Chinese electric vehicle makers posted a slight increase in monthly deliveries in March, boosted by industry-wide price cuts since early this year. However, the gains were minimal and uneven, bolstering the market’s view that competition will remain fierce, with dwindling margins amid weakened demand.
Why it matters: Retail sales of Chinese passenger EVs during March 1-26 rose slightly by 10% from last year and just 1% from a month earlier, according to figures from the China Passenger Car Association. Meanwhile, overall sales of Chinese passenger cars declined 1% year-on-year and 17% month-on-month. BYD and GAC’s Aion still lead in deliveries, while Li Auto continues to outperform EV startup rivals Nio and Xpeng.
- China’s auto industry is in a period of transition. New energy vehicles are fast growing but many brands have yet to achieve profitability, while gas cars are still profitable despite declining sales, Ouyang Minggao, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said at an industry forum on April 2.
Details: BYD said on April 2 that sales almost doubled from March last year to 207,080 units, reflecting its growing dominance in the country’s EV market. Notably, the giant manufacturer saw strong gains for its premium marque Denza, sales of which increased 42% month-on-month to 10,398 units.
- GAC’s EV arm Aion reported sales of over 40,000 units last month, marking the first month in which deliveries exceeded the critical threshold. On March 7, the company began selling a more affordable version of its compact crossover Aion Y, lowering the starting price of the model by 17% to RMB 119,800 ($17,380).
- Li Auto has maintained strong growth momentum due to the popularity of its L series family sports utility vehicles, delivering 20,823 units in March. The automaker aims to deliver as many as 30,000 vehicles per month in the second quarter of the year, as delivery of its entry-level L8 and L7 crossovers begin in April, chief executive Li Xiang told investors on Feb. 27.
- Other US-listed EV makers posted a relatively weak performance. Having stuck to its pricing strategy despite demand concerns, Nio said March deliveries fell by 15% from a month earlier to just over 10,000 units. Xpeng’s March deliveries grew by 16.5% sequentially to 7,002 units, boosted by sales of a revamped version of its popular P7 sedans.
- Hozon reported flat March deliveries of 10,087 units, while rival Leapmotor said that number increased 93% to 6,172 units. Both companies are among a group of automakers that recently assured customers no price cuts were on the horizon.
- Changan’s EV marque Deepal said sales more than doubled to 8,568 vehicles last month after offering customers cash incentives of RMB 22,000 from March 10. That number of Geely’s premium EV brand Zeekr rose 22.1%, boosted by an incentive package worth RMB 80,000 launched on March 16.
- Huawei is under bigger competitive pressure, as manufacturing partner Seres reported lackluster sales of 3,679 vehicles in March. Its accumulative sales surpassed just over 11,000 units during the first quarter of this year. The Chinese tech giant on March 31 reassured carmakers once again by saying it would not manufacture cars on its own.
Context: Ouyang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences suggested Chinese carmakers develop both all-electrics and plug-in hybrid EVs in the next ten years, as the latter is normally equipped with smaller battery packs and therefore less affected by the volatility of raw material prices.
- Speaking at this year’s China EV 100 forum in Beijing, he estimated that plug-in hybrids could take nearly half of the Chinese EV market in 10 years from last year’s 22%.