Tesla Takes BYD's Crown as the World's Biggest EV Maker, Hands Down


Tesla took BYD’s crown as the largest EV automaker in the world. Not many see Tesla and BYD as rivals in the EV market, but since the former’s entry into the Chinese EV scene, the two have been butting heads more often. Now, Tesla has dominated BYD in EV sales and continues to lengthen the gap between itself and the Warren Buffett-backed automaker.

According to Clean Technica, the Tesla Model 3 made up one-eighth of the world’s EV sales this year. Roughly translated, that means 1 in every 8 EV sales around the world was a Tesla Model 3. Tesla’s other electric vehicles aren’t doing too bad either, with 1 in every 6 plug-in vehicle sales belonging to a Tesla account.

From January to October 2019, Tesla had sold over 220,000 Model 3 units. In comparison, BYD only sold 64,006 units of its subcompact crossover Yuan/S2 EV. The Tesla Model 3’s substantial lead in the world’s EV market is quite remarkable, given that Chinese electric vehicles make up 21 percent of global EV sales. 

Tesla’s lead over BYD in the EV market is well deserved, but may not be permanent. BYD has managed to overcome dismal EV sales before and come back on top of Tesla in the past.


Credit: Tesla China

YouTuber Kevin Rooke discussed Tesla and BYD’s long battle to be the largest EV automaker in the world. Rooke explained that multi-billionaire Warren Buffett had bought 25 percent of the Chinese automaker in 2008. At that time, BYD was not in the EV game but had future plans to do so. 

Tesla, on the other hand, was started in 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning. Tesla concentrated on EVs, namely an all-electric sports car, later dubbed the Roadster, which would go on sale in 2008. 

In 2010 BYD and Tesla released their respective electric vehicles on the market. By 2013, Model S sales were strong, and Tesla was able to gain a significant lead in cumulative sales against BYD. The American company's lead lasted until 2014 when Tesla had sold a little under 60,000 units, and BYD sold below 30,000 units. However, Tesla lost its top spot the following year and well into 2016 due to China’s growing EV market at the time, which BYD was in the perfect position to dominate. 

According to Reuters, BYD’s profit dropped in 2019 because of the subsidies the Chinese government pulled back for new energy vehicles, which has affected electric vehicle sales in the entire country. The EV market in China has been declining, but the government may have plans to remedy the situation. 

Recently, Tesla's Made-in-China Model 3 qualified for government incentives, which could reduce its price. The incentives don’t just apply to Tesla’s sedan, but to several electric vehicles in China, too. These new incentives could affect Tesla’s current standing as the largest EV automaker in the world. China has a big EV market, and how much Tesla can take from it will determine its future as a global electric car maker. 

Featured Image Credit: Tesla START  

About the Author

Claribelle Deveza

Claribelle Deveza

Longtime writer and news/book editor. Writing about Tesla allows me to contribute something good to the world, while doing something I love.

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