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How BYD grew from battery maker to electric vehicle juggernaut, overtaking Tesla

Tesla may be leading the electric vehicle revolution in the United States, but the automaker has stiff competition abroad. In China, the world’s largest EV market, Tesla is losing ground to domestic automakers such as Warren Buffett-backed BYD, which offer superior cars at lower pricing.

In the fourth quarter of 2023, BYD surpassed Tesla as the world’s leading EV manufacturer, selling more battery-powered vehicles than its American competitor.

“BYD has grown into this powerhouse in the new energy vehicle industry,” Evelyn Cheng, CNBC’s Beijing correspondent, stated. “When you look at the monthly rankings, they’re always at the top.”

.Wang Chuanfu founded BYD, which began producing mobile phone batteries in the 1990s. By 2003, the firm had shifted its focus to automobiles and has since become China’s leading automotive brand, as well as a significant producer of electric vehicle batteries.

“They are one of the top companies in the world building lithium-iron phosphate batteries,” explained Sam Abuelsamid, chief analyst at Guidehouse Insights, to CNBC. He also discussed the advantages of lithium-ion batteries, stating that they are more durable and “cost about 30-40% less per kilowatt hour to manufacture.”

Part of BYD’s mass appeal is pricing. Many of its vehicles are less expensive than competitors’, with some models starting at less than $20,000.

“In Munich just a few months ago, they launched the Seagull, priced at $11,500,” Michael Dunne, CEO of Dunne Insights, told CNBC. “You have to quadruple that price and more to buy an entry-level automobile in the United States and Europe. “So very competitive in the $35,000 and under segment.”

BYD is now rapidly expanding abroad, having exported over 240,000 cars to 70 countries last year. It has declared ambitions to establish a European facility in Hungary and is apparently searching for locations in Mexico.

“They’re definitely preparing for the U.S. market, waiting for the right timing,” Dunne told Reuters. “The United States and Europe provide a lucrative market for them. To prosper globally, they must first enter, compete, and win here.



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