The Dongfeng AX4 is the brands newest SUV

The Dongfeng AX4 is the brand's newest SUV

In addition to being a JV partner for several foreign OEMs, Dongfeng Motor is a fairly successful vehicle manufacturer in its own right, with multiple brands and sub-brands in China. Its weak point is a lack of any sizable export business and exposure to the collapsing Chinese market passenger vehicle sales of Kia Motors and Groupe PSA.

This year, the stated aim has been to lift total sales to 4,500,000 vehicles.

This state run giant, which also calls itself DFM, had an especially strong 2016, delivering 4,277,000 vehicles, which was a year-on-year gain of 10.4 per cent. That total comprised 3,785,000 passenger vehicles and 492,000 commercial vehicles. This year, the stated aim has been to lift that to 4,500,000.

Dongfeng's most successful car making divisions are its joint ventures with Nissan Motor and Honda Motor. It took some years for all the necessary approvals to be rubber stamped but eventually, Groupe Renault was allowed to set up its own alliance with the Chinese state-run firm. Now, the French OEM is making plans to greatly increase its annual production towards 400,000 vehicles and then, as part of its Drive The Future plan, to 550,000, some of which will be electrified and part of a new Renault-Dongfeng brand. The larger target is presumed to include the proposed output of a JV in LCVs with Brilliance Auto.

Cars, SUVs and MPVs

The best selling vehicle built by DFM is the Nissan Sylphy, registrations over the first three quarters of CY2017 amounting to 280,424 units. Only the VW Lavida/Gran Lavida (385,388), Wuling Hongguang (369,906) and Haval H6 (347,706) bettered it. The Nissan sedan was alone amongst the top four in seeing its sales rise over this period too.

Of all the many Dongfeng brand models on sale in China, only three make it into the top 100 best sellers' list. The Fengguang 580 (123,378) is the company's number one. This SUV is built by Dongfeng Xiaokang, a commercial vehicle division. It first went on sale 18 months ago, soon after a world premiere at the Beijing motor show in April 2016. Unusually, the car was facelifted in May this year. The Fengguang 580 is powered by a 150hp 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine which its maker calls 'Eurodriver 1.5 T'.

The second best selling model to wear a Dongfeng badge is also an SUV. The second generation Fengxing Jingyi ('Joyear') X5 premiered at the Guangzhou motor show in November 2016. Its life cycle should last until 2023, with a facelift in 2020.

There are a handful of models which will probably be phased out during 2018 due to their relative unpopularity. Some of them are only between three and four years old but they are either not SUVs or in segments where there is too much competition.

The Fengshen Aeolus A30 is one of the potentially doomed vehicles. This 4.5 metre long sedan went on sale in China during September 2014. Sales have withered to around the 100 units a month level. Another model in trouble is the Fengshen L60, which should finish the year with sales of less than 3,000 units. This sedan is based on the first generation Peugeot 408 so it's a long way from being an up to date design in the C/D segment.

One more C segment sedan which has yet to set the sales charts alight is the Fengxing Jingye S50 and its EV variant. This model for China is manufactured by Dongfeng Liuzhou, a subsidiary of Dongfeng Motor. It debuted at the Beijing motor show in April 2014 and is based on the Fengshen A60 sedan, which itself is derived from an obsolete Nissan Sylphy. The Jingyi S50 went on sale in China in September 2014, powered by the choice of 1.5- and 1.6-litre Nissan petrol engines.

The Fengshen A60 is much older than the S50, having been launched in 2011. The last update for the C segment sedan was a facelift which debuted at November 2015's Guangzhou motor show. DFM is not expected to launch a direct replacement for this car.

The Aeolus sub-brand includes another slow seller, although this model is still quite fresh. The A9 is intended to be a rival for FAW's Hongqi H7 limo. PSA's EMP2 architecture is used and this car shares much with the second generation Citroen C6. The 5,066mm long production model only went on sale in China in April 2016 but most months it has been battling to find more than a few hundred buyers.

For a different reason, the Shuai MPV is also soon due for the chop. This rebodying of the second generation Nissan Serena was launched in China by Dongfeng back in November 2009 so it's overdue for a successor. The Shuai, also known as the Shuaike, should be replaced in 2018.

The Fengshen AX4 has introduced Groupe PSA and Dongfeng's CMP low-cost small vehicle architecture.

