BYD’s EV Sales Show Contracting China Market. Tesla Could Get Hit Next.

Text size BYD sold fewer EVs in January than it did in December. Sales are still up year over year. Getty Images January electric vehicle sales in China look lousy. That could be an issue for Tesla. Tuesday evening, Chinese EV maker BYD (ticker: BYD ) reported sales numbers for the first month of the year. The world’s second largest maker of battery-electric vehicles sold 150,164 passenger vehicles, including 71,338 battery-electric vehicles and 78,826 plug-in hybrid vehicles. The January numbers were down roughly 35% compared to December 2022. Other EV makers saw similar drops to start the year. EV sales from NIO ( NIO ), XPeng (XPEV) and Li Auto (LI) came in at a combined 28,865 units, down 40% compared to December 2022. Investors knew January weakness was coming. January is a seasonally weak period for car sales to begin with. What’s more, some government incentives for EV purchase in China ended in 2022. That created a rush to buy at year end. Citi analyst Jeff Chung wrote Wednesday that investors shouldn’t read too much into low January numbers. He still expects EV sales growth in 2023. BYD sales were down sequentially, the company still grew sales volumes 62% year over year. BYD stock rose 6.1% in overseas trading Wednesday. US listed American depositary receipts, or ADRs, rose 5.8%. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite closed up 1.1% and 2%, respectively. Shares of NIO, XPeng and Li all rose in Wednesday trading too. Over the past year, BYD has sold roughly 940,000 battery electric vehicles. In 2022, Tesla has sold about 1.3 million including 440,000 in China. Tesla doesn’t report monthly sales numbers. Industry data providers, however, will report final Tesla numbers in coming days. Tesla, according to insurance registration data tracked by Wall Street, started out January with a bang in China after it cut prices at the start of the year. Weekly sales trailed off at the end of the month. Tesla is the world leader, but BYD is about twice the size of Tesla in China. BYD sells lower priced EVs, one way it has managed to capture more share. Tesla cut prices in China in early January, before slashing them in other markets around the world. In his prepared remarks last week following Tesla’s earnings report, CEO Elon Musk said, “We are seeing orders at almost twice the rate of production.” Write to Al Root at

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