After three years as the world’s most popular battery-powered car maker, Tesla has in recent days been forced to return that crown to one of the industry’s lesser-known but most feared brands: China’s BYD, present in Tunisia for almost a year.
Half-year sales figures released on Tuesday showed BYD – short for “Build Your Dreams” – delivered 641,000 cars in six months, 300% more than a year earlier and ahead of Tesla’s 564,000. It is true that these vehicles include hybrid vehicles, but BYD is above all a supplier of the best battery solution on the market, including TESLA as a customer!
With a very high level of integration, BYD has its own battery and energy storage divisions and a semiconductor production unit. Industry experts agree that it’s only a matter of time for the Shenzhen automaker to become the leading automaker in all categories.
Unlike many other Chinese automakers, BYD is not state-owned. It is listed in Hong Kong and also has major private backers, including Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, which bought a stake in 2008 and now owns around 8% of the company.
Like other manufacturers in the region, including South Korea’s Hyundai, the group first developed its activity in “reverse engineering” of cars from established brands, before developing its own models. BYD’s sales are heavily focused on its home market, but the automaker has significant international ambitions.
About half of the cars currently sold by BYD are plug-in hybrids alongside pure battery and hydrogen models. Other types of hybrids, such as “full hybrid” models of the Toyota Prius, are not classified in China as NEVs because they cannot travel long distances on battery power alone.