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Perspectives

Bigger than Elon Musk’s Tesla: Chinese EV giant BYD takes centrestage

Published January 26, 2024
A man cleans a BYD e-SEED GT concept EV during the media day for the Shanghai auto show in Shanghai, China. Photo: Reuters
A man cleans a BYD e-SEED GT concept EV during the media day for the Shanghai auto show in Shanghai, China. Photo: Reuters

Think about a futuristic electric car – Tesla’s EV may very well be the first one to pop into one’s head. But technically speaking, it shouldn’t anymore. Chinese giant BYD overtook Tesla in 2023 to become the world’s top EV producer.

It is now the world’s largest seller of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrids, selling about 3.02 million vehicles in 2023 – an increase of 61.9%, reported Reuters, earlier.

The good news is that BYD has already shown interest in Pakistan. BYD officials have met Pakistan’s Board of Investment (BOI) officials and apparently they have given the impression that they might set up in the country.

However, that’s something that might not be happening anytime soon.

Chinese firm to establish EV plant in Pakistan

This has quietly led to a highly celebrated EV company like Tesla to be elbowed out of the market by BYD, which sold 42,000 more cars than Tesla in 2023, according to an article in Business Insider.         

Tesla offers cash rebate on top models in China

In 2011, Elon Musk scoffed when an anchor questioned about potential competition from BYD.

“Have you seen their car?” asked a sniggering Musk.

Musk definitely cannot snigger anymore. He now comes in second – overtaken by the same car and the company that he once scoffed at.

Musk is wary of the competition by Chinese carmakers such that he says the future of other companies hangs in the balance of trade barriers established to contain Chinese companies.  

“Frankly, I think, if there are no trade barriers established, they (Chinese companies) will pretty much demolish most other companies in the world,” several media outlets quoted Musk as saying.

Chinese auto giant BYD ‘discusses’ Pakistan’s EV sector potential: Board of Investment

Wang Chuanfu is the man behind China’s and now the world’s biggest EV company BYD.

According to Business Insider, Chuanfu’s story is a modern day fairytale - an orphan from one of China’s poorest regions rises to become a billionaire founder of the world’s leading producer of electric cars.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in the late 2000s, Warren Buffett was looking to capitalise on the growing demand for cars in China and, on the recommendation of his partner Charlie Munger, turned his attention to BYD.

Referring to Chuanfu, Munger said he told Buffett: “This guy is a combination of Thomas Edison and Jack Welch — something like Edison in solving technical problems, and something like Welch in getting done what he needs to do. I have never seen anything like it.”

EVs’ manufacturing licenses: two, three wheelers take front seat in Pakistan

Musk has Chuanfu as an impressive and worthy nemesis in the EV space. Musk is a great entrepreneur and his net worth shows it.

But Chuanfu has too, proved his mettle. Don’t rely on his net worth of $14.1 billion against Musk’s $204.2 billion, as the latter’s American background has helped him attain a larger valuation.    

Brace for a tight battle between the two giants over the next decade. Musk may try to bring Western governments on his side in the form of trade barriers. But how much will that help Tesla?

Their Chinese counterpart is trying to tap into as many markets as they can, as quickly as they can, and their cheaper EVs are helping them.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Bilal Hussain

The writer is a Reporter at Business Recorder (Digital)

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