Despite the headlines, Tesla still tops in EVs

The Financial Times blared “China’s Warren Buffett-backed BYD overtakes Tesla in global EV sales”, Fortune Magazine, Forbes and other media outlets around the world had similar headlines on Tuesday and Wednesday. But they were wrong because of a fundamental error in comparing BYD’s production of what the Chinese call New Energy Vehicles – electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids (PHEVs) – to those of the pure EV maker Tesla.

The story said the fast-growing BYD (7.7% owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway) is now the world’s biggest electric vehicle manufacturer after selling more vehicles in the June quarter and half year than Tesla.

Tesla battled in the June quarter and on the weekend reported an 18% fall in global deliveries to 254,695 vehicles in the June quarter compared with 310,048 in the first quarter of 2022. That was a total of 564,743 EVs for the June 30 half, up 46% on the first half of 2021.

Figures from BYD on Sunday revealed that sales for the six months to June jumped 315% from the first half of 2021 to 641,000 New Energy Vehicles (or NEVS)

For the June quarter, BYD sold 355,021 NEVs, surging 256% from a year earlier and jumping 24% from the first quarter’s 286,329.

But those figures are for NEVs – which include battery powered and hybrid vehicles and for that reason the headlines were wrong.

Tesla only makes electric vehicles (EVs) It doesn’t make hybrids of any type.

It is therefore still the world’s biggest electric vehicle maker because that is all it manufacturers at two plants in the US, one in Shanghai and another in Berlin.

Dig deeper and you find the real story from a breakdown of BYD’s NEV sales (it no longer makes ICE petrol powered cars).

The company’s weekend statement shows BYD sold 323,519 BEVS (Battery Electric Vehicles, the same sort of vehicle sold by Tesla) and 314,638 PHEVs (Plug-in Hybrid Energy Vehicles) in the six months to June.

That was up sharply from the first half of 2021 – BEV sales in the June half this year were up 246% from a year ago and sales of hybrids was up more than 400%.

But in sales of BEVS or EVs, Tesla was well ahead – by 241,224 units in fact, leaving it as the world’s biggest EV maker.

It will hold on to that ranking for the rest of 2022 even though BYD is growing its sales much faster than the market is growing in China.

BYD is the biggest NEV manufacturer (Toyota would be third with more than 132,000 hybrids sold in the March quarter, its latest figures) but Tesla is still the largest EV car company in the world by sales.