BYD wants to be the world’s number one by 2030 (update)

The Chinese car manufacturer BYD (Build Your Dreams) has a very ambitious goal: to become the world’s biggest car manufacturer and overtake Toyota and other VWs by 2030. It is now the biggest producer of electrified cars in the world.

BYD sold a record number of new energy vehicles (NEVs) in December, reaching its full-year 2023 target of 3 million units (3 024 417 to be exact, commercial vehicles included). Strong year-end sales saw BYD also post record NEV sales in the fourth quarter, with quarterly sales growth of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) particularly strong. BYD also posted new record sales overseas in December, with its internationalization strategy advancing.

BEVS already has more than half of sales

The company ceased production and sales of vehicles powered entirely by internal combustion engines in March 2022, switching to a focus on producing plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars.

BYD sold 340 178 passenger NEVs in December, up 45% from a year earlier and up 12,9% from 301 378 units in November. Of them, 190 754 units were BEVs, up 70,4% compared to the same month last year. PHEVs sold 149 424 units in December, a 21,8% increase from the previous year.

Over 10% (36 095 units) were sold outside China last month. The percentage of fully electric vehicles in BYD’s production was more than 52% over 2023 and rose to more than 56% in December.

BYD origins

Wang Chuanfu founded BYD and was originally a battery producer. At the beginning of the new millennium, Wang and his partner Li managed to buy a car manufacturing plant from the Chinese government that went into bankruptcy.

His secret at the time was for manufacturing batteries and for producing cars: not too much expensive machinery and use of cheap labor. Initially, he built a copy of the Toyota Corolla, but at half the price. In 2008 came the first BYD, a plug-in hybrid.

One of the significant strengths of BYD is that it makes many parts for its cars and is less dependent on suppliers. That has benefitted the company greatly during the pandemic and the considerable chip shortage that resulted from it.

Meanwhile, salaries in China have risen steeply, and BYD has followed the automation path. In 2022, it decided to conquer the world outside China and is now building plants all over the planet; the last one announced was in Hungary. To avoid penalties for cars exported from China, BYD is building new plants outside its homeland at an impressive rate.

Number one in 2030?

BYD is very ambitious. It is already the world’s biggest manufacturer of electrified vehicles and will probably be overtaking Tesla as the biggest BEV manufacturer in 2024. In the last quarter of 2023, BYD sold 526 409 BEVS, compared to 484 507 for Tesla.

Already in Q4 of 2023, BYD overtook Tesla in worldwide BEV sales /CnEVPost

Michael Shu, BYD’s CEO for Europe, recently told the Financial Times that his company wanted “to figure among the three biggest selling brands in the world, and preferably at the number one place”.

To reach this target, BYD has to act quickly and apparently has the financial means for it. Even in this period of relentless investments, it stays profitable, thanks to ever-increasing sales. BYD wants to fill the gap of (cheaper) electric cars as long as its more traditional competitors haven’t reacted by putting affordable BEVs on the market. It will be a massive race against time.

How it intends to do this is illustrated in how it settles in the Belux. It has partnered with a classic importer  (Inchcape) that distributes Toyota and Lexus. In one year, it built a (small) dealer network and sold 600 cars (against only 41 in 2020). Within five years, it wants to sell 10 000.

With recent models like the Dolphin and the Seal, BYD will be a severe competitor to European brands preparing to sell affordable BEVs. Those still have to appear on the market, and BYD is ready to seize its chance in 2024.


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