Jan 2, 2024 - Economy

China's BYD tops Tesla as world's bestselling electric car maker

A light-turquoise colored vehicle sits in a display area of an auto show with its front doors open

A BYD Yangwang U8 seen during the 40th Thailand International Motor Expo in December. Photo: Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

China-based automaker BYD emerged from 2023 as the world's bestselling electric vehicle (EV) company after topping Tesla in the fourth quarter.

Why it matters: The bragging-rights title signifies who has the most heft in a burgeoning area viewed as the future of autos.

Driving the news: Tesla delivered more than 484,000 EVs in the fourth quarter, it reported Tuesday, up 19.5% from a year earlier.

  • But BYD sold more than 526,000 battery-only vehicles in the same quarter.
  • The Chinese company had already passed Tesla on total EV sales when including plug-in hybrids, which are partially electric vehicles that can also use gasoline.

Between the lines: This is more about BYD's rise than Tesla's struggles.

  • BYD — famously backed by investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway — is gaining a foothold in key foreign markets.
  • In Europe, it's using "aggressive end-of-year discounting" to bolster its market share, according to Automotive News.

What they're saying: "No one can match BYD on price," Dunne Insights analyst Michael Dunne writes, noting the company's September launch of the $11,500 BYD Seagull hatchback.

  • The company also has "arguably the world's most advanced battery," "dramatically" upgraded design and improving quality, Dunne notes.

Yes, but: Tesla remains the world's leading seller of premium EVs — and it's not expected to face BYD in the U.S. anytime soon.

  • The political implications of a Chinese automaker selling vehicles in the U.S. are likely too much for both Republicans and Democrats to bear — for now.
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