The Chinese electric vehicle segment briefly lost momentum in January as a majority of automakers reported a significant sales drop on Thursday during the traditional low season, a contrast to December when big promotions and exciting discounts gave a short-term sales boost at year-end.
Why it matters: The decline was especially marked for BYD, which accounted for nearly a third of the country’s green energy vehicle sales last year. The biggest Chinese EV maker maintained its leading position with sales of more than 201,000 units last month, although that number represented a 41% decrease compared to December.
- Geely and Huawei-backed Aito are among the few bright spots that have bucked the trend with their new models, becoming potential challengers to BYD’s dominance. Meanwhile, international carmakers such as Volkswagen and General Motors posted decent sales with local partner SAIC, showcasing their efforts to play catch-up.
Ups: Geely posted its best-ever month with sales of 65,826 fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles last month, roughly 5,400 units more than in December and nearly six times greater than what Volvo’s parent achieved a year ago. This growth was partly due to strong sales of its Galaxy and Lynk & Co brands, which sold 19,223 and 28,176 units over the month, respectively.
Downs: On the other hand, China’s US-listed EV trio are the ones under pressure by reporting their lowest monthly deliveries since June, as they engage in a relentless price war with larger tech and auto forces. Both Li Auto and NIO slashed prices on current lineups last month as they prepare to launch revamped models in March, potentially causing some customers to postpone purchases.
- Sales of Aion, which has sold a large proportion of its vehicles to ride-hailing fleets, also dropped 46% month-on-month to 24,947 units in January. The EV maker, affiliated with state-owned automaker GAC, is now ramping up efforts to go abroad, as sales in the overseas markets reached the threshold of 3,000 units for the first time last month.
- Deliveries of Great Wall Motor and Deepal, another Changan subsidiary, also decreased by 16.2% and 7.1% to 24,988 and 17,042 units respectively, from December. Meanwhile, IM Motors, a premium EV brand launched by China’s SAIC, saw a bigger drop with its January number more than halved from a month earlier to 5,305 units.
Context: China’s sales of new energy vehicles, mainly all-electrics and plug-in hybrids, increased 92% year-on-year from Jan.1-28 partly due to the year-ago low base effect marked by a wave of Covid cases after Beijing dismantled pandemic controls in December 2022. However, that number was 24% down compared with December when most automakers made a year-end sales push, figures from the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) showed.