China Economy

Warren Buffett-backed BYD's new luxury sedan jumped into the top 10 electric cars sold in China last year

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Key Points
  • Less than six months after Chinese automaker BYD launched its "Han" luxury electric sedan, the car leaped into eighth place among the best-selling new energy vehicles in the country last year, according to data from China's Passenger Car Association out late Tuesday.
  • The new energy category includes electric and plug-in hybrid power sources.
  • Tesla's Model 3 sedan held the top spot for both December and the entire year, selling more than 137,000 vehicles in 2020, according to the report.
Customers view a BYD Han electric vehicle at a shopping mall on July 12, 2020 in Hangzhou, China.
Long Wei | Visual China Group | Getty Images

BEIJING — As China's electric car market heats up, Tesla and BYD are among the winners, data for 2020 sales show.

Less than six months after Chinese automaker BYD launched its "Han" luxury electric sedan, the car leaped into eighth place among the best-selling new energy vehicles in the country last year, according to data from China's Passenger Car Association out late Tuesday. The new energy category includes electric and plug-in hybrid power sources.

BYD, which is backed by American billionaire Warren Buffett, has said sales of the Han sedan have increased every month since deliveries began in August. The sedan comes in both pure electric and plug-in hybrid versions.

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The "Han" car was the fourth best-seller in the category for December, the association said.

Tesla's Model 3 sedan held the top spot for the entire year, selling more than 137,000 vehicles in 2020, according to the report.

For passenger cars regardless of energy source, Tesla's Model 3 took the 10th spot in December.

Mini car sells better than Tesla in December

As Chinese consumers wrapped up 2020 and looked ahead, they bought more than 35,000 Hongguang Minis, making it the best-selling new energy vehicle in December and the second-best for the year.

The vehicle is a tiny electric car with a starting price of 28,800 ($4,400) that's developed by General Motors' joint venture with Wuling Motors and state-owned SAIC Motor.

Two other miniature electric cars developed by local Chinese automakers made the top 10 list, highlighting the contrast between strong demand for high-end and budget vehicles in the electric car category.

Xpeng's P7 luxury sedan, which like BYD's Han began deliveries this summer, was the ninth best-selling new energy vehicle in December.

Electric does well among high-end SUVs

Li Auto's first and only model so far, the Li One SUV, sold thousands more cars than Nio's top-selling ES6 SUV last year.

The two start-ups even made it into the10 best-selling high-end SUVs in China across all power sources. Li Auto ranked eighth while Nio took ninth place.

The Li One is more of a hybrid in that the car includes a fuel tank that can help charge the battery when no charging station is available, easing one of consumers' top concerns about buying an electric car.

Total retail sales of passenger cars in the world's largest auto market fell 6.8% last year to about 19.3 million units, according to the passenger car group's figures. New energy cars bucked the decline to rise 9.8% to 1.1 million, the report said.

Some in China's auto industry have previously cast doubt on the accuracy of the association's figures due to reliance on self-reporting.

2020 new energy car rankings

Here are the full rankings for 2020, with the parent company in parentheses:

1. Model 3 (Tesla)

2. Hongguang Mini (SAIC-GM-Wuling)

3. Ora R1 (Great Wall Motor)

4. Aion S (GAC Motor)

5. Qin EV sedan (BYD)

6. eQ (Chery)

7. Li One (Li Auto)

8. Han EV (BYD)

9. ES6 (Nio)

10. 5 PHEV (BMW)