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We look at the Top brands and models, the gainers and losers and how the battle between battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) technologies play out in the summary of China EV Sales H1 2017.
The highlights for Chinese electric car sales in H1 2017 was:
The Top 3 EV brands in China for the first half of 2017 were BYD, BAIC, and Zhidou. Although BYD hung on to its first place, it sees its lead evaporate. BYD hardly registered any sales in the January 2017, and lost sales in its top performing Qin and Tang model ranges to competing new models from BAIC, Chery, and SAIC Roewe. BYD, one of the largest EV brands in the world, is seeing its position as China’s best performing EV brand challenged as it lost over 20% of its sales compared to 2016, while its competitor BAIC more doubled its sales. BAIC benefited from exciting new models entering the market in the last 12 months, with its small hatch, the BAIC EC180 being a top performer for three of the six months ending up the second best selling EV for the semester. Smaller EVs, or City cars, have also performed very well with the popular Zhidou Geely D2 selling nearly 20,000 units. Another brand with small EV models, Zotye, was placed fourth due to the popularity of its Cloud 100, E200 and E30 models. Other Top 10 Chinese EV brands selling city cars included Chery and JMC, both placed in the Top 10. Although JAC brought the exciting JAC iEV6S small SUV to market it was not enough to withstand the onslaught of its peers, crashing out of the Top 3 to the eight position. Tesla also entered the Top 10 list with the Model X performing very well (please note the June 2017 Tesla data did not make it in time for our analysis, which would have aided the brand’s performance). Western brands such as Volvo, BMW through its local partner BMW Brilliance, Daimler and GM mostly gave up market share to Chinese-produced vehicles.
Twenty new EV models entered the Chinese EV market in the first half of 2017 but only three, the BAIC EC180, SAIC Roewe eRX5 and BYD Song DM, made it to the Top 10 list of electric vehicles in China. None of last years Top 5 could hang on to their positions with two of the new models, the BAIC EC180 and SAIC Roewe eRX5, entering the market with Top 5 positions within three months from being launched. Last year’s Top 3 EVs, the BYD Tang, BAIC E200, and BYD Qin all crashed out, with the BYD Tang the only model able to hold on to a Top 10 position. Plug-in Hybrid vehicles could only muster three positions in the Top 20 as small city EVs made up more than half of the units sold in 2017 to date. The popular SUV class accounted for 26% of the units sold in the Top 20 list of EVs in China while plug-in hybrids only accounted for 16% of all the EVs sold. New electric vehicle models made up 31% of all the EVs sold during the period under review.
BYD’s ailing fortunes are clear in the list of losers for the first half of 2017 but another popular EV brand from 2016, Kandi, saw diminishing sales as its Kandi K17 Cyclone could not compete with the host of new small city cars entering the Chinese EV market. Clear again is the composition of plug-in hybrids and foreign brands in the list of the worst performing electric cars.
Plug-in hybrid models are losing the battle in China, strange though that 35% of the new models launched in the last 12 months are PHEVs. In the comparable period in 2016 plug-in electric vehicles made up 33% of all the units sold while the vehicle type only contributed to 16% of all sales in 2017.
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The recent Chinese Auditor General’s report on the Central Governments budget for the implementation of its New Energy Vehicles (NEVs) program has delivered some mixed results. The State’s Auditing Administration found some disturbing results from its inspection of 66 companies producing new energy vehicles including passenger vehicles, buses, and commercial vehicles. One has to ask yourself how successful has the program been when finding that 2,200 vehicles out of 35,500 produced by 13 companies were left unsold for a period of longer than a year? How successful has the program been to alleviate pollution in cities if 17,200 of the 35,500 traveled less than 3,000km (1,875 miles) in a year?
The program to promote NEVs was established in 2010 to form part of China’s 12th 5-year plan running from 2011 to 2015. The program had a budget of RMB 100 billion ($14.4 Billion) which included the promotion of EVs through subsidies, development of a charging network, and manufacturing incentives. In 2016 the country cracked down on the rampant abuse of the system by handing down fines totaling $150 million and closing five of the worst offenders. In total, the Audit Administration’s report found, that subsidies to the tune of RMB 1.67 Billion ($240 million) were overpaid due to cheating, which is nearly half the entire budget of eight provincial funds.
