Tech

Warren Buffett-backed Chinese electric car company outsells its start-up rivals

Key Points
  • Automaker BYD, backed by billionaire Warren Buffett, said its new electric luxury sedan "Han" has seen sales increase every month to surpass 10,000 units in November.
  • At these levels, the "Han" model alone is selling just as well, or better, than vehicles from China's electric car start-ups Nio, Li Auto and Xpeng.
  • BYD's overall sales of battery-powered electric passenger cars fell 11% in 2020.

In this article

Chinese battery and electric vehicle maker BYD shows off a model of its Han EV series at the 2020 Beijing auto show.
Evelyn Cheng | CNBC

BEIJING — Chinese automaker BYD is selling far more luxury electric sedans a month than the leading start-ups in the country, even though sales of electric passenger cars fell 11% last year.

BYD, backed by American billionaire Warren Buffett, disclosed late Tuesday that sales of battery-powered electric passenger cars fell 11% to 130,970 units last year. Overall sales, including that of commercial and oil-fueled vehicles, fell 7.46%.

However, sales improved in December, with that of battery-powered and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles surging more than 150% from the same month in 2019 to 27,594 units.

Sales of BYD's "Han" electric car have also increased every month since the July launch to surpass 10,000 units in November. December figures weren't available. That's according to a transcript of an investor call accessed through the Wind Information database.

In late September, BYD said it delivered 4,000 units of the new luxury electric sedan in August, and that orders had topped 40,000 at that time. The vehicle comes in both pure electric and plug-in hybrid versions.

At these sales levels, the "Han" model alone is selling just as well as electric vehicles from Chinese automaker Nio, and better than that of other start-ups Li Auto and Xpeng.

The best performer of the three, Nio, said deliveries more than doubled last year to 43,728 vehicles, with a monthly high of more than 7,000 units in December. Nio plans to reveal its first sedan on Saturday.

The news comes against the backdrop of increased investor interest in electric vehicles.

  • Nio shares have surged more than 1,400% over the last 12 months.
  • Xpeng, whose P7 sedan is driving growth, has seen its shares surge more than 180% since the company's IPO in August.
  • Li Auto shares are up more than 160% since the automaker's IPO in July.
  • BYD's Hong Kong-listed shares have soared well over 400% in the last 12 months to record highs.
  • Tesla, which joined the benchmark S&P 500 in December, has seen its shares climb more than 40% since a stock split in August.

These select Chinese electric vehicle figures still pale in comparison with those of Elon Musk's automaker, which is ramping up production in China. Tesla said it delivered 499,550 vehicles globally last year, with a new quarterly record of 180,570 vehicles in the last three months of 2020.

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China, the world's largest auto market, began to emerge from a prolonged slump in car sales this summer.

Sales of pure electric vehicles from January through November rose 4.4% from a year ago, versus a decline of 7.6% in overall passenger car sales during the same time, according to China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify that sales of BYD's electric passenger cars fell 11% last year.