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Did BYD Overtake Tesla as World's Biggest EV Seller? That Depends on How You Count

BYD celebrated selling 134,036 new energy vehicles (NEVs) in June. For the Financial Times and Nikkei Asia, that has settled the controversy around who is the world’s largest EV seller: they have written that the Chinese titan has beaten Tesla and is now number one. According to Nikkei Asia, BYD has sold 641,000 new vehicles so far this year. The problem is how you decide to count.
BYD may or may not have beaten Tesla as the world's largest EV maker: that depends on how you count them 34 photos
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China includes plug-in hybrids (PHEV) in its NEV classification. Although some business intelligence companies count the two types of vehicles without distinction, such as BNEF, other analysts prefer to count them separately, as Matthias Schmidt does at Schmidt Automotive Research.

Some PHEVs offer higher pure electric ranges than some battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Despite that, they may end up being used as regular ICE vehicles if they are not adequately charged. China restricted incentives to plug-in hybrids to the owners that could prove they plugged them in a minimum number of times every month, among other demands.

According to Nikkei Asia, Tesla sold 564,000 cars in the first half of 2022. Considering the company only makes BEVs, there are no PHEVs among them. The Twitter account Moneyball (@DKurac) helped us clarify how many BEVs BYD sold in the first half of 2022: 323,519. In other words, fewer BEVs than Tesla. If you only consider them as true electric cars, BYD is still halfway to threatening Tesla’s lead, but there is a catch.

Recently, Plain Site accused Tesla of including used EVs among its delivery numbers. If that is correct, the EV maker could be artificially inflating its sales results. We’d ask the company about that if it had a working PR department or anyone willing to answer difficult questions, but that is not the case.

Unfortunately for Tesla, the company has a record of inconsistencies with its numbers. On June 17, 2019, Francine McKenna wrote on MarketWatch about how the company’s delivery numbers changed between filings. She gave multiple examples of that happening and said the discrepancies revealed “potential weaknesses in accounting and disclosure controls.” Considering what Plain Site brought up, things have not changed that much at Tesla since McKenna published her text.

BYD does not seem to have the same issues. Moneyball’s data even corrects the number Nikkei Asia presented: BYD sold 638,157 NEVs in H1, not 641,000. For those who suspect that BYD inflates its NEV numbers with PHEV sales, it sold fewer PHEVs (314,638 units) than BEVs. Regarding production, BYD manufactured a total of 644,721 units, with 327,037 BEVs and 317,684 PHEVs.

The bottom line is that BYD’s win depends on how people make their calculations. If we are to consider PHEVs and BEVs as electric cars, BYD is the clear winner. In fact, it already was the winner after May sales numbers were disclosed, as Taylor Ogan pointed out in a tweet on June 8.

If you consider that the right choice is to separate BEVs from PHEVs, Tesla is still ahead (if you trust its numbers). BYD seems determined to change that until the end of the year by presenting new products and opening new factories at an impressive speed. We’ll check again in January 2023 to see if it wins, regardless of the method to count EVs.






 
 
 
 
 

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