The Minister of Industry and Information Technology was quoted in January 2017 that China aims to quadruple its NEV fleet to 2 million units by 2020 and have one in five cars as EVs by 2025, which is expected to be 7 million EVs. The report found that in some cases the subsidies might have been too effective in targeting the development of NEVs. In a sample of around 6,800 units from 13 companies, it was found that more than half was buses, which received subsidies of 70% of the units sales price or higher, skewing the intended outcome away from passenger vehicles.
In January 2017 the Government cracked down on the sector by capping the total subsidies available at the Local Government level at 50% of that of the Central Government, dropping the NEV subsidy by 20% effective 1 January 2017, and raising the technology threshold of distance per charge and energy consumption. The new subsidy at Central Government level is now 44,000 yuan ($6,333) for EVs with a range greater than 250km (156 miles), down from 60,000 yuan ($8,600). The subsidy for buses was capped at 300,000 yuan (43,000) down from 500,000 yuan ($72,000). The sudden crackdown led to a crash in NEV sales for January 2017 of below 8,000 units compared to a full year total for 2016 of around 500,000 units. The sector has since recovered but is not expected to reach the stellar growth that it needs to outpace 2016 by double digits.
Other headline figures from the Auditor’s report shows that 45% of EV makers sold less than 500 models per year, which is a justification for the country implementing a production certificate system. The permitting of automakers to produce EVs have reached its current limit of 15 production certificates when JAC received authorisation for its 100,000 units per annum plant.
On the positive side, the Auditor found that Chinese automakers are starting to dominate the world market for electric vehicles as three, BYD, Geely, and BAIC rank in the top ten by EV sales list. Auto parts companies such as CATL, a battery manufacturer, and Jing-Jin Electric, a manufacturer of drivetrains for EVs have become internationally known for their products.
Going forward the Chinese Government is changing tact from a carrot and stick approach by promoting NEVs through subsidies and regulation to relying more on the stick by introducing more stringent NEV quotas on auto manufacturers from 2018. The Chinese authorities had a visit in June 2017 from the California Resource Board, to co-operate on the proposed Chinese ZEV quotas. The Californian Resource Board was responsible for the state’s much hailed Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) framework. The proposed Chinese ZEV quotas are set to require auto manufacturers to have ZEV’s contribute 8% of their sales in 2018 and increase annually by 2% to reach 12% in 2020.
Picture: Workers assemble new-energy cars at a workshop of Weidong New-Energy Car Co Ltd in Zouping, Shandong province. [Photo/China Daily]
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Bloomberg released an unconfirmed report on Tuesday that the Chinese Government would place a moratorium on the release of EV production certificates as the country tries to manage the sustainability of the sector. Although the report remained unconfirmed at the time of going to press shares of automakers with issued permits rallied on the news.
In 2016 the Chinese Government announced that it would limit the number of EVs produced by regulating the sector through the issue of production certificates. The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), a body that oversees investments in the centrally managed economy, announced that only ten permits would be issued to produce EVs. At the time a much as 200 companies, including 30 IT companies, had business plans to profit from the government’s program to promote electric vehicles. It was estimated that the anticipated production would far exceed 50 million units per year. The Government further feared that the rush of newcomers to the industry would lead to inferior products harming the sustainability of its strategy to dominate the EV sector.
In May 2017 I published an article on the permitting process and the products and strategies of companies with issued production certificates. At the time Shenzhen GreenWheel received the 14th permit, allowing the company to produce 50,000 per annum. Since then a 15th permit, possibly the last for the foreseeable future, was issued to the newly formed JAC/VW joint venture, granting a production certificate of 100,000 per annum.
The Chinese Government targets to add 2 million new energy vehicles to the national fleet per annum by 2020. In 2016 the country sold more than 500,000 taking the total of EVs on the country’s roads to over 800,000 units. Should the report hold true, it leaves the question what would happen to the business plans of companies such as LeEco and NextEV with much-publicised intentions to develop electric vehicles. As recent as February this year LeEco was forging ahead with breaking ground on its 200,000 plant in Deqing, Zhejiang Province, a $1.8 billion project. NextEV made big strides in electric and autonomous vehicle technology through its NIO brand, breaking production records and setting the first autonomous lap record in the process with its NIO EP9 sports car. The moratorium could very well be for a short while until the Chinese EV sectors show signs of recovering from its recent slump. The Chinese EV sector which showed double digit growth until 2016 grew only 7% for the year to date in 2017. If the moratorium is expected to last longer, the incumbents might look at approaching other countries to assist them in developing EV plants.
