely pre-ordered Model Y rather then buying a Model 3 recently -- i.e. we aren't likely to see a significant drop of Model 3 sales once the Y starts shipping...

      Either way, it's important to keep in mind that Tesla doesn't mind if people switch to Model Y (quite the opposite: it's higher margin, after all) -- the only question that really matters is how much the Model Y will grow the overall market :-)

  2. Despite continued weakness of some models, it appears that in typical fashion for the Chinese market, overall sales have mostly left the post-subsidy-cut slump behind, and are heading for new all-time records again... After 2019 being a "lost" year, it seems likely that between Tesla Shanghai, local makers stepping up their game, global makers pushing more models to comply with mandates, and an expected large pull-forward before the last of the direct subsidies phase out at the end of the year, 2020 could very well see another >50% growth...

    With the US also having a good shot at ~50% growth (mostly due to Model Y, along with a whole bunch of other new models at smaller scale), and Europe gearing up for outstanding growth that could near 100%, I think something in the vicinity of 3,500,000 globally is pretty likely in 2020... This won't entirely make up for the disappointing 2019, but should get us more or less back on track regarding the long-term trajectory of roughly doubling global EV sales every two years :-)

    1. Hope you are right - doubling the ev share is a bit more realistic though as the total volume is decreasing

    2. Very optimistic comment.

  3. With Baojun being a SAIC-GM-Wuling joint venture, I don't think it's quite fair to count it entirely on SAIC's tab? Though between Roewe and MG, SAIC still seems pretty well positioned...

    BTW, with Roewe and MG both being SAIC brands, I wonder whether we could hope for MG to disrupt the European market by introducing a variant of the Ei5 as the first BEV estate car in this part of the world?...

    1. The E-Series is all SAIC enginnering, so i have bundled it all in the Chinese maker, despite on paper counting for the GM NEV quota.

      Same thing for the Toyota iA5, despite theoretically being a Toyota (#NEV quotas), in reality it is a GAC rebadge, so i am counting it as another GAC model.

    2. A "MG Ei5" in Europe would indeed be an interesting proposal.

      If there is any MG management Reading this...

  4. A duopoly like Microsoft/Apple (almost monopoly in fact) is only possible in software products... Or software bundled with hardware, in the case of Apple.

    While some argue that cars are becoming more like software bundled with hardware as well, I'd say this only applies to the computers (infotainment and autonomy), not the car as a whole. So what we could see is a duopoly between vertically integrated Tesla providing the entire car with custom computers and software (like Apple), and another software vendor supplying their system to most other car makers -- like Microsoft in desktop computers, or Google in mobile phones.

    If that happens, it's entirely unclear though whether it will be one of the established software makers to get to the top (Google or Microsoft), or one of the hardware makers building on-board computers along with a custom software stack: Intel/Mobileye, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and presumably Apple in the future...

  5. Madan RajanJanuary 21, 2020

    More chinese automakers have figured out how to make long range BEVs at affordable price. Near 150000 sales is very impressive despite subsidy cuts. This 1177421 sales is only for light duty vehicles and its 1.206 million vehicles if we count the heavy vehicles as well.

    So Tesla is the only foreign automaker to enter Top-10.

    BEVs fell only 17% and this is encouraging. BMW is not willing to give up their PHEV ambitions and we can see them pushing hard with 2 300 sales of 530Le. As long as they sell some PEV, thats good.

    Both Tesla Model-3 and Aiways U5 EV has gone on sale this month and this should push the BEV sales higher this year eventually leading to recovery and higher sales.

    Lets hope for a better 2020.

    1. Most Chinese models are still medium-range rather than long-range I'd say. (Don't get fooled by unrealistic NEDC range figures...) Having said that, I do agree that some of the Chinese models are becoming seriously interesting now in terms of specs and prices...

      I don't think though that it's possible to call any specific models that will make it to the top through the year: the Chinese market has proven totally unpredictable on that count. (At least for outsiders like us...)

      Model 3 might be the sole exception: with no real competition, we can be fairly certain that it will do well -- though whether that's "top 3" well, or just "top 10" well, is still anyone's best guess...

  6. In 2020, will we see the first regular inroads of foreign carmakers in the Sino New Energy Vehicle Top5 carmaker chart?

    From the published data, 2019 carmaker standings are:

    1st BYD Auto with 148528 vehicles
    2nd BAIC Motor with 138401 vehicles
    3rd SAIC Motor with 124410 vehicles
    4th Chery Automobile with 39401 vehicles
    5th GAC Group with 32126 vehicles

  7. If this trend continue the EV market will be dead in China by 2022 :)

  8. Jose,

    Were there any number of sales/deliveries of the VW e-Golf in China in 2019?