The range of 'AX' SUVs is performing better than many of DFM's cars so it has not been surprising to see more added to the line-up. The latest is the Fengshen AX4, pictured above. This is an especially interesting vehicle as it has introduced Groupe PSA and Dongfeng's CMP low-cost small vehicle architecture.

The AX4 was the third SUV or crossover to be added to Dongfeng Fengdu's Fengshen sub-brand. Easily the vehicle's most distinctive styling features are its enormous and protruding front fog lights and their faux chrome surrounds.  It is powered by a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine. Production commenced in August and by the end of September, dealers had already sold 3,072 examples of this 4,195mm long SUV.

Illogically, at 4,518mm long, the Fengshen AX3 is larger than the AX4. This SUV has been on the market since late 2015. Fewer than 12,000 were registered during the year to the end of September, which suggests that it too might be phased out next year, although it may struggle on into 2019 if Dongfeng chooses to give it a facelift.

Dongfeng's strategy is almost a scattergun approach: throw as many vehicles at the market and see which ones work, not worrying too much about potential profitability.

Another AX model is the Fengshen AX5. This 4.5m long SUV went into production during November 2016 and was on sale in China the following month. The AX5 is aimed at the Haval H6 and GAC Trumpchi GS4. It is only moderately successful, selling at the rate of around 1,000-1,500 units a month throughout 2017.

The star performer of the AX models is the Fengshen AX7. It has averaged more than 3,000 registrations a month.

The star performer of the AX models is the Fengshen AX7. It has averaged just more than 3,000 registrations a month this year. This is despite it coming up to its mid-life facelift. This SUV was first seen at April 2014's Beijing motor show. Based upon the first generation Nissan Qashqai, it went on sale in China in August 2014. Available engines at launch were 2.0- and 2.3-litre four-cylinder petrol units. Dongfeng's Fengdu MX5 is closely based on the AX7.

Another successful model is the Fengshen S30 / H30 series. This 4.5m long rival for the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla was launched in China in July 2009, following its world premiere at the Shanghai motor show three months previously. All versions are powered by a PSA-sourced 1.6-litre engine and the car itself is more or less a rebodied Peugeot 307. The French OEM also supplies manual gearboxes, while the automatic gearbox comes from Aisin.

The first bodystyle was a sedan (S30), with a five-door hatchback (H30) following in January 2010. The latter had its world premiere at the Guangzhou motor show in November 2009. The H30 Cross variant then premiered at the Beijing motor show in April 2010, before going on sale in China in May 2011.

Facelifted versions of the Fengshen S30 and H30 Cross premiered at the Shanghai motor show in April 2013 and went on sale immediately afterwards. A new generation model series is due to be launched in mid-2018.

In the compact MPV segment, Dongfeng has the Fengguang 330, also known as the Glory and Fengguang 360. This 4,645mm long model is a minivan-crossover which can seat up to seven. It sells well and should have a facelift in 2019. The next generation model is due to appear in 2021.

Positioned above the Glory is the Fengxing S500. This 4.6m long minivan has doors which are hinged like those of a hatchback's, rather than sliders. The S500 looks not dissimilar to the first generation Volkswagen Touran and is similarly sized. Its world premiere was at April 2015's Shanghai motor show. Chinese market sales commenced in November 2015. The platform is said to be the same as that which underpins the similarly sized Kia Carens/Rondo (Dongfeng and Kia Motors have a JV). An EV prototype premiered at April 2016's Beijing motor show. The Venucia (see below) Fengxing SX6 is closely related to this model.

A facelift for the Fengxing S500 should be released in China in the second quarter of 2019. The successor is set to follow in late 2022.

Venucia

Dongfeng and Nissan continue to expand Venucia's model range, although it has not caught the Chinese public's imagination in the same way as the wildly successful Baojun, a rival low cost brand owned by SAIC GM Wuling.

Venucia has not caught the Chinese public's imagination in the same way as SGMW's wildly successful Baojun brand.

The best seller for Venucia is the T90. This big crossover draws certain styling elements from the VOW ('Venucia Over Wonder') concept from April 2015's Shanghai motor show.

The T90 is based upon the Nissan Murano. Having premiered at the Beijing motor show in April 2016, it went on sale in China during December 2016. Sales amassed by the end of September numbered some 39,000 units. A facelift will likely take place in 2020 and a replacement which would use the Alliance CMF-C/D architecture should follow in 2023.

