Electric Car Market: 20% Plugin Market Share in China, BYD Shines

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Plugin vehicles are all the rage in the Chinese auto market. Even in the slowest month of the year, plugins scored 291,000 registrations, up 176% year over year (YoY).

This pulls the year-to-date (YTD) tally to over 665,000 units, and with March set to be another strong month (400,000 units?), we should have over 1 million registrations by the end of Q1.

Share-wise, with February showing another great performance, plugin vehicles hit 20% market share! Full electrics (BEVs) alone accounted for 15% of the country’s auto sales. This pulled the 2022 share to 18% (14% BEV), and considering that the last month of the quarter is usually a strong month, we can assume that the country’s plugin vehicle market share will end Q1 above the 19% mark, and the first half of the year should see it already above 20%.

Another measure of the importance of this market is the fact that China alone represented over half of global plugin registrations last month!

Looking at February’s best sellers, we should first celebrate the fact that we had four plugin models in the overall top 10, as the Wuling Mini EV(4th), BYD Song (5th — BEV+PHEV), BYD Qin Plus (6th — BEV+PHEV), and Tesla Model Y (8th) all had top 10 presences. The Tesla Model 3 will most likely also show up on March’s top 10 list, so we should have 5 plugins in the overall top 10 next month!

Here’s more info and commentary on February’s top selling models, this time extending to 7th so that we can have a better look at BYD’s star players:

#1 — Wuling HongGuang Mini EV

With 26,116 registrations last month, the tiny four-seater won another best seller title, but considering past performances, it’s kind of a meh score. It seems the new, direct competition, like the Chery QQ Ice Cream, has started to make a dent on the little EV. Still, with this kind of scale, it is natural that the joint venture is turning a profit on its star EV (probably a small one, admittedly). Perhaps this is why they are preparing the expansion of the little EV to overseas markets, like Indonesia and India. (And then, the world?) The overseas model is said to be slightly longer, have a 26 kWh battery, a more powerful electric motor, updated features, and … the convertible version might be exported, too. The Wuling EV has become a trendsetter and a disruptive force in urban mobility. The added bonus is that the people buying it (mostly females under 35 years old) are usually a hard-to-capture audience. It marks a new chapter in EV mobility.

#2 — BYD Song Pro/Plus PHEV

BYD’s midsize SUV is looking to replicate the success of the Qin in its category, and its rise and rise is proof of that, having scored a record result (19,057 registrations) in the slowest month of the year! So it seems the Song PHEV is set for a 20,000-plus performance in March. Besides the record performance of the PHEV version, the BEV version had 3,669 registrations, leading to a total of 22,756 units, which allowed it to rise to #5 in the overall market, while staying significantly above last quarter average of 18,261 units. And the ramp up continues…

#3 — Tesla Model Y

Tesla’s most recent addition to the lineup got 18,593 registrations, which allowed it to land in #8 in the overall ranking. Looking at the quarterly average, which is the most correct way to look at Tesla’s performances, the Model Y needs 42,000 units in March to keep the Q4 2021 average (25,500 units). With the last peak result set in December, consisting of 40,194 units, it shouldn’t be much of a stretch for the midsize crossover to get there.

#4 — BYD Qin Plus PHEV 

The BYD Qin has been the bread and butter model for the Chinese automaker for a long time, with the PHEV version reaching 14,243 registrations in February, a somewhat underwhelming performance. Combined with the BEV version, which had 8,264 registrations, the Qin Plus had 22,507 registrations, placing it in 6th in the overall market. That’s a bit below its Q4’21 average of 26,115 units. Why this drop, especially considering that its SUV sibling (the BYD Song) is still growing? I believe it’s the future internal competition — the BYD Seal for the BEV version and the Destroyer for the PHEV version. These two new midsize sedans, set to land soon, are part of the new Ocean generation of BYD plugins — marine animal names were given to the BEVs (Dolphin, Seal, etc.) using the 3.0 dedicated e-platform, and military vessel names for the PHEVs (Destroyer, Frigate, etc.). Besides competitive specs, the main selling point of BYD’s Ocean lineup is the price, with the base Seal set to start at $35,000 USD. That’s significantly lower than the base version of the made-in-China Tesla Model 3 ($44,000 USD)!

#5 — BYD Tang PHEV

Thanks to a refresh last year, the big 7-seat SUV is back in the game, scoring a record 10,026 registrations. That beat its direct competition in the full size category (BYD Han and Li Xiang One), thanks to competitive specs, like a 22 kWh LFP “blade battery.” BYD’s flagship SUV also has a BEV version, mostly directed to export markets, but that nevertheless allowed it to add an extra 400 units to the tally, which pulled the total to 10,426 units. That’s a step above the 7,996 unit average of Q4 2021, which means the Tang still has room to grow.

#6 — BYD Han EV

The big sedan seems to see no end to its success, scoring 8,942 registrations. It was only beaten in the full size category by its BYD Tang PHEV sibling. With the PHEV version doing little to help the BEV version (only 349 deliveries last month), BYD’s flagship sedan ended the month with 9,291 registrations, well below the Q4 average of 12,543. But help is on the way, with new PHEV versions coming soon, namely one with a 38 kWh battery, focused on minimal consumption, and another that can do 0–100 km/h in 3.7 seconds, using the same battery.

