BYD Co. is on track to overtake Tesla Inc. as the world’s biggest seller of electric vehicles as the Chinese carmaker’s global sales surge gathers pace.
China’s best-selling car brand narrowly overtook Tesla in the latest quarter after the US automaker suffered its first drop in shipments in more than a year due to factory shutdowns.
BYD sold 431,603 all-electric vehicles in the three months ended 30 September, 23% more than in the second quarter. Tesla delivered 435,059 vehicles globally in the quarter – the gap between the two companies is the smallest ever at 3,456 vehicles.
“BYD will sell more all-electric passenger cars than Tesla in the fourth quarter,” said Taylor Ogan, managing director of Shenzhen-based hedge fund Snow Bull Capital, which owns stakes in both carmakers.
Shares in BYD fell as much as 3.6% in Hong Kong on Tuesday morning, mirroring the broader decline in the Hang Seng Index, which hit its lowest level since November 2022. Other Chinese EV makers such as Li Auto Inc. and Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. also slipped.
Shenzhen-based BYD sold a total of 822,094 vehicles in another record quarter, helping it consolidate its lead as China’s best-selling car brand.
BYD, known for selling affordable cars to the masses, has made strides in broadening its appeal, which has helped its sales surge. The company has added two luxury EV brands, Yangwang and Fang Cheng Bao, to enter the 1-million-yuan (US$137,000) price category, more than double some of its previous high-end vehicles. The company has also launched two cheaper models, the Seagull and the Dolphin, to undercut its rivals.
Growing exports are helping the company, which makes its own batteries and semiconductor chips, supplement its dominance in China with a larger share of overseas sales.
According to Joanne Chen, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, exports accounted for 9% of BYD’s sales in the third quarter, up from 5% in the previous quarter.
“This will be a key volume driver next year as BYD expands its global footprint with newer electric vehicles,” she said.
However, both BYD and Tesla are under scrutiny from European authorities, who have launched an investigation into Chinese subsidies for electric cars that they claim disadvantage European carmakers.
Tesla’s deliveries missed estimates by about 20,000 units as the company prepares its factories to produce the revised Model 3 sedan and the Cybertruck, which is not yet on the market. Nevertheless, Elon Musk’s company reiterated its annual target of selling 1.8 million vehicles. BYD is still on track to sell around 3 million vehicles, including hybrids.
Tesla reintroduced its basic rear-wheel-drive crossover Model Y to the US market at a lower price after failing to meet Wall Street delivery estimates. Tesla also made some changes to the Model Y in China but left the price unchanged.