BYD posts record sales quarter to challenge Tesla at own EV game

HONG KONG: Chinese automaker BYD Co. sold 526,409 fully electric vehicles in the fourth quarter, meaning Tesla Inc. will need a record showing to maintain its No. 1 status when it unveils sales figures on Tuesday.

China’s best-selling car brand reported EV and hybrid sales of 340,178 in December - including 190,754 all-electric cars - aided by aggressive end-of-year discounting, according to an exchange filing Monday.

In total, BYD sold 3.01 million units in 2023.

BYD should find out within days whether it has sold enough cars to overtake Tesla for the first time on a quarterly basis to become the world’s biggest seller of fully electric EVs.

Analysts tracking Elon Musk’s Tesla expect it to shift around 483,200 units, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

A revamped Model 3 and the stainless steel-clad Cybertruck, which began deliveries at the end of November, may give Tesla’s full year 1.8 million sales target a late boost.

The US automaker has also been gradually adjusting sticker costs in the US and China, where it initiated a price war in late 2022 that extended into 2023.

BYD’s full-year volumes were almost as much as its EV and hybrid sales over the previous five years combined.

The Shenzhen-based company, who had a 3 million annual sales target, saw rapid growth in 2023 that catapulted it into the top 10 ranking of global car sales for the first time.

BYD shares fell almost 24% in 2023, with an accelerated decline in the stock since mid-November as competitive pressures, price cuts, and concerns it cannot meet sales targets pummelled the company’s valuation.

Despite starting an industry price war in China, Tesla shares rose 130% last year.

BYD continued its aggressive global expansion plans in the past 12 months, recently picking Hungary over other European countries to establish its first production line on the continent.

The plant in the southern city of Szeged will produce EVs and plug-in hybrids for the European market and create thousands of jobs.

The announcement came despite an ongoing EU anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese EVs.

China’s 2023 new-energy vehicle retail sales are expected to rise 36.5% year-on-year to about 7.75 million units, the nation’s Passenger Car Association said in preliminary estimates released in December.
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