Click for a list of the Chinese automakers with EV production certificates and their models.
Honda released its mid-term strategy, Vision 2030, this week as the company plays catch-up to the rest of the market as most of the Japanese automaker’s competitors have already formulated strategies for autonomous and electric vehicles through 2025. Like most of its peers in Japan and Korea, Honda placed its bets on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, losing valuable runway on the electric vehicle trajectory that most of the sector now find themselves on.
Reuters quoted CEO, Takahiro Hachigo “We’re going to place utmost priority on electrification and advanced safety technologies going forward,” as Honda acknowledged it must look beyond conventional cars to survive. The company targets to have new energy vehicles contribute two-thirds of its model range by 2030, up from 5% currently. Honda has employed nearly $7 billion in R&D spend by March 2018 to support its strategy.
The company further announced that it would unveil a model based on its new independently designed EV platform in the 3rd quarter of 2017. The company will also start selling the Honda Clarity EV in the USA for around $35,000 in the second half of 2017. Unfortunately, the expectations for the Honda Clarity to fail is high as it only has a range of 80 miles per charge, competing with the 2010 Nissan Leaf in 2018.
Henry Fisker, the EV pioneer behind “Tesla killed” (as opposed to Tesla killer) Fisker Karma this week, unveiled the design specification for its 2019 production vehicle the Fisker EMotion. The Fisker EMotion is expected to have a range of 400miles and a top speed of 161mph. The vehicle employs proprietary charging technology, the UltraCharger, that charges 100miles in 9 minutes. The vehicle is equipped with LIDAR autonomous hardware. Fisker will employ the same direct sales strategy as Tesla and service through “The Hybrid Shop,” an initiative with THS. THS is a specialty EV servicing company with 36 service centers in North America, targeting 400 globally by 2019. The company will release more information during the month of June and pre-ordering will open from June the 30th.
Longtime Nissan Chairman, Carlos Ghosn, this week commented that he does not see electric vehicle adoption equal to that of other nations soon. The Australian Governments lack of support for the sector has received widespread criticism from the auto sector recently. Mr. Ghosn was quoted by Australian publication, Drive, saying “The subsidies are important to jump-start the technology and help the technology reach a new level. I understand that your government is going to issue a new policy. I will be waiting [to see] what are the components of this policy.” Earlier this year Nissan Australia CEO Richard Emery lashed out at the Australian government over a lack of support for the EV sector, describing his dealings with the industry as ‘amateur hour.’
Other automakers have shared the same sentiment, this week BMW country chief, Mark Werner, according to Car Advice said at the launch of the plug-in hybrid 530e iPerformance that the government has “stuck their collective heads in the sand.” “Our government is so far behind in their view of climate change,” he said. “Australia has shocking emissions levels. Worse than what we would call non-industrialised or third-world countries.”
EV sales in Australia totaled less than a 1,000 vehicles in 2016, while the smaller neighbor, New Zealand sold close to 1,500 in the same period.
Mahindra Racing took two podium positions in the 7th race of the third season of the Formula E series held in Berlin on Saturday the 10th of June. The Mahindra team stands a very good chance to end 2nd in the series with five races remaining as it lies only 17 points behind the second place Audi team. Multi-season winner, Renault had an unfortunate race, with its ace Sebastian Buemi being disqualified due to a tire pressure infringement. Mahindra has been very consistent over the season with some podium finishes but has never been able to clinch the top position. The 8th race will be held today and bodes to be an exciting spectacle.
On the 1st of June 2017, VW and JAC signed a joint venture agreement to develop mass market electric vehicles in China. The agreement received the political support of both the German and Chinese Governments as it was signed in the presence of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Although the agreement was negotiated over a period of time it is significant that it was signed on the same day that Donald Trump took the USA out of the climate accord agreed in Paris 2015 in a move alienating the USA from the rest of the world.
