Chinese carmaker overtakes Tesla as world’s most popular EV maker


Bloomberg – Elon Musk once scoffed at the notion that BYD could compete with his company. Now, the automaker run by billionaire Wang Chuanfu is poised to be the new No. 1 in electric vehicles.

China’s BYD Co. bills itself as the biggest car brand you’ve never heard of. It might need a different tagline soon.

The automaker is poised to surpass Tesla Inc. as the new worldwide leader in fully electric vehicle sales. When it does — likely in the current quarter — it will be both a symbolic turning point for the EV market and further confirmation of China’s growing clout in the global automotive industry.

In a sector still dominated by more familiar names like Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co., Chinese manufacturers including BYD and SAIC Motor Corp. are making serious inroads. After leapfrogging the US, South Korea and Germany over the past few years, China now rivals Japan for the global lead in passenger car exports. Some 1.3 million of the 3.6 million vehicles shipped from the mainland as of October this year were electric.
BYD’s Wang Chuanfu greeting attendees at an event in Santiago on Oct. 6.Photographer: Cristobal Olivares/Bloomberg

“The competitive landscape of the auto industry has changed,” said Bridget McCarthy, head of China operations for Shenzhen-based hedge fund Snow Bull Capital, which has invested in both BYD and Tesla. “It’s no longer about the size and legacy of auto companies; it’s about the speed at which they can innovate and iterate. BYD began preparing long ago to be able to do this faster than anyone thought possible, and now the rest of the industry has to race to catch up.”

The passing of the EV sales crown also reflects the shift in competitive dynamics between Tesla’s Elon Musk, the world’s richest executive, and BYD’s billionaire founder Wang Chuanfu.

Whereas Musk has been warning that not enough consumers can afford his EVs with such high interest rates, Wang is firmly on the offensive. His company offers half a dozen higher-volume models that cost much less than what Tesla charges for its cheapest Model 3 sedan in China.

When a Tesla owners’ club shared a clip in May of Musk snickering at BYD’s cars during a 2011 appearance on Bloomberg Television, Musk wrote back that BYD’s vehicles are “highly competitive these days.”

Analysts, Bloomberg also said, expect BYD to launch its third-generation EVs next year, offering more technology such as automated-driving capabilities.

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