It used to be that sedans were the typology of choice amongst Chinese car buyers. Premium sedans like Audi’s A6 and A4 models, the latter which was offered in long wheelbase form to cater specifically to the People’s Republic, were seen as the default choice for drivers looking to display their newly accumulated wealth.
But now the market has undeniably shifted towards SUVs, and the smaller ones at that. According to Market Insight Corporation, a US-based firm that captures customer buying preferences through its MyProductAdvisor.com website, the leading typology among premium car buyers in the first quarter of this year were compact SUVs, followed by medium SUVs, medium sedans, compact sedans and large sedans.
The number of buyers preferring compact and medium SUVs was higher than in the first quarter of 2012 when the preference was for medium and large sedans, noted Market Insight, citing that the “preference for [the] three German luxury brands was quite pronounced among shoppers with a price range reaching over 300,000 RMB”.
Bloomberg News recently reported that Audi’s 13 percent sales growth in April was almost entirely attributed to the change in customer tastes as buyers increasingly sought out vehicles like the Q5 and recently launched Q3 models. Together with the Q7, Audi’s SUV sales in China increased by 31.3 percent in April, a contrast to the locally produced A4L which saw 19.5 percent growth.
“Given the extremely difficult market situation in Europe, we see our global sales result for April as positive. Especially the USA and China are currently setting the pace for Audi,” said Luca de Meo, Member of the Board of Management for Sales and Marketing at AUDI AG. “We are further strengthening our position in China with the launch of the locally produced Audi Q3, in a very dynamic segment. Already today, more than every third customer in the Chinese premium market decides in favor of an SUV.”
A longtime favorite of Chinese buyers, Audi sales exceeded that of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, each of which posted an 11 percent gain despite BMW holding the title as the world’s largest premium carmaker. The three German companies collectively accounted for more than 70 percent of China’s premium market share last year, with Audi holding nearly 30 percent of the pie.
Clearly, the growth of the compact SUV segment in China isn’t lost on Mercedes-Benz and BMW, each of which revealed their own take on the rapidly growing typology in the form of the GLA and X4 concepts at the Shanghai motor show last month.
But growth in the once burgeoning Asian market is slowing. Last year, Audi’s April sales rose an astounding 44 percent in comparison, though the automaker is still leading the pack amongst its premium German rivals.