Chinese Automaker Accelerates Past Tesla to Become Top Seller of Electric Vehicles: What It Means

BYD outsold Tesla in the last three months of 2023, but Elon Musk’s Tesla still sold more electric vehicles for the whole of the year. 

Elon Musk’s Tesla no longer holds the top spot in sales of electric vehicles (EVs). Pole position now belongs to BYD, a Chinese automaker based in Shenzhen. The company sold 526,409 EVs in Q4 2023 compared to 484,507 EVs delivered for Tesla in the same period.

Tesla beat sales expectations by overperforming against analysts’ forecast of 473,000. But crucially, this wasn’t enough to beat BYD, which overtook Tesla for the first time.

This signals an important shift in a key growth area in the automotive industry: electric vehicles.

In a statement to announce annual sales of 3 million vehicles, BYD proclaimed itself the “world champion” in “new energy vehicles.” This number included the whole range of vehicles manufactured by BYD, including plug-in hybrid vehicles. When it comes to fully electric cars, BYD delivered 1.58 million vehicles.

In comparison, Elon Musk‘s Tesla manufactures only electric vehicles, aside from batteries and battery-related products. For the whole period of 2023, it had sales of 1.81 million electric vehicles. This is greater than BYD’s sales for the same period, despite being outpaced by BYD in Q4.

sales of electric vehicles BYD and Tesla

BYD and Tesla

While BYD is Tesla’s top competitor, it is very different from Elon Musk’s EV and battery-producing company. As China’s top EV producer, BYD exports electric vehicles to Europe, South America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East–but not in the United States. Unlike Tesla, BYD also makes electric plug-in hybrid vehicles. 

BYD’s cars are also significantly cheaper than Tesla’s. BYD’s EVs sell in China for around USD10,000, while Tesla EVs sell for around USD32,000.

In contrast to BYD, Tesla sells premium-priced electric vehicles, as well as both home and grid-scale battery systems. Its headquarters are in Austin, Texas.

BYD began producing its own battery, the Blade, in 2020. Other carmakers use the Blade battery in some of their own vehicles, and this includes Tesla, which uses the Blade in their Model Y.

BYD is the top EV producer in China with Tesla in second place. Meanwhile in the US, Tesla is number one; however BYD does not sell any EVs in the US because of the because of Inflation Reduction Act which prohibits the sale of batteries and other components from Chinese manufacturers.

Both companies are growing at a rapid pace, increasing their manufacturing capabilities around the world. These recent sales numbers are a possible sign of the future dominance of BYD and other Chinese automakers, according to some analysts.

Famously, BYD is backed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. As per a recent submission by Berkshire Hathaway to the Hong Kong stock exchange, the company possessed 7.98% of BYD shares by the end of October 2023. Presently, the value of those shares stands at HKD18.54 billion (USD2.4 billion).

The late Charlie Munger, long-time business partner of Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway, once named BYD as his “best investment.”

Recommended Stories