How China Brands Took Over the World’s Hottest SUV Market

Bloomberg News, April 16, 2015

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BYD Co.’s Sport-Utility Vehicles

BYD Co. S6 sport-utility vehicles (SUV) move along the production line at the company’s assembly plant in the Pingshan district of Shenzhen, China. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

After years of losing out to foreign brands, China’s automakers are winning in the world’s hottest SUV market by employing a tried-and-tested strategy: offering them cheap.

By flooding the market with comparable models at lower prices, Chinese automakers accounted for eight of the 10 bestselling sport utility vehicles in the first quarter, crowding out global nameplates like Toyota Motor Corp.’s RAV4 and Honda Motor Co.’s CR-V.

Chinese-branded SUV sales more than doubled in the first quarter to overtake foreign nameplates in the segment this year, accounting for 56 percent of all deliveries, according to data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. At the Shanghai auto show next week, Honda will unveil a full-sized SUV concept that will compete for attention with local offerings like BYD Co.’s new Song and Yuan SUVs.

“A significant number of Chinese consumers are looking for a more affordable alternative to premium-priced foreign SUVs,” said Bill Russo, a Shanghai-based managing director at consultant Gao Feng Advisory. “Foreign automakers now need to price more aggressively as the market matures and becomes more hyper-competitive.”

Almost half of the new and refreshed passenger vehicles slated for debut this year in China are SUVs, with about three-quarters of them from local automakers, according to estimates by Bloomberg Intelligence.

Cheaper SUVs

Global automakers are competing against names little known outside China: Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co.’s Ruifeng S3, BAIC Motor Corp.’s Huansu and Chongqing Changan Automobile Co.’s CS35 all rank in the top 10 by sales. Great Wall Motor Co.’s H6, the most popular SUV in China, costs about half the price of Volkswagen AG’s Tiguan.

The average price of the bestselling Chinese SUVs in the first quarter was was 82,900 yuan ($13,380), versus 167,300 yuan for the foreign makes, according to dealership quotations compiled by Autohome, a car-pricing website.

The addition of new models is being accompanied by a surge in production. Annual output of SUVs in China is estimated to reach more than 7.04 million units in 2018, up from 4.32 million last year, according to researcher IHS Automotive.

Rare Win

The SUV success represents a rare win for China’s automakers, which have struggled despite heavy government intervention. Foreign companies are required to set up joint ventures with local carmakers to operate in the country, sharing profits and technology.

Utility vehicle sales accounted for 24 percent of the total passenger-vehicle market in the first quarter. Local carmakers have been fast to catch the shift in consumer preference from traditional sedans to more spacious crossovers, and fill the gap in the market for lower-priced alternatives.

“It’s about time Chinese automakers gained back some territory after losing out to foreign brands for so many years,” said Cao He, a Beijing-based analyst at China Minzu Securities Co. “But they have to watch their backs and make sure the growth is sustainable and they don’t put all their eggs in one basket.”

An Intelligent Urban Transportation Ecosystem for China

Gao Feng Insights Report, April 2015

We are pleased to share with you a report titled: An Intelligent Urban Transportation Ecosystem for China. This new report is the product of a collaboration between Gao Feng Advisory Company and our partners at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. The core mission of the MIT Media Lab is to design technologies to create a better future.

China’s cities have been the engines powering its rapacious economic growth. Since 1978, China’s urban population has risen from about 18% to over 53% today, and by 2025 about two-thirds of Chinese citizens will live in cities. The 35 largest cities in China recently contributed just under half of China’s overall GDP. However, the wealth accumulated in China’s cities has come at the price of livability. Many cities are struggling with paralyzing gridlock, dangerous air quality, and widening income disparity. There is a growing recognition that the current formula for development is unsustainable, and a more balanced model is being sought.

It is precisely this set of conditions that make China the most likely platform for incubating and commercializing the innovative technologies to serve the “smart cities” of the 21st Century. After several decades of advances in the world of mobile connectivity, big data and social networks, technology is now making the commercialization of smart city transportation solutions feasible. A new “ecosystem approach” must be envisioned to deliver sustainable urban mobility. Such a system should evolve beyond conventional solutions such as private vehicles with electric power trains or bus-rapid transit. This “systems” approach instead focuses on utilizing new technologies, urban strategies, and progressive public policies to create an intermodal and interoperable mobility network that combines existing mobility systems (such as mass transit) with creative new mobility systems.

In this paper, we describe the vision and key elements of an Autonomous Mobility-on-Demand (A-MoD) System, and how a collaborative effort among Academia, Industry and Government can be leveraged to deploy a sustainable urban transportation system in China.