China’s dominance in battery production and state support helps the company undercut rivals
Elon Musk’s Tesla is on the verge of losing its crown as the world’s biggest electric carmaker after the Chinese giant BYD came within touching distance of its US rival.
BYD, whose founder Wang Chuanfu has pledged to “demolish” established Western carmakers, sold 431,603 vehicles in the third quarter of the year, just 3,456 fewer than Tesla’s 435,059.
The Chinese company has embarked on a global push outside of its home country, selling its first cars in the UK and growing sales in Europe.
Massive state support and China’s dominance in battery production means the company has been able to undercut European and American companies that have been slow to move to electric cars.
BYD’s sales rose 23pc from the second quarter, while Tesla’s fell by 7pc as the impact of price cuts and subsidies from the Biden administration wore off.
The company’s total sales, which include plug-in hybrids, surpassed Tesla last year. It is widely expected to surpass Mr Musk’s company in battery-only cars later this year.
In a speech in August, Mr Wang urged fellow companies to “demolish the old legends and achieve new world-class brands” and declared that the “time has come for Chinese brands”.
BYD, which is backed by Warren Buffett and stands for “build your dreams”, has historically targeted more cost-conscious consumers in China but has expanded abroad amid a slowing domestic economy. It launched its first British car, the £36,490 Atto 3 SUV, in March.
Last month, the European Union launched an investigation into Chinese state subsidies for electric vehicles, saying their prices are being kept “artificially low”. The inquiry could mean tariffs on imports being raised above their current 10pc in a bid to prevent “dumping”.
Tesla’s third-quarter delivery numbers, released on Monday, were well below analyst forecasts and were the first quarterly fall in more than a year.
The company blamed slower manufacturing at its factories as it overhauls its Model 3, but said it was not changing its target of making 1.8m cars this year. The company has repeatedly cut prices this year, particularly in China, in an attempt to maintain its lead over rivals.
On Monday, Tesla introduced a cheaper version of its bestselling Model Y in the US, which costs $43,990 (£36,403), a $3,750 discount on its previous cheapest model.
Chinese rival Nio also hit record sales in the third quarter, selling 55,432 vehicles.