Wednesday, February 24, 2021

China January 2021


The Rise and Rise of the Wuling Mini EV

After the December sales peak, one would expect a sales hangover in January, didn't happened, as the market had some 173,000 passenger NEV units, an impressive 223% jump YoY, and the highest growth rate this market have seen in 3 years! 

Of course, January 2020 was impacted by the Chinese New Year holidays and the Covid pandemic, but still, even comparing with the remaining months of 2020, it outsold every other month of last year, with the exception of November and December, usually the two strongest months in this market... 

As a consequence of this, the PEV share started the year at a high 8.4% (7% BEV), already a step above of the 6.3% of 2020, so unless the local government decides to remove the subsidies to this booming market, we might see it reach two digit shares already this year! And with the much awaited Tesla Model Y and VW ID.4, right around the corner, i wouldn't even rule out record months in the first half of this year(!)....

In January, plug-in hybrids growth (+94% YoY) was outshined by pure electric models (+276%!), allowing BEVs to tighten their hold of the market, as they represented 83% of sales, up 3% share regarding 2020 and 12% regarding the same month last year.

Illustrating the current trends of the Chinese EV market, on last month Top 5 we have one full size sedan (BYD Han EV), two midsize sedans (Tesla Model 3 and GAC Aion S), one tiny four seater (Ora Black Cat) and the leader, the incredibly small 4 seater Wuling Mini EV.

Here’s January Top 5 Best Selling models individual performance:

#1 – Wuling Mini EV 

This model was something of a shot in a dark for the SGMW joint-venture, as until this model launch, city EVs depended heavily on accessing subsidies to be successful, but it has paid off, as the nameplate became an instant success, and while it was initially intended as a credit enhancer, allowing them to counter balance their ICE offerings, if sales continue rising like they have been so far, in January it hit 36,762 units, its 7th record in a row, the tiny vehicle might even reach the break even point by the end of this year and actually make a profit in future years! Turning cheap city EVs into a profitable business has been a ellusive target for everyone in the EV business, but it seems SGMW is the only one close to get it... 

#2 – Tesla Model 3

The poster-child for electric mobility delivered 13,843 units, and while this isn't the disruptive result that many would expect from Tesla's sports sedan, let’s remember that local production is now being exported to other markets (wether that was intended from the start because of cheaper production costs or it's a way to compensate for lower than expected demand in China is another discussion) and the midsizer now has internal competition, coming from the Model Y, but expect the Model 3 to continue cruising at around 15k-20k units per month.

#3 – BYD Han EV

The rise and rise of BYD’s luxury sedan in China is impressive in more than one way, first the steady increase in demand, with the big BYD scoring its 6th record result in a row, with 9,298 units, and second, the full-size sedan is running in the top positions with models that sit lower in the food chain, as the 2nd best selling full-size model (Li Xiang One) had almost half of its sales. Winning its first podium position last month, the current poster-boy for BYD continues to thrive, and if we were to add the PHEV version to its tally, we would have over 12,000 units, which getting mighty close to the #2 Tesla Model 3...Now i ain't sayin' it's a Tesla killa, but no one's messing with this fella...

#4 – GAC Aion S

Things continue to go well for the Aion S, with the sleek sedan securing another Top 5 presence, thanks to 6,092 units, it's best result in over a year. But before the GAC fans out there (“Everybody from Guangzhou, put your hands up, put your hands up…”), say that the S sedan is just the start and the upcoming Y people mover will be another resounding success, let's remember that the other Aion launches, that followed the S landing, have either bombed (the LX midsize SUV is selling in two digits), or have had "meh!" results (the V compact crossover is selling a third of the S sedan). 

#5 – Great Wall Ora Black Cat

The Chinese moniker from Great Wall had 6,090 units delivered last month, confirming its role of the bread and butter model for the brand, at least until the other cats (the White and the Good) do not end their production ramp up, which in the case of the White Cat, is already allowing the small people mover to join the table, in #17.

Resultado de imagem para lixiang automotive
Li Xiang One

Outside the Top 5, we have several models shining, like the good behavior of the local EV Startups, with 8(!) representatives in the Top 20, with the Li Xiang One full size SUV leading the pack in 7th, with 5,379 units, with the model being the SUV category leader and also the #1 in the PHEV race, while Xpeng placed its two models on the table, with the P7 sedan in #10, with a record 3,710 deliveries, and the G3 crossover in #16, and NIO did even better, by placing all of its 3 models in the table, with the EC6 crossover in #12 (with a record 2,845 units), the ES6 SUV in #14 and even the full fat ES8 barge joined the table in #20...Besides these, the small crossover Neta V from Hozon joins the Top 20, in #18 with 2,076 units, its 3rd record in a row, and the Weltmeister EX5 compact crossover was #19.

