Tesla is no longer the company that sells the most electric cars in the world – The Post

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On Tuesday, new data came out on sales of electric cars in the last quarter of 2023. For the first time, Tesla, Elon Musk’s electric car, did not sell the most cars: it was overtaken by BYD , a Chinese company that sells cheap electric cars and is increasingly successful.

Tesla sold 484,000 cars in the fourth quarter, BYD 526,000. It is a substantial confirmation of the strong rise of BYD, unknown ten years ago, which is expanding its market beyond the borders of China and which is in direct competition with large Western automobile companies. Its EVs cost less than average and are a very competitive product compared to others on the market.

BYD was already the automaker that sold the most “plug-in” vehicles in the world (i.e., cars whose batteries can be recharged by plugging into an electrical outlet), which include both some hybrid and fully electric models. If we leave out hybrid cars, it was still the second in the world, after the American Tesla. Now things have changed.

The recent overtaking is mainly due to three reasons.

The first relates to Tesla’s pricing strategy, which was designed to try to beat the Chinese competition. Tesla significantly reduced the prices of its vehicles last year, a decision that may have actually been counterproductive, as consumers may have come to perceive the product as cheaper and no longer a futuristic, high-quality car. And in terms of comfort, Chinese models continued to be preferred and more competitive.

The second is related to the fact that the range of vehicles offered by Tesla is increasingly outdated and the company is trying to innovate and break away from the original models. The long-awaited new model, the Cybertruck, a bizarre pickup truck announced in 2019, has suffered various delays and only arrived in the US market last November. Not yet available in other countries.

The third concerns not so much the company, but its founder, Elon Musk, who acquired the social network Twitter in April 2022 for about $44 billion, starting a phase of major political controversy that is still ongoing. His leadership of Twitter, which is now called (including former President Donald Trump). All this ended up compromising Musk’s image, especially in the eyes of the progressive and environmentally oriented public, which is the most attentive and willing to invest in an electric vehicle.

The combination of these three factors partly contributed to overtaking BYD, which in any case was already a very promising company.

BYD stands for Build Your Dreams. Founded in 1995, the company initially specialized in the production of rechargeable batteries and then grew rapidly: these were the years of the proliferation of the first mobile phones, and in a short time it became the largest battery manufacturer in China. After going public, BYD began manufacturing cars in 2003 and bought another failed automaker to license it to manufacture vehicles.

– Read also: Where does BYD come from?

The company soon specialized in the production of electric cars, for which it already possessed a key part of the necessary technology: batteries, which the non-automotive branch of the company specializes in. This means that BYD has become a particularly innovative company: it has managed to develop most of the basic components and materials in-house, from the research stage to assembly. It was also the first company in the world to mass-produce the BYD e6 plug-in hybrid vehicle in 2008.

BYD’s success needs to be analyzed more generally also in light of the clear advantage that China has in the mass production of electric vehicles compared to other countries. The country has a high number of active factories, companies and startups, as well as highly specialized engineers and technicians. The advantage is also given by the significant monopoly that the country has in the mining and production of so-called rare earths, metals that are necessary for the production of electric motors and whose export China is increasingly restricting. All this was achieved thanks to the large subsidies provided by the Chinese government to both producers and consumers.

The consequence is that Western societies lag enormously behind in the development of these technologies. In the latest annual State of the European Union address, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen accused China of artificially keeping domestically produced electric car prices low by disproportionately subsidizing Chinese companies, and said the Commission would launch an investigation into the matter.

– Read also: There is no electric car without China

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