BYD ranks Tesla as the number one electric car manufacturer

Chinese automaker BYD has overtaken Tesla to become the world's number one electric car company.

The brand reportedly sold more electric cars than Tesla in the fourth quarter of last year, although the American brand was number one for the year.

BYD sold 526,409 electric vehicles in the fourth quarter, compared to Tesla's 484,507.

The Chinese company also produced more electric vehicles in the fourth quarter.

Tesla retained the title of the world's number one EV seller in 2023, with 1.8 million customers (up 38 percent), compared to BYD's 1.6 million (up 73 percent).

However, BYD has also sold more than 400,000 plug-in hybrids and 3 million vehicles overall.

The result will send shock waves through the auto industry as established brands struggle to compete with the Chinese in the fast-growing electric car market.

In Australia, where car sales have almost tripled this year, Tesla and BYD account for 70 percent of the electric car market.

The older automakers seem unable to compete with the two brands on price because their costs are too high.

In a recent report, investment bank UBS says the Chinese will lead the electric car revolution at the expense of established brands.

“We believe BYD and other leading Chinese are set to dominate the world market with high-tech, low-cost EVs for the masses, accelerating the adoption of EVs worldwide,” the report said.

UBS says that, meanwhile, older carmakers are making the switch to electric cars at a “moderate pace”.

In Australia, market leader Toyota is yet to launch its first EV, while other leading brands such as Mazda and Volkswagen also have nothing in showrooms.

UBS estimates that Chinese EV brands have a 25 percent advantage over Western automakers, allowing them to disrupt them on their “home turf.”

The bank says European carmakers are likely to be hardest hit by the emerging Chinese industry, as its regulators have the most aggressive targets for electric vehicle adoption and the industry struggles to keep up with the pace of change.

Things are likely to get worse in the coming years as leading Chinese consumer electronics companies focus on electric vehicles.

Earlier this week, Xiaomi unveiled a new sedan to follow the Model 3. Company founder Lei Jun says he plans to become a top five global automaker in 15 to 20 years.

According to him, the Xiaomi EV will “completely revolutionize the automotive industry”.

Xiaomi's announcement follows news earlier this year that Huawei teamed up with Chinese automaker Chery to develop an electric sedan.

The developments may be bad news for established players in the global car industry, but it's good news for Australian EV buyers, who have been happy with a deluge of reasonably priced EVs for the past year.

BYD launched two new electric cars last quarter, while MG and Great Wall Motors also introduced electric hatchbacks starting at around $40,000.