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China’s luxury vehicle sales in 2015


Even with a 1.4 percent decline, Audi still managed to take home the luxury vehicle sales crown of 2015, delivering 570,889 vehicles.

Two main factors contributed to Audi’s negative growth: First, the anti-corruption campaign and more stringent regulations on government vehicle purchase drove Audi out of government vehicle fleets. Second, despite Audi’s effort to change its “government vehicle” image to attract more young buyers, it failed to offer many new models in 2015. In the end, Audi had to rely on deep rebates and its established dealer network to hold on to its sales crown.

The locally made A3 contributed 64,353 units to the total, beating Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the compact segment. The A4L and A6L lead its respective segment with sales of 115,149 and 149,977 units.

On the SUV side, Audi sold 68,519 Q3s and 114,000 Q5s in 2015. The new Q7 was introduced late in the year hence did not make any real impact on 2015’s sales, but likely to make a difference in 2016, plus the new locally made A4L, Audi should have a good 2016 with positive growth.



BMW is behand Audi with total sales of 463,736 vehicles. But in certain segments, it is quickly catching up.

The BMW 5-Series is very close to the A6L in sales, only trailing by 777 units. With higher incentives, it is very possible for it to dethrone the A6L in 2016. The BMW 3-Series, however, is still not ready to challenge A4’s dominance.

BMW did not introduce many new models in 2015. The new 7-Series debuted towards the end of the year. The imported models mainly focused on niche market segments such as the 2-Series, X4 and i3. They are indications of BMW’s future vehicle lineup in China.

The only China-made BMW SUV, the X1, failed to beat the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA with sales of 41,283 units. But the situation is likely to change in 2016.



With a 32.6 percent growth, Mercedes-Benz had a very good year in 2015, with 373,459 units sold ranking third place.

The locally made new C-Class and GLA greatly contributed to the growth. In addition, the well- received S-Class still enjoys dominance in its segment.

It is likely that Mercedes-Benz can extend its great performance into 2016 and even surpass BMW. The current difference mainly comes from the gap between the E-Class and 5-Series. The new E-Class will be manufactured in China. With its design similar to S-Class and an established dealer network, we can expect a good sale.



JLR only sold 92,474 vehicles in China in 2015, a 24 percent slide from 2014. Locally made Evoque by Chery-JLR did not boost JLR’s overall sales, as its high price tag pushed customers away. JLR learnt the lesson quickly and the Discovery Sport was better received with a more reasonable price. The XE infuses some fresh and stylish elements into its design. With the right price, it could become JLR’s saver.



Lexus had a good year in 2015 selling 86,912 vehicles, a 13 percent growth compared to the year before.

Lexus still insists not to manufacture in China, even after competitors Infiniti and Acura have done so. Sales are supported by the use of the expanded use of the 2.0L naturally aspirated engine on the ES and turbocharged NX series.

With Lexus’s low maintenance cost, we can expect a positive growth in 2016. But an explosive growth is unlikely due to Lexus’ decision to continue with importing the vehicle.



With an 8 percent increase, Volvo broke through the 500,000 record in annual sales for the first time in 88 years. The star player is the brand new XC90, which rapidly became popular in the U.S. and Europe.

However, it was an entirely different situation in China. Volvo sales in China were only on par with 2014. The XC90 is widely conceived as overpriced. The XC60 and S60L contributed to the 74 percent of Volvo’s total sales in China.

In the new year, Volvo is expecting the cheaper T5 and T6 to boost sales. Meanwhile, the new flagship S90, along with the CT6 and new E class, will be the main driving force for Volvo in China.



Although Cadillac sales in China were only half of those in the U.S., the 17 percent growth rate is definitely something worth GM to cheer for. As a matter of fact, China has become Cadillac’s largest single market outside the U.S. The new “world class” plant in Shanghai is a reflection of GM’s emphasis on China.

The charming ATS-L has won over many BMW 3-Series fans and it has become the top selling model for Cadillac. With 22,285 units sold, the cost-effective XTS is Cadillac’s other popular model.

The new flagship CT6 is aiming for the niche market between vehicles for top government officials and standard luxury vehicles, while the 28T and 40T are competing in the C-class and D-class respectively. The XT5, SRX’s replacement and a challenger for Q5 like SUVs, will be made locally starting in April. 



After a 23.6 percent jump, China has exceeded America to become Porsche’s largest market. Out of 225,121 vehicles sold globally in 2015, the Macan and Cayenne contributed 80,000 and 73,119 units respectively, while the 911 models added another 32,000 units.

Similarly, according to data provided by Sanford C. Bernstein, Porsche’s sales champion in China is also the young Macan, with 28,400 in sales, almost half of Porsche’s total sales in China.



Infiniti achieved the highest growth rate among the luxury brands in China last year – 33.8 percent. It is also the first Japanese luxury brand that starts to build vehicles in China.

By lowering the price and extending the wheelbase, the Q50L sales jumped to 17,413 units. In 2016, Infiniti may bring the Q30 and QX30 that share the MFA platform with Mercedes-Benz in order to compete in the compact SUV segment.

Infiniti opened up Chinese market with smart PR and marketing strategies.


DS, Lincoln, Acura, Tesla

These four brands are smaller players in the Chinese luxury vehicle market. The young DS is the cheapest in the luxury car segment. Its relatively unknown brand and small vehicle lineup affected sales.

With the right price and marketing, Lincoln sold 11,630 vehicles in 2015, not a bad restart for the brand’s return to China.

Acura sold 4,100 vehicles in 2015. It will start assembling in China this year. It lacks, however, DS’s attractive price and Lincoln’s rich history and faces competition from compatriots Lexus and Infiniti. The 2016 will be a difficult year for Acura.

Tesla sold 3,690 vehicles in China last year thanks to its cutting-edge technology. The challenge will still be charging infrastructure and real world usability.

(Translated by Kevin Wang based on author’s article originally published on


Source: Sanford C. Berstein

*Sales of BMW include MINI and Rolls-Royce brand vehicles.

**Sales of Mercedes-Benz include smart brand vehicles.

***Sales of Acura and Tesla are based on registered numbers.

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