VW and JAC will each hold 50% in the JV enterprise to develop, produce and market electric vehicles and mobility services with a key focus on mass market EVs over a 25 year period. The JV has already received a production certificate for 100,000 units last week as required by new Chinese regulations created in 2016 to regulate the EV sector. The value of the prospective 100,000 unit plant is set at $740million. VW has been operating in China since 1984 through partnerships with FAW, SAIC, and JAC and plans to deliver 400,000 electric vehicles to the Chinese market in 2020 and 1.5 million electric vehicles in 2025 as part of its electric vehicle strategy, named “TOGETHER – Strategy 2025”. It is planned that the new joint venture with JAC should produce its first jointly developed electric vehicle in 2018. The terms of the partnership according to a VW press release is as follows:
The agreement provides for the construction of a further factory as well as a research and development center. The joint venture also includes the development and production of components for new energy vehicles (NEV), the development of vehicle connectivity and automotive data services. In addition, it is intended that the joint venture should establish new used vehicle platforms and engage in all related business activities.
JAC Motors, China’s 10th largest auto manufacturer is a state-owned enterprise officially know as Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co. Ltd and situated in Hefei, Anhui Province, close the larger Chery Auto. JAC Motors crafted its strategy for the electric vehicle segment, named “The Pure Electric Vehicle Development Plan” in 2002, making JAC an early mover in China and one of the most popular brands. In 2012 the company held the Top 1 position in China and thereby gaining the Top 3 place globally. At 2016 the company sold 22,000 new energy vehicles, bolstering it to showcase the largest range of electric vehicles at the Beijing Auto Show in 2015. JAC has also recently partnered with Carlos Sim to build vehicles in Mexico, taking advantage from Donald Trumps isolating policies there.
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Electric vehicle sales have breached the 2 million unit mark internationally in 2016, and most automakers have committed to an electric vehicle strategy, some more aggressive than others and in the minority of cases not having a strategy is also seen to be a strategy. The Top 10 Electric Vehicle Brands constitutes a good proxy to evaluate trends within the market and to determine the reason for a brand’s success or failure. Also, as we reach the halfway mark to the point where electric vehicles are expected to reach between 9% and 11% of the total vehicle fleet by 2025, a look into the Top 10 will provide guidance on the expected winners and losers as the disruptive nature of the technology takes effect.
Sales of the Top 10 Electric Vehicle Brands constitute 65% of all electric vehicle (EV’s) sales, and for the Top 10 BEV list, 85% of all pure electric or Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV’s) are from the Top 10 Brands in the segment. However, the trend on both lists is on the decline as more and more brands participate in the market. The Top 10 Brands in the pure electric space owns a bigger percentage of the market segment as BEV’s requires more specialization and greater risk. Due to the high cost of battery technology and range anxiety, most automakers excluded themselves from the pure electric segment, providing a golden opportunity for a few dedicated brands to seize the opportunity and leapfrog their competitors into the coming decade.
The following interesting point emerges when comparing the Top 10 Electric Vehicle Brands positions in 2012 with the overall standings and the latest standings in 2016:
Looking at the Top 10 Electric Vehicle Brands list when one only include Battery Electric Vehicles an entirely different picture emerges in many respects:
With EV sales rapidly climbing in 2016 and countries such as Norway now reaching EV sales of over 30% of new vehicles, owning an EV is not just an environmental requirement anymore drawing early adopters. Owning an EV’s has become cool and entering the growth phase in markets such as Norway and The Netherlands, where a couple of “Big Auto” manufacturers have opted to target the mainstream market through bringing Plug-In Hybrid versions of existing models. Many of the “Big Auto” brands are play stalling tactics by calling for the easing of emission standards or blocking Tesla’s direct sales model. Meanwhile, they are falling further and further behind in a market that is becoming ever more popular. Most of these manufacturers might be of the opinion to follow a wait and see approach, hoping that the first mover’s trips and falls due to the high risk and cost, with the intention to swoop in later with their big budgets to poach talent and ideas. We will analyze the tussle between Battery Electric Vehicles and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles in a follow-up post.
Picture Ellon Musk: The New Yorker