With registrations of just over 31,000 vehicles, the T70 and T70X are Venucia's combined number two best sellers. These models are manufactured at a plant in Dalian and are based upon the Nissan X-Trail built between 2007 and 2015. The car's premiere was at November 2014's Guangzhou motor show. The T70 went on sale in China in January 2015.

The T70X is a slightly modified T70. It has raised suspension and some extra plastic around its wheelarches. The T70X's world premiere was at the Chengdu motor show in September 2015. Both T70 and T70X are due to be facelifted in 2018. The successors should use Alliance CMF-C/D and appear in 2022.

Venucia's most recently arrived model is the M50V, a compact minivan. Its premiere was at April 2017's Shanghai motor show, sales in China commencing immediately. Since then, it has racked up slightly more than 9,000 registrations.

Prior to the arrival of the M50V, all Venucia models used Renault-Nissan Alliance architectures.

Prior to the arrival of the M50V, all Venucia models used Renault-Nissan Alliance architectures. This vehicle, however, is based on one of Dongfeng Motor's own platforms. This is because the M50V is a modified Fengguang 330/360 Glory.

The Fengxing SX6 is an additional seven-seat MPV/minivan for Dongfeng Nissan's low-cost brand. This model is based upon the Dongfeng Fengxing Jingyi (Joyear) X5. The 4.6m long SX6 went on sale in China during July 2016. The platform is said to be the same as that which underpins the similarly sized Kia Carens/Rondo. A mid-cycle restyle should hit the market in 2020, with the Fengxing SX6 replacement then due in 2023.

EVs

The Venucia which sells in the smallest numbers is the e30. This electric C segment hatchback is the old shape Nissan Leaf with a modified interior, a new name and some minor exterior changes. The E30 will likely be made at the Dalian plant for only another year to 18 months, at which point it should be succeeded by a restyled version of the second generation Leaf.

Recently, DFM decided to take the Junfeng model name and turn it into a new brand for electric cars. The Junfeng ER30 was the first model. This small five-door EV is based on an outdated Nissan March/Micra and looks similar to the original. Dongfeng Motor is expected to add the E17, another EV for the Junfeng brand, in 2018.

Some say Junfeng exists only to please the central government and gain subsidies for the production of small numbers of so-called New Energy Vehicles.

Some say Junfeng exists so that DFM can please the central government and gain subsidies for the production of small numbers of so-called New Energy Vehicles. However, the Junfeng ER30 has been selling at a moderate pace. Certainly, its 995 registrations in September and 3,895 for the year to date compare more than favourably to another of DFM's EVs, the Fengshan E30L (not to be confused with the Venucia e30). Just two of these little cars, which are not dissimilar to the Renault Twizy, were sold in September.

Dongfeng and Renault are planning to build an electric C segment sedan based on the Fluence Z.E. at their DRAC plant in Wuhan. The first details of this car were announced by Renault in September 2015:

On the occasion of the visit of ZHU Yangfeng, Chairman of Dongfeng Group, at the Renault R&D center, Dongfeng Renault Automotive Company (DRAC) announces the production of its first electric vehicle in China.

As part of the Joint Venture between Dongfeng and Renault, DRAC will produce an electric vehicle that is based on the Fluence Z.E. The electric car will be produced at the Wuhan plant in 2017 and will be commercialized under a local Dongfeng brand for the Chinese market only.

The agreement is part of the will of both the Renault Group and the Dongfeng Group to propose mobility solutions for sustainable development. Jacques Daniel, CEO of DRAC, confirmed: ''This EV agreement illustrates Renault's engagement as partner of COP 21.''

A Fluence Z.E.-based model will be put together from kits supplied by Renault Samsung's Busan plant.

The electric sedan is being assembled at Wuhan so as to comply with a Chinese government directive. This means that only a few thousand of these cars will be assembled each year. The model will be put together from kits supplied by Renault Samsung's Busan plant. Assembly is due to commence in December.

This will be the third of the nine cars which Renault told the media in October that it plans to be making in China. There will be three EVs, so that leaves a further two electric vehicles which are yet to be announced: one will be a Kwid EV and the other could be the current or next Zoe or else a Captur Z.E. or Clio Z.E.

Of the remaining four combustion engine models, one should be the Captur and another a C-SUV derived from the Dacia/Renault Duster but the identities of models eight and nine are as yet unknown. As noted above, the DRAC joint venture has been tasked with building and selling 400,000 vehicles a year by 2022, which is also the timeframe for the range of nine models. Some 150,000 units of that total is taken up by the combined output of the Kadjar and Koleos, which are selling at higher than expected levels.

