Tesla Loses Top Electric Car Spot To China’s BYD


Tesla reports higher EV sales than analysts’ expectations, but is overtaken by Chinese giant BYD

Tesla has lost its place as the world’s biggest-selling electric carmaker to China’s BYD, amidst the continued growth of the electric vehicle (EV) and new-energy vehicle (NEV) sector in the world’s biggest car market.

Texas-based Tesla said on Tuesday it delivered a record 484,507 vehicles in the third quarter of 2023, up 20 percent from the same quarter a year earlier, slightly ahead of analysts’ expectations of 483,200 cars.

The figure was signficantly below BYD’s deliveries of 526,409 purely electric vehicles for the same period, as it reported on Monday.

BYD last year overtook Tesla in its overall sales, which include plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Image credit: Tesla
Image credit: Tesla

Electric car crown

In China battery electric and plug-in hybrids are known collectively as new-energy vehicles (NEVs).

Including fourth-quarter sales, Tesla’s total sales for 2023 rose to 1.8 million cars, up 38 percent on 2022.

The figure was higher than BYD’s full-year sales of 1.6 million purely electric cars, but lower than owner Elon Musk’s target of 2 million sales.

Tesla became the biggest electric car maker in 2015 after surpassing sales of Nissan’s Leaf.

The Yangwang U8 electric vehicle. Image credit: BYD
BYD’s Yangwang U8 electric vehicle. Image credit: BYD

EV investment

But China has since become the world’s biggest market for battery-powered vehicles.

The market is extremely crowded and recent entrants include Huawei with its Aito electric car brand, and smartphone maker Xiaomi, which gave details on its upcoming SU7 EV plans last week.

BYD, which was founded in 1995 as a battery maker, controls about one-third of China’s NEV market and focuses on lower-priced vehicles.

One key to its success is that it manufactures its own batteries, one of the most expensive components of an electric vehicle.

Overseas expansion

The firm is expanding overseas, starting sales in the UK in March 2023 and last month anouncing  its first European plant in Hungary, where it already has a factory for making electric buses.

BYD currently offers five models in Europe and plans to launch three more in the next 12 months.

The firm mostly sells vehicles at a lower price point than Tesla, although it also sells higher-end cars such as the “Sea Lion” SUV launched in November.