The emergence of China as the largest and, arguably, the most important automotive market is well acknowledged in the industry circles. But doing business in the Chinese market isn't a cakewalk as the land of dragon poses some unique challenges that are often tough to crack. While some are still figuring out the ways and means of operating successfully in the world's most populous country, there are some brands that have hit the jackpot.
For the year 2014, it was Volkswagen that went all guns blazing and emerged as the best-selling automotive brand in China. That isn't surprising, as Volkswagen has been dominating the world's largest car market for what seems an eternity now. Helped by two successful joint ventures and playing the ‘early mover’ strategy to perfection, Volkswagen sold 2.7 million units last year. That's almost twice as much as what Wuling, a domestic automaker and a partner of General Motors, managed with 1.4 million units. Taking the last spot on the podium is Hyundai, the South Korean manufacturer ending the year with sales of 1.1 million units.
General Motors and Volkswagen rule the roost in China, a fact that was reinforced yet again when we compiled the list of top ten best-selling cars of 2014. Seven models out of the top ten best-sellers were from either of these giants and neither are showing signs of slowing down.
With cumulative sales of 750,019 units, Wuling Hongguang is, by far, the best-selling automobile in China. A product of the SAIC-GM-Wuling joint venture, we all know the Hongguang as the Chevrolet Enjoy in India. That the Hongguang is the only Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV) selling in such high numbers in a market known more for its love towards sedans and new-found love for Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) makes it all the more impressive. With the Buick Excelle and Chevrolet Cruze finding 560,000-odd customers between them, GM is in an enviable situation in our neighboring country. It’s a pity that GM’s Indian operations are struggling with severely under-performing models.
At 371,962 units, sales of Volkswagen Lavida might be just half of Hongguang's but that was enough for the midsize sedan from Shanghai-Volkswagen to become China's second-largest selling car. Santana, another China-specific model from the same joint venture, ended 2014 as the country’s eighth best-selling vehicle. Adding to Volkswagen’s tally in the list are a couple of interesting but related cars. Sagitar, which is actually the new Jetta worldwide, is at number four with sales a little over 300,000 units. Just don’t confuse that with the other Jetta that you see at number six. It is a legacy model that is several generations old but is still managing impressive numbers with just a few facelifts.
Just like India, Sports Utility Vehicles are getting increasingly popular in China too and Haval, the SUV sub-brand of China’s Great Wall Motors, is very popular in its homeland. The brand’s H6 was the most-popular SUV in 2014 and the third best-selling vehicle in China with cumulative sales of 315,881 units. Nissan’s Sylphy had a good outing at number five with sales hovering a few tens above 300,000 units. Hyundai’s Elantra Langdong, which is the same as the Elantra sold in India and elsewhere, rounded off the top ten with 252,338 units sold.
2014 Top Selling Cars in China:
1. Wuling Hongguang (SAIC-GM-Wuling) - 750,019
2. Volkswagen Lavida (Shanghai VW) - 371,962
3. Great Wall Haval H6 - 315,881
4. Volkswagen Sagitar (FAW VW) - 300,082
5. Nissan Sylphy - 300,058
6. Volkswagen Jetta (FAW VW) - 296,961
7. Buick Excelle (Shanghai GM) - 293,098
8. Volkswagen Santana (Shanghai VW) - 285,301
9. Chevrolet Cruze (Shanghai GM) - 267,985
10. Hyundai Elantra Langdong - 252,338
Source for sales figures: China Passenger Car Association (CPCA)
Outside the top ten, Ford Focus put up an extremely impressive show with its hatchback and sedan body-styles hitting 207,349 and 184,432 units respectively. Put together, Focus would be the second best-selling nameplate in China, next only to the mighty Wuling Hongguang.
At the luxury end of the spectrum, Audi is the clear winner beating BMW and Mercedes-Benz by a country mile. With 513,000 units sold in 2014, China is Audi’s largest and most important market. BMW managed a respectable 278,195 units, a number that might appear less when compared to Audi but still a pretty impressive figure nonetheless. Mercedes-Benz came in a distant third, with sales of 139,508 units.