Chinese automaker BYD overtakes Elon Musk’s Tesla in quarterly Electric Vehicle sales

2023 witnessed a fierce battle for dominance in the global electric vehicle (EV) market, with Tesla narrowly losing the crown to China’s BYD in the final quarter. Despite exceeding analyst expectations by delivering a record 484,507 vehicles, Tesla’s ambition of staying ahead of its Chinese rival fell short as BYD roared past with 526,409 EV deliveries.

This shift in the balance of power underscores a broader narrative – the burgeoning might of China’s EV industry. While Tesla focuses on a limited line of premium vehicles primarily manufactured in the US, BYD boasts a wider array of more affordable models that resonate with Chinese consumers. In fact, nearly half of BYD’s annual deliveries were plug-in hybrid EVs, further highlighting its diverse portfolio compared to Tesla’s pure-electric focus.

Tesla’s Challenge: BYD Emerges as Quarterly Leader in EV Sales

However, Tesla wouldn’t be counted out just yet. The American EV pioneer still reigns supreme in pure-electric vehicle deliveries for the year, driven by the immense popularity of the Model 3 and Model Y, which together accounted for a staggering 95% of its fourth-quarter deliveries. Tesla also generates significantly more revenue and profit than BYD, leveraging its higher-priced models and efficient production.

BYD Tesla

The race to the top intensified in the final months of 2023. Aware of looming tax changes in the US that would eliminate federal credits for some Model 3 variants, Tesla launched an aggressive sales push. Discounts and incentives, including six months of free fast charging, lured buyers and inflated the fourth-quarter numbers.


This push wasn’t without its implications. While exceeding its stated target of 1.8 million deliveries for the year, Tesla fell short of CEO Elon Musk’s ambitious projections of producing 2 million cars. Price cuts implemented to stimulate demand ultimately proved insufficient to reach that lofty goal.

Beyond the internal metrics, the Tesla-BYD duel reflects a larger geopolitical trend. China’s ascendance in the automotive industry continues, potentially culminating in overtaking Japan as the world’s largest passenger-car exporter in 2023. This shift underscores the growing influence of Chinese manufacturers, not just in EVs, but across the entire automotive landscape.

Tesla, however, isn’t resting on its laurels. The company recently entered the highly competitive US truck market with the much-anticipated Cybertruck. Although initial production and delivery numbers remain under wraps, the futuristic pickup truck marks a bold foray into a lucrative segment dominated by established players.

Musk, however, cautions about the Cybertruck’s challenges. The unique stainless-steel build and innovative technology may take up to 18 months to reach volume production and generate positive cash flow. Despite these hurdles, Musk confidently predicts quarterly production to reach 250,000 units by 2025, indicating a strong belief in the truck’s potential.

Looking ahead, Tesla projects a 22% increase in deliveries for 2024, aiming to reach 2.2 million units. While slower than the previous year’s growth, this trajectory demonstrates the company’s commitment to sustained expansion. Its success hinges on navigating the evolving tax landscape, optimizing production for both existing and new models like the Cybertruck, and maintaining its technological edge in the face of fierce competition.

The battle for EV supremacy has only just begun. With two titans of the industry locked in a tight race, 2024 promises to be another year of high stakes, innovation, and shifting landscapes in the world of electric mobility. While BYD currently holds the lead, Tesla’s unwavering ambition and strategic manoeuvres ensure that the fight for the crown is far from over.

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