China’s BYD electric vehicles leave Tesla standing

China’s BYD electric vehicles leave Tesla standing

BYD Seal Tesla

Elon Musk, the Tesla boss and world’s richest man, is having a rough ride. BYD, the Chinese battery and electric vehicle manufacturer making inroads across Asia and Europe, has surpassed Tesla as the world’s largest maker of pure electric vehicles. More than a decade ago, Musk laughed when he was asked about potential competition from BYD. How times have changed.

The Shenzhen-based carmaker is already the world’s largest producer of EVs, including plug-in hybrids.

But its global deliveries of “pure”, battery-powered EVs surpassed Tesla’s in the fourth quarter, having reached 526,409 units compared with the 484,507 delivered by Tesla. Another famous billionaire rival to Musk, Warren Buffett, has laughed all the way to the bank, as his flagship Berkshire Hathaway invested in the then little-known Chinese car company as early as 2008.

Musk’s ridicule was part and parcel of the Western conventional wisdom about Chinese-made cars. Back then, they were the laughing stock of the global automotive industry, derided as low-quality, overpriced copycats.

Today, China has turned the tables. At present, two out of five vehicles sold on the mainland are EVs, and EV sales in China – the world’s largest market for such cars – account for about 60 per cent of the global total.

Beijing aims to have the country’s two top EV makers generate 10 per cent of sales overseas by 2025.

The mix of state and private sectors enabling battery-charging networks to cover the nation’s vast land mass has also reassured drivers. As sales rose, carmakers saw rising revenue as incentive to invest in new technology and features.

The famous “China factor”, derided in the past as quirkiness and seen in a longer rear-seat wheelbase and larger drink holders, turns out to be an attraction.

Self-parking software and autonomous driving capabilities are more practically tested on China’s crowded roads – rather than America’s empty country roads or interstate highways. And thanks to China’s commitment to 2060 carbon neutrality, the government has been offering substantial subsidies to wean consumers off traditional petrol-run cars.

That has also helped push production up the technology scale and value-added supply chain. Buffett and BYD have forced Musk to take a back seat.

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