#7 — BYD Dolphin

From the top of the BYD lineup, we now go to the other tip of the range, without stopping on the compact Yuan Plus, a model we will surely have many opportunities to look at in further detail. No, this time we’re looking at the small-to-compact BYD Dolphin, which scored 8,565 registrations. Its most direct competitor in this category is Great Wall’s Ora Good Cat, getting fewer than half as many sales (4,066 registrations). The reason for this success? Using a space-efficient interior and competitive specs, not unlike a certain Chevrolet Bolt, the Dolphin adds the cost-saving features of its brand new 3.0 dedicated platform. That allows it to offer unbeatable prices, starting at 13,000€ for the 31 kWh battery. Of course, do not expect these kind of prices when the Dolphin lands on European shores (tariffs, VAT, etc.), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it started to be sold here at 19,999€ … which would still be a killer price considering the direct competition that is still north of 30,000€ (Renault Zoe, Peugeot e-208, etc.). Once the Dolphin lands, expect some serious price slashing from legacy OEMs…

Looking at the remaining best seller table, the two highlights are the BYD Yuan Plus, jumping to #13, with 4,517 registrations in only its second month on the market, and the Tesla Model 3 up to #12, with 4,607 registrations. The midsizer needs 32,000 registrations in March in order to repeat in Q1 2022 its Q4 2021 average of 13,000 registrations/month. Considering the Model 3 had 30,000 deliveries in its last peak, in December, it shouldn’t be hard for it to get there and maintain the average of the last quarter of 2021.

“But you only write about BYD and Tesla?!?!?! How much are they paying you?!?!” You might think so, but no, they are not paying me anything. Although, thinking about it, having a Tesla Model S and a BYD Dolphin would be a great combo in my garage. It’s just that in the start of 2022, they are one step ahead of the competition, and it’s hard not to look in detail at their performances.

But enough about BYD and Tesla. Outside the top 20, we should highlight Geely’s Zeekr brand, with the high-end 001 model scoring 2,916 registrations. That’s a prelude of a likely bright future for the newborn brand. (Now all it needs to do is a sports car called 007. Hey, it’s not that much of a stretch — they could ask their stable-mates Lotus to do it! You’re welcome!)

Also rising is Baojun’s new Kiwi model, the refreshed version of the E300 city EV, with the posher division of the SGMW joint venture delivering a record 3,262 Kiwis in February.

Looking at the 2022 ranking, the Tesla Model Y surpassed the BYD Qin Plus PHEV and is now the bronze medalist.

Below the podium, the BYD Tang PHEV has jumped four positions, to 8th, thus making it five BYDs in the top 8 positions. Hozon’s Neta V climbed one position, to #15, and the Volkswagen ID.4 was also up one position, to #19.

In the last place on the table, we now have the NIO ES6, thus making four Chinese startup models (#5 Li Xiang One, #15 Hozon Neta V, #17 XPeng P7, and #20 Nio ES6) in the top 20.

BYD Tops Automaker List

Looking at the auto brand ranking, there’s no major news. BYD (27.1%) has reinforced its leadership position, increasing its share by 2.2%. The Shenzhen automaker is looking to win its 9th automaker title this year, while the SGMW joint venture (9.4%) is stable in second place.

Tesla (6.4%, up 1.2 percentage point) switched positions with Chery (4.6%, down from 5.3%) and is the new 3rd placed automaker.

Finally, we have a new face in the 5th spot, with Geely (4.3%) climbing to that position, thus kicking SAIC (also 4.3%) out of the top 5.

Looking at OEMs/automotive groups/alliances, BYD is comfortably leading, while SAIC (13.7%) remains steady in the runner-up spot.

The same can’t be said regarding the last place on the podium, where a lot can happen in the near future.

Tesla is the new bronze medalist, having surpassed Chery. The Chinese OEM lost two positions in one month, as Geely-Volvo (5.1%) also took the opportunity to surpass it, ending the month in 4th.

And with #6 Volkswagen Group (4.3%) slowly rising (it gained 0.2% share last month), Chery might be out of the top 5 soon.

It will be interesting to look at Geely–Volvo and Volkswagen Group behavior this year, as prior to the EV revolution, they were the #1 domestic and foreign automakers in China. And having seen their thrones now being threatened by BYD and Tesla, respectively, it’ll be interesting to see how they respond. For context, BYD was the 4th best selling brand in the overall market in China last month, and #1 among Chinese OEMs. How they will tackle the current disruption will say a lot about their future in the largest automotive market in the world.

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José Pontes

Always interested in the auto industry, particularly in electric cars, Jose has been overviewed the sales evolution of plug-ins on the EV Sales blog, allowing him to gain an expert view on where EVs are right now and where they are headed in the future. The EV Sales blog has become a go-to source for people interested in electric car sales around the world. Extending that work and expertise, Jose is also market analyst on EV-Volumes and works with the European Alternative Fuels Observatory on EV sales matters.

José Pontes has 466 posts and counting. See all posts by José Pontes