Much has been written recently about the historic fact that Tesla is no longer the world's leading manufacturer of electric vehicles. According to various newspapers and news agencies, the Chinese company BYD has overtaken the American company to become the most popular brand of electric cars. But that's not quite true.

Unlike Tesla, BYD also produces other vehicles that are not entirely electric. In addition to the famous zero-emission cars, the company also offers a large number of plug-in hybrids. Putting the two categories together, BYD sold 3.02 million "new energy vehicles", as the brand claims, in 2023.

This is obviously a much larger number of units than the 1.81 million vehicles delivered by Tesla over the same period. However, BYD's breakdown shows that it sold 1.44 million plug-in hybrids and 1.57 million fully electric cars. As a result, Tesla's total is still 15% higher than BYD's. Elon Musk's company remains the world leader.

Who has the greatest growth potential?

However, one thing is the present, another is the outlook for 2024. While Tesla has posted a healthy 38% increase on its 2022 results, its Chinese rival's sales have risen by 73%. The difference in growth rates shows that the US brand is moderating its growth and is peaking, unless the Cybertruck sells very well to offset the moderate growth rates expected for the Model 3 and Model Y this year.

Tesla versus BYD global sales comparison - graphic

Tesla versus BYD global sales comparison - graphic

BYD, meanwhile, is finally taking off not only on the local market but also abroad. With a more complete range that includes 14 different electric models in segments A, B, D, E and SUVs C and D, the most popular segments in the world. Tesla offers four models in segments D and E and SUVs D and E, plus the future Cybertruck, which has no global potential.

It is also important to mention the different positioning of each carmaker. Although it has lowered its prices several times over the last 12 months, Tesla has positioned itself as a semi-premium manufacturer targeting customers in developed economies: the United States and Canada, Europe, Korea, Australia and New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.

Tesla versus BYD saloon, hatchbach models comparison - graphic

Tesla versus BYD saloon, hatchbach models comparison - graphic

BYD's strength

BYD's broad range is equally suited to developed and emerging markets. This is probably its greatest strength compared with Tesla. It enables many people around the world to drive electrically. Given that Tesla's supposed next hatchback won't see the light of day, BYD will continue to have the opportunity to sell its cars in markets such as India, Latin America, South East Asia, Africa and Central Asia. Emerging markets account for about a fifth of global light vehicle sales.

Based on the above facts, I personally predict that BYD will overtake Tesla with its electric cars by the end of the year. In addition to its growing presence in emerging markets, the company is also gaining ground in Europe.

Will it be able to dominate the electric world without a presence in the US?

Tesla versus BYD SUV models comparison - graphic

Tesla versus BYD SUV models comparison - graphic