For as long as I’ve been covering electric cars (over a decade), there have been two clear electric vehicle leaders globally — Tesla and BYD. Aside from its electric cars, BYD also led with electric buses and electric trucks — but we’re just going to look at electric cars (including SUVs) in this piece. One of the fascinating things is that these two companies went after the market in very different ways and are now converging to a great degree. BYD started with cheaper, low-performance electric cars that didn’t thrill anyone, that used early-generation LFP batteries with low energy density, and that were targeted at taxi drivers. Tesla started with the high-end, super-fast Tesla Model S. Today, the companies have some clear and significant overlap, and that’s only expected to grow. But what is particularly interesting at the moment is BYD has gotten nearly even with Tesla on quarterly full electric vehicle (BEV) sales, and it could surpass Tesla in this metric in any of the coming quarters.
I’ll just reiterate, since some people will assume we’re including plugin hybrid sales, that this is just in regard to BEV sales. If we include plugin hybrids, BYD passed up Tesla long ago and sells many more plugin vehicles, aka new energy vehicles in China.
Getting to the matter at hand, Tesla delivered 435,059 vehicles (all fully electric, of course) in the 3rd quarter of 2023, while BYD sold 431,603 BEVs in the quarter. Both companies sat at 17% share of the world BEV market. (Adding in plugin hybrids, BYD’s total would come to 822,094.)
Here’s a chart from CnEVPost:
You can see the convergence with the naked eye in this graph.
Here’s one that shows percentage of global BEV sales by brand in Q3 2023 (green bars) and in Q3 2022 (grey bars):
As you can see, BYD rose from 13% share to 17% share in the past year, whereas Tesla hung steady at 17% share.
And here’s another one showing the two companies’ sales trends for all plugin vehicles:
Tesla typically has a very strong 4th quarter, and it had some retooling in the 3rd quarter to get the new Model 3 Highland into production, so I’m not expecting BYD to pass Tesla in BEV sales this quarter. However, I don’t really know what to expect from BYD in this regard. Maybe it will have even stronger growth. If I had to bet, I’d be more inclined to pick next quarter, the beginning of 2024.
Historically, Tesla has gotten a lot of its sales from China, but the US has been the company’s #1 market. In the 4th quarter, however, it’s expected that China will pass up the USA by a notable margin — about 10,000 units. Even so, Tesla’s China growth story doesn’t compare to BYD’s. BYD is the “hometown hero” and left Tesla in the dust several quarters ago.
BYD doesn’t have sales in the USA and has fairly recently started logging sales in Europe, with small numbers so far. However, it now sells EVs in several other countries in Asia, South America, Oceania, and even Africa. The portion of its sales that are from outside of China is much smaller than Tesla’s, but it has a lot of room to grow there and its foreign sales are indeed growing. Without a big new-model boost from Tesla, I think we can count on BYD expanding faster, passing up Tesla sometime in 2024 (if not Q4 2023), and holding onto the #1 spot for a while at least. Beyond the Cybertruck, I think Tesla will need its cheaper model (Model C?) in order to get competitive again. Even then, we’ll have to see how far BYD is along in various markets (Europe, South America, North America, Asia). It may build a big gap between itself and Tesla.
One thing that surprised me was looking at some of the comments underneath Troy Teslike’s tweet about this coming crossover/milestone. One person responded, “Yes, but doesn’t $BYD sell golf carts? Seriously, 2 different EV markets exist. Real cars like $TSLA and clown cars like $BYD.” Another responded, “This is like comparing Walmart sales to Lulu BYD sells $20,000 cars.” Yet another responded, “Have you seen their cars ?” with a GIF of Elon Musk laughing hysterically.
Have you seen their cars ? pic.twitter.com/9yxfxHR7QX
— Sejal M. Patel, M.D. (@DrSej) December 19, 2023
I’m well aware that there are many Tesla fans who are severely biased because of their investment in Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA] and limited awareness. However, I was surprised by multiple comments along these lines. BYD sells far more than just cheap cars now. It sells several Tesla competitors, and I mean good ones!
As one person responded to one of the uninformed or misleading tweets above, “BYD also sells $150k cars, it simply has more models.”
Also, yes, BYD sells some cheaper BEV models. But that is exactly what Tesla is aiming to do with its coming “Model C” or whatever it will be called. BYD is simply ahead of Tesla in this regard. Once that cheaper Tesla arrives, they will be on much more even footing.
Frankly, BYD’s progress has been amazing. Tesla’s progress has been amazing, too, but I don’t think BYD gets recognized enough in the USA and Europe for much much its electric vehicles have improved and how much the company’s EV sales have grown. Also recall that the automaker used to sell pure gas-powered vehicles and fully transitioned to plugin vehicles in the past year. Its shift to EVs has been significant and impressive. It has stood alone for a while in terms of plugin vehicle sales, but I think we can count on the Chinese automaker standing alone by the end of 2024 as well in terms of full battery-electric (BEV) sales.
Check in on our World EV Sales reports to keep an eye on this matter.
Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Latest CleanTechnica TV Video
CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.