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BYD closes in on Tesla in EV race

Remains to be seen if Chinese electric vehicle maker has staying power to take lead

BYD electric cars at Suzhou Port, in China's eastern Jiangsu Province: China accounts for 60 per cent of global EV sales. Photograph: AFP via Getty Images

BYD, the Chinese electric vehicle maker that has been making a splash in Ireland recently, has hit another high.

The company sold a record number of electric and hybrid cars in the second quarter, to close in on Elon Musk’s Tesla, which is currently the world’s best-selling EV maker. We have been here before with BYD having overtaken Tesla in terms of sales in the final quarter of 2023.

For the month of June, Tesla shipments from its factory in Shanghai fell, according to data released by China’s Passenger Car Association on Tuesday, adding to declines in May.

As noted by the Financial Times this week, this tells a slightly different story from the general market narrative: that EV sales were slowing globally and all EV makers would be hit.

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Sales of new electric cars in Ireland were down 25 per cent in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year, according to figures this week from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry.

This was despite a 1.7 per cent overall increase in new car registrations, with 78,942 new cars on Irish roads so far this year. Similar trends are emerging in other western markets as buyers worry about the huge up-front cost to purchase, along with range, battery-replacement costs and resale values.

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Sales in China of new energy vehicles, which include battery EVs and plug-in hybrids, have been growing, accounting for nearly half of total car sales in May. That means China, which accounts for 60 per cent of global EV sales, is becoming an increasingly important market for the world’s automakers.

BYD’s shares are up 27 per cent this year, outperforming global peers. It is currently powering ahead in spite of the concerns emerging in many markets. But it remains to be seen if it has the long-term range to win the race or if Tesla and others will ultimately leave it trailing in their rear-view mirrors.