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Chinese vehicle exports hit 1 million units in 2012

by IHS Automotive

Chinese vehicle exports rose 27.22 percent year-on-year to 964,667 units in January–November

2012, according to official data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), and are estimated to have surpassed 1 million units for the full year.

Passenger vehicle exports from China grew to 607,015 units in January–November, an increase of 36.53 percent year-on-year. They were more than the 476,072 units in the full-year 2011, which was up 68.26 percent from 2010.

Sedans made up the largest percentage of Chinese vehicle exports in 2012 and Chinese-built sedans are gaining ground in markets as diverse as Iran and Iraq and countries in Africa and Latin America. A total of 44,870 sedans were exported from China in November 2012, bringing total sedan exports to 439,314 units in the first 11 months of the year, an annual increase of 41.29 percent.

The second largest export segment was made up of trucks. In January-November 2011 a total of 239,652 trucks were exported from China, and the number rose to 267,805 in the same period of 2012. The data show that Chinese commercial vehicles are being sought in emerging markets where infrastructure projects are under way and where Chinese truck-makers can gain market share by offering products at cheaper prices than more established rivals.

Local Chinese vehicle manufacturers are the main exporters of sedans from China. Chinese-built sedans are in demand in less developed markets such as Algeria, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. The top sedan exporter is Chery, which exported 108,560 sedans in January–November 2012, an annual increase of 14.08 percent year-on-year. Geely is the second biggest sedan exporter, with total exports of 89,802 units in the same period, up 161.92 percent. Lifan is third with year-to-date exports of 61,605 sedans, followed by Shanghai General Motors (SGM) with 60,748, up 114.27 percent.

During November, there was a sudden surge in exports from BYD, leaving the OEM as the biggest exporter of sedans during that month. However, in October BYD’s passenger vehicle exports had fallen to zero, so the sudden jump in November was more than likely due to a delay. Lifan also saw a sudden surge in exports, while Geely and Chery continued to be consistent exporters of sedans.

 Chinese sedan exports January–November 2012 (in units)

OEM                      Jan.–Nov. 2012                     Jan–Nov 2011

Chery                     103,560                                 95,158

Geely                      89,802                                   34,286

Lifan                      61,605                                   42,271

SGM                       60,748                                   28,351

China Honda       26,926                                   20,923

JAC                        24,063                                   45,155

BYD                       18,905                                   16,160

Great Wall             16,189                                   11,250

SAIC                      7,708                                      5,379

Other                      3,884                                      3,843

Dongfeng              3,747                                      0

Peugeot (DPCA)   3,217                                      2,876

Tianjin FAW         2,680                                      689

FAW                       2,427                                      45

Jiangnan                2,329                                      0

Chang’an              2,042                                      805

FAW Haima         2,006                                      1,498

Haima                   898                                         377

Changhe                722                                         843

Hafei                      651                                         784

Brilliance BMW   180                                         0

Dongfeng Nissan 10 148

FAW VW               10 35

Southeast              3                                              47

GAC                       2                                              0

Hawtai                   0                                              3

Total                      434,314                                                 310,926

Export demand for Chinese 2WD SUVs rose 28 percent year-on-year in the first 11 months of 2012, to a total of 76,508 units. The biggest player in this segment was Chery with total exports in the period of 58,211 units, a rise of 32.47 percent, followed by Great Wall with exports of 6,692 units, down 0.21 percent. Jiangnan Auto was third with total exports of 5,454 units in the period, up 15.58 percent.

In the 4WD category, exports totaled 43,084 units in the first 11 months, up 54.58 percent, with Great Wall the biggest exporter with 26,863 units, up 7.46 percent.

Lifan was the second biggest exporter in this segment with total of 13,064 units during the period. It was the first year that Lifan exported models in this segment. Chery came next with total exports of just 2,454 units.

Where Chinese exports are going?

Chinese vehicle exports are mainly going to undeveloped, emerging markets. These include Iran, Iraq, and Algeria as well as other countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe. Exports to Brazil saw a steep rise in 2011 but tariffs affected exports in 2012, with Chinese automakers now building production bases in the country to avoid high import costs.

Within the Middle East and Africa the main markets of interest for Chinese automakers are Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa. Chinese automakers are also pushing growth in markets such as Iraq and smaller countries in the region where other international automakers are not major players. Iran is one of the largest markets in the region, with total annual sales of light vehicles in 2011 of 1.69 million units. This is expected to fall to 1.43 million in 2015 as trade barriers are introduced with sanctions against the country. In 2012 a number of international automakers announced that they would stop selling vehicles in Iran. In April Porsche stopped selling cars in Iran following a request from a group called United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), while in May Fiat announced that it too would stop selling models in the country. This included all Fiat-owned brands such as Iveco and Chrysler, and covered trucks, buses, and passenger cars.

All the North American automakers, Hyundai, and PSA Peugeot-Citroën have also stopped selling vehicles in Iran in response to the international sanctions.

China, however, opposes the sanctions and has increased its trade relations with Iran. This is likely to see a further influx of Chinese automakers exporting to the country. In September 2012

Chinese state-owned news agency Xinhua reported that China’s top legislator, Wu Bangguo,

had met with Iranian first vice-president Mohammad Reza Rahimi and discussed the issue of how to improve trade ties between the two countries. Yaqoub Estilaf, a member of the Iran-China Chamber of Commerce and Industries’ board of directors, said in July 2012: “The total value of

annual trade exchanges between the two countries currently stands above $45 billion.”

Chinese automakers are not restricted by US-led trade barriers against Iran, and this has provided a strong market for Chinese-made vehicles. Chinese automakers present in the market include Chery, Geely, JAC, Lifan, and ZX Auto. Chery recorded sales of 16,708 units in the market in 2011, followed by ZX (Zhongxing) Auto with sales of 5,933 units. In 2012, Chery was named “Best Auto Brand” in Iran at the Esfahan Auto Show in May and sold 5,000 units in the country that month. Chery assembles models in Iran with Iran Khodro – a partnership that goes back to 2008.

Of the other major Chinese exporters, Geely’s current major overseas markets include Ukraine, Russia, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. But in 2013 Geely will aggressively expand sales in Iran, Egypt, and Algeria, according to the automaker’s vice president for exports, Zhang Lin.

Anhui Jianghuai Automobile (JAC) meanwhile shipped 1,000 J5 sedans to Brazil in preparation for its launch there on 19 March 2012. The car was designed at JAC’s research and development

(R&D) center in Italy in collaboration with Pininfarina. Meanwhile, JAC’s J3 Turin sedan debuted in Iran, having been launched in Brazil in March 2011. In September 2012 it exported 130 heavy trucks to Azerbaijan, and it also announced the launch of its JAC A-Class sedan, the A1, in Iran.

In February 2012 FAW Jiefang won an order to export 300 J6 heavy-duty trucks to Iran, while Lifan launched its X60 SUV in the country on October 28, 2012. The launch ceremony, with Iranian partner Kerman Motor Company (KMC), was held in Tehran. According to reports, the first batch of 500 X60s has already been sold, and dealers are now expecting more vehicles thanks to high interest. Lifan entered the Iranian market in 2008 with partner KMC, having formed a joint venture (JV) to assemble Lifan models in the country in July 2007. Under

the agreement, Lifan pledged to export completely knocked down (CKD) models to KMC, which would then assemble them in Iran. The Lifan 520 was the first sedan to be sold in Iran. In May 2012, Lifan and KMC, together with their aftersales company in Iran, held a dealer conference in Tehran at which the company announced that the Lifan 620 1.8 VVT and Lifan X60 would be launched in the market.

(Source: IHS Automotive)

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