Additional future models

Dongfeng is said to be planning to add yet another model to its range of C segment SUVs. The 4.5m long Fengxing 560 is expected to be added in 2018. A 1.8-litre engine as well as a turbocharged 1.5 should be offered.

Fengdu sub-brand current and future models

The Fengdu MX5 was the second SUV for Dongfeng's Fengdu sub brand, the MX6 having been the first. The Fengdu MX5 is based on the Dongfeng Fengshen AX7, another compact SUV. Its debut was at the Chengdu motor show in September 2016. Its life cycle should be seven years, so expect a facelift in mid-2020 and a successor in early 2024.

The larger Fengdu MX6 went on sale in April 2015. It is closely based on a former generation Nissan X-Trail and built by the Zhengzhou Nissan joint venture. Prototypes look similar to the former X-Trail but the production model has a bespoke grille, headlights and bumpers. The MX6 was the first vehicle for Dongfeng's Fengdu sub-brand. A facelifted MX6 should be released in late 2018. The replacement model is due in 2022.

The MX3 will be an additional SUV, sitting in the model range below the MX5 and MX6.

The MX3 will be an additional SUV, sitting in the model range below the MX5 and MX6. A prototype which was claimed to be 4,506mm long debuted at Auto Shanghai in April 2017. Production is due to commenceduring 2018. The MX3 will be manufactured by the Zhengzhou Nissan joint venture.

Another SUV, codenamed Y5 and rumoured to be called Fengdu HUV, was previewed by the Hummer H2 lookalike HUV concept at the 2012 Beijing motor show. The prototype's dimensions were quoted as follows: 4,690mm (length); 1,910mm (width); 1,890mm (height); 2,850mm (wheelbase). Even though it will be six years since the design study appeared, a production model is expected to be launched in 2018.

Similar in size to the HUV, yet another Fengdu D segment SUV is said to be under development. This one will reportedly see Dongfeng leveraging its JV with Kia Motors (DYK: Dongfeng Yueda Kia). Prototypes have been spotted testing in China. The unnamed new model looks uncannily similar to the former Cadillac SRX from the front, while the side profile suggests that the vehicle is closely related to the second generation Kia Sorento. It should be revealed during 2018.

Summary

Dongfeng and Groupe PSA have much work to do if they are to succeed in their goal of making the Peugeot and Citroen brands successful in China once again. DS presents a different kind of challenge, as it has clearly not (yet?) been accepted as a serious alternative to German, Chinese, Japanese, American, English and Swedish luxury brands. A mere 794 DS vehicles were sold in September, and 4,203 over the nine months to the end of September. Quite a contrast to the 300,000 units of capacity which the CAPSA plant was established to manufacture. Even though this is not Dongfeng's problem (DS manufacturing in China is part of a JV with Changan Auto), the losses being sustained by DS division worldwide are an issue for Dongfeng as a shareholder in Groupe PSA.

According to rumours, Dongfeng Honda JV is said to be the potential buyer for PSA's Wuhan #2 plant.

The latest available registrations data for the Peugeot brand show a 30 per cent drop for the year to 30 September, with only 161,974 passenger vehicles sold. For Citroen, the equivalents are a plunge of 59 percent to 71,654 registrations.

PSA is said to be trying to address its costly overcapacity in China by attempting to sell its half of one of the plants operated in Wuhan with Dongfeng. According to rumours, Dongfeng Honda JV is said to be the potential buyer for Wuhan #2.

The difficulties which DYK faces might turn out to be easier to solve, as already sales of Kia vehicles in China (211,819 for 1 Jan-30 Sep) are no longer in freefall. The Korean company needs to add more SUVs to its local line-up and steadily rebuild its brand image, while moving away from having a range which has been replete with low-cost small cars and too many B, C and C/D segment sedans.

As for the Nissan, Renault and Honda JVs, all three look to be in fine shape, with the last of these performing especially well. In particular, Dongfeng's sole Japanese partner has a lot more upside to come, as the next feature in just-auto's ongoing series will show.

Future model plan reports for other manufacturers can be viewed in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

Additional data on vehicle lifetime and future product plans, such as code names, production plants and expected annual build, are available in PLDB from QUBE.

The next OEM for just-auto's in-depth examination of current and future models will be Honda Motor.