But this wasn't only about startups, others also had reasons to smile about, especially SAIC, because on top of strong perfomances across its long lineup, two have joined the table with record performances, the Roewe eRX5 PHEV compact SUV was #9 with a record 3,779 units, while its own iteration of a city EV, the Roewe Clever EV, jumped to #8, thanks to a record 5,172 units.

(Could this jump in the Clever EV production possibly be related to the Baojun E-series sudden disappearance from the table? Mmmm...)

Another small EV climing to stardom is the new generation Changan Benni EV, that joined the table in #11, with a record 3,240 units, while on the other side of the spectrum, the BMW 530Le had its best result since June, with 2,516 units, allowing it to start the year in #15, being only the second foreign moniker in the table…

Outside the Top 20, a mention to another Chinese startup, with Leap Motor placing its small T03 EV close to the table, with 1,476 units, while Buick had its Velite 6 PHEV station wagon scoring a record 1,632 units, and we celebrate the landing of the Tesla Model Y, with 1,641 units in January.

Looking at the manufacturers ranking, things started this year how they ended the previous, with the SGMW joint-venture hovering above anyone else, with an amazing 23% share, followed by a distant BYD, with 12% share, while the 3rd spot is being hardly fought by Tesla and SAIC, both with 9%, with the Californian currently ahead by 600 units.

A couple of steps below, we find the #5 Great Wall, with 6% share, thanks to its cat pack, followed by GAC (4%), that is holding its 6th position from NIO (also 4%), by just 100 units. 

Looking at OEM level, SAIC's domination is unquestionable, with the Shanghai maker now having 32% of the market, a truly astounding number in such a fragmented and competitive market.


  1. Model Y 1641 vehicles missed the table.
    Guess it should make it in March together with the ID4s.

    1. Would be surprised if it doesn't enter in February...

  2. Wow 172.652 for 8,4% in very 1st month despite 20% subsidy cut.
    Wuling MiniEV keeps marching and says I dont care a damn about subsidies.
    Tesla follows the same quarter end sales like they do in USA. Nice to see Model Y starting with 4 digit sales.
    BYD Han seems to be rising star with an affordable pricing with LFP battery.

    At this rate, there will be another subsidy cut. Ideally every quarter they can cut 20% and move to 0 subsidy starting 2022. After all BEV battery prices would have fallen below $110 by that time.
    Nice way to start the year.

  3. As far as I'm aware, by Chinese classification, the Aion S is a smaller class (A) than the Model 3 (B)...

    1. Yeah, in the past i considered the Aion S as compact, until i realized that the Aion S is actually a few cms longer than the Model 3...

      But i confess, i'm on the fence regarding the Aion S.

  4. Model 3 being exported from Shanghai is neither primarily about production cost, nor about demand... It's about the fact that the Nevada/Fremont plants just can't make enough batteries/cars for all markets outside China.

    (And of course logistics, in case of exports to Asia/Pacific markets.)

    Supposedly the production goal for Shanghai is 250,000 Model 3 this year, with 100,000 earmarked for export -- which means this January figure should be much in line with the average going forward...

  5. Fourth Tesla shipment of the year to Europe arrived today!

  6. Wow, starting the year at almost 37k must bring the Wuling mini to the general Top 20 or even Top 10, no?

    Also, anyone knows how much money are EV credits worth for automakers?

    Hard to find this info on the English web...

    1. They were the #8 model in December, and #5 in January. But January sales look odd, I think we have to wait until after the New Year ends. I did find a story that this year for the first time dealerships were staying open, and staying busy, over the Chinese New Year. One story showed lines for the Model Y, noting the wait list now extends into June or beyond, the Model 3 can be had in a couple weeks. One sales point for the Wuling mini EV is that they try to keep dealers with some inventory so delivery can be immediate. I did track down stories on Baojun, a sister GM-SAIC company. Their E100 and E200 are a couple years old. Their new E300 was panned as uncompetitive against a similar new vehicle – price, features etc. But I didn't take notes, and couldn't relocate the review. In any case, it doesn't formally launch until June 24.

      I'll look for a summary of the new vs old incentives, I found a decent English-language summary. But like the Chinese stuff, I've not yet set up a systematic way to keep notes. For academic articles I have Zotero, but it doesn't work well for this purpose.

    2. I saw some numbers not long ago. It said that the value actually increased. Don't remember the exact figures: but it think it was something like $3,500 or $4,000 on average?...

      The tiny Wuling is probably not getting that amount, though... (Don't know how the number of credits per car is calculated.)