Team Blitz India
MELBOURNE: Chinese startup BYD has clocked impressive sales figures for its electric cars in the third quarter of 2023-24, overtaking the industry leader Tesla. For years, the Elon Musk company Tesla has been ahead of others in this segment, be it Ford Motor, General Motors or Volkwagen.
China is the world’s largest market for new cars and boasts higher levels of electric vehicle (EV) penetration too. BYD is therefore benefitting from a home advantage. Even though Tesla’s Shanghai factory is its biggest, and is able to produce around one million vehicles every year, but China is also Tesla’s main export hub, whereas BYD is able to make and sell around 90 per cent of its vehicles in the People’s Republic.
Making battery-powered cars remains a growing industry. So while BYD surpassed the number of vehicles Tesla sold in October, November and December, both companies enjoyed a record quarter. That may well continue. Even allowing for recent wobbles, worldwide EV sales are rising faster than those powered by gasoline. Yet, they account for only slightly more than a tenth of new car deliveries. Both companies are still expanding manufacturing capacity, too – Tesla in Germany and Mexico, while BYD is setting up in Hungary, Brazil and Thailand.
Tesla, at present, has more geopolitical tailwind on its side. Its vehicles are sometimes barred from entering sensitive areas in China, but Musk has cultivated a good relationship with Beijing despite growing US-China tensions.
BYD and other Chinese automakers, meanwhile, are unlikely to make big inroads into the United States and could be hampered from exporting cars to Europe if the region’s authorities impose tariffs.
The Chinese brand is also unlikely to get far in India, another big potential growth market that Tesla is eyeing, given border tensions between the two countries.