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Electric car sales figures

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Tesla still sells almost twice as many electric cars as BYD, and yes, the Financial Times also does clickbait

  • Calling plug-in hybrids “electric cars” only serves to manipulate the figures and get an attractive headline

No, BYD has not sold more electric cars than Tesla during the first half of 2023, despite what many media outlets are publishing from an article published in the Financial Times, one of the most influential economic media in the world, with an attractive headline.

“Warren Buffett-backed Chinese group BYD overtakes Tesla in global electric vehicle sales” reads the headline. And although China is a huge market, where the transition to electric mobility is accelerating considerably, the company – by far – does not sell as many electric vehicles as the American one.

The report with sales results for the first half of 2022 claims to have sold 641,350 electrified vehicles. Emphasis on “electrified”, The number represents both 100% electric cars, as well as plug-in hybrids. That is, vehicles that have combustion engines (diesel or gasoline) and a – usually small – battery with the ability to recharge from the grid. Hence their name.

Of those 641,350, 323,519 are 100% electric vehicles like those sold by Tesla. No matter how much we call a plug-in hybrid an “electric car”, it is not. And to argue that in an article is to make up the numbers to make sense of a headline that will cause a lot of attention. Which, in fact, it did. The Financial Times article has been quoted ad nauseam throughout today.

Those 323,519 100% electric cars sold during the first six months of 2022 is a spectacular figure, with astronomical growth over their 2021 figures. But they are by far lower than Tesla’s car sales throughout this year.

The company led by Elon Musk sold a total of 564,743 units throughout the first half of 2022. 310,048 correspond to the first quarter and 254,695 correspond to the second quarter. All 100% electric, as Tesla does not manufacture other types of vehicles. That is, more than 74% compared to BYD.

Tesla’s figures are especially surprising if we take into consideration the stoppage of car production at the Shanghai Gigafactory. The Chinese government made the decision to re-impose containment measures in the region due to the increase in COVID-19 infections. This affected the Fremont and many other facilities operating from there.

The reality is that it’s going to be hard to catch up to Tesla, for the time being. In the end, the company has a few years head start, as since the first Model S rolled off the assembly line in 2012, they have always made electric vehicles.

In contrast, most automakers have waited until 2019 and 2020 to really ramp up their model electrification processes and begin efforts to leave combustion engines behind. This includes BYD, which, although it is among the world’s largest battery manufacturers, is still producing plug-in hybrid cars, which run on gasoline or diesel.

Tesla’s car sales forecast for 2022 stands at “more than one million vehicles.” They will likely approach 1.4 million by the end of the period. Meanwhile, BYD estimates that they will deliver about 600,000 cars throughout the year.

With traditional manufacturers the situation is similar. While Tesla, during the first quarter of 2022, sold just over 310 thousand units, the Volkswagen group – which also includes Audi, Porsche, Seat, etc. – reached 100 thousand units.

We should not doubt that in the future some manufacturer will reach and surpass Tesla in units sold per year, be it BYD or any other automaker, but, at least in the short term, it seems difficult to overtake them.

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