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BYD Leads EV Revolution – Just a Matter Of Price?

Last Updated March 30, 2024 11:12 AM
Giuseppe Ciccomascolo
Last Updated March 30, 2024 11:12 AM

Key Takeaways

  • BYD holds the top spot for global NEV sales for 2023, surpassing 3 million units sold.
  • It achieved an impressive 81% increase in net profit for 2023 compared to 2022.
  • But political tensions and potential EU tariffs on Chinese EVs threaten BYD’s European expansion.

Chinese automaker BYD, a global leader in electric vehicles, has reported  a remarkable profit surge for 2023, solidifying its position in the electric vehicle market. Despite a slight fourth-quarter slowdown, BYD’s profitability soared, reaching a net profit of 30.04 billion yuan, equal to $4.21 billion, marking an impressive 81% increase from 2022.

BYD’s success is not solely attributed to high production volumes and competitive pricing but also to its dominance in the Chinese market, which remains unparalleled globally. The company’s expansion efforts extend beyond China, with a growing presence in markets worldwide, including Europe, where it has introduced several models.

Strong Growth In 2023

Notably, BYD recently achieved a significant milestone, surpassing  7 million units of New Energy Vehicles (NEVs) produced. Specializing exclusively in electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, BYD has experienced rapid growth since entering the automotive sector in 2003.

Despite robust performance, fourth-quarter profits saw a relatively modest 18.6% increase. It reflects a slowdown in electric vehicle sales in the Chinese market amid intense price competition. Nonetheless, revenue for the quarter surged by 15%, reaching $24.91 billion.

Chinese analysts had even loftier profit expectations  for BYD. Forecasts projected profits of $4.28 billion, which BYD fell short of achieving. This shortfall can be attributed primarily to two factors: intense price competition with other companies in the Chinese market and a deceleration in the growth of the domestic market for electric and hybrid vehicles.

In 2023, BYD achieved remarkable success in the electric vehicle market, with annual New Energy Vehicle (NEV) sales surpassing 3.02 million units. Thanks to this figure, it secured its position as the global leader in NEV sales.

The company also experienced growth outside of China. BYD’s overseas revenue surged to $22.17 billion last year, marking an impressive 75% year-on-year increase. Notably, overseas revenue accounted for 26.6% of the company’s total revenue in 2023. This figure reflects a 5.0% increase compared to 2022.

BYD currently operates in 78 countries and regions worldwide, with investments and factories established in key locations such as Brazil, Hungary, and Thailand, underscoring its commitment to global expansion and market presence.

Just A Matter Of Price?

Questions have arisen regarding BYD’s growth trajectory, particularly its aggressive pricing strategies compared to competitors like Tesla. BYD recently slashed prices for its Seal sedan, making it eligible for incentives in markets like Italy. This move underscores BYD’s commitment to making electric vehicles more accessible to consumers.

From a technical standpoint, BYD’s Seal  sedan boasts impressive performance metrics. It offers both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive variants equipped with an 82.5 kWh battery. The company’s emphasis on fast charging capabilities aligns with Tesla’s renowned Supercharger network, further intensifying competition between the two manufacturers.

NEV sales in China in 2023
New electric vehicles sales in China in 2023. l Source: CnEVPost

Interestingly, BYD’s strategic advantage extends beyond product offerings, as the company has been producing its lithium iron phosphate batteries – Blade batteries – since 2020. Tesla relies on BYD’s Blade batteries for its Model Y cars produced at the Berlin gigafactory. This highlights BYD’s influence in shaping the electric vehicle landscape.

There’s Still Room To Grow

BYD’s growth potential remains substantial, yet it faces challenges from political issues that have hindered Chinese car sales in key Western economies. This was evident in BYD’s fourth-quarter earnings and sales growth slowdown.

Chinese electric vehicle exports to European Union countries saw a significant decline of nearly a fifth in the first two months of this year, according to official Chinese data . This downturn coincided with Brussels’ investigation  into alleged unfair subsidies from Beijing to the sector.

The EU’s probe aims to determine whether Chinese government subsidies conferred an unfair advantage to local producers. Recent announcements suggest the EU may impose additional duties on Chinese electric vehicles. This is due to evidence of illegal financial support from Beijing.

BYD tops Tesla
BYD tops Tesla in the fourth quarter of 2023. l Source: Statista

Such duties could drastically reduce one of the primary markets for Chinese electric vehicle exports, forcing Chinese manufacturers to explore new markets amidst a domestic sales slowdown.

However, a new analysis  by Transport & Environment (T&E) reveals that nearly a fifth (19.5%) of electric vehicles sold in Europe last year were produced in China. And this figure is expected to rise to a quarter (25%) in 2024. T&E emphasized Europe’s need to increase mass production of electric cars. And it also needs to invest in creating a local battery supply chain to compete with Chinese brands.

Nevertheless, any increase in entry tariffs for Chinese products into the EU may incentivize international competitors to establish production facilities within Europe. And this would further reshape the automotive landscape.

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