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The Chinese BYD aims to become the largest EV car seller in Europe before 2030



BYD sets no limits. In fact, the Chinese electric carmaker believes it can overtake Tesla in Europe by 2030.

“We are confident that we could become leaders” by the end of the decade in Europe, said Michael Shu, BYD’s European Director, at the Financial Times (FT) annual conference on the future of the automobile.

After starting out as a battery manufacturer, BYD (“Build Your Dreams”) overtook Tesla in the fourth quarter of 2023 to become the world’s leading seller of electric vehicles, selling 526,409 cars between October and December, compared with 484,507 for Elon Musk’s company. In China, nearly 8 out of every 10 cars sold are BYD. An overwhelming domination over Chinese competitors such as SAIC, owner of the MG brand, Dongfeng Motors and FAW. Over the full year, however, Tesla remains the biggest seller, and the American group recently emphasized that it had regained the title of sales champion in the first quarter of this year.

In terms of financial results, BYD posted a net profit of 30.04 billion yuan (3.83 billion euros) last year, compared with 16.6 billion yuan a year earlier, a year-on-year increase of 80.7%. And this despite “a relatively slow recovery in consumption at the beginning of 2023 due to fluctuations in market prices”, commented the automaker’s boss, Wang Chuanfu, last March.

Since then, the situation has been less positive: sales for the first three months of the year rose by just 4.0%—its slowest pace in four years—to 124.94 billion yuan (16.1 billion euros—when analysts surveyed by Bloomberg were expecting 135.53 billion. To explain this, the automaker pointed to a sharp rise in R&D and marketing expenditure in the first quarter.

Hungary-based plant to come on stream in 2025

To conquer Europe, BYD will rely on its first European car plant, due to start up in 2025 in Hungary, where it already manufactures buses. The country has become an important base for Chinese industry, a cooperation celebrated on Thursday with the arrival of President Xi Jinping for an almost three-day visit after a stint in France.

BYD is also preparing to “make a heavy investment in the European Union”, which could represent “several billion euros”, in factories, distribution networks and marketing, announced Michael Shu Shu on the FT’s London stage. The automaker is due to decide in the coming months whether to build a second European car plant. French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday that BYD and the Chinese car industry were “welcome in France”.

The manufacturer is just beginning its offensive in Europe with competitively priced mid-range vehicles. However, BYD could soon position itself in the entry-level electric segment with its small Seagull, priced at around 20,000 euros, and compete with the Citroën C3 and future small electric Renault or Volkswagen models.

Contacts are also with Italy

Italian Minister for Industry and Economy (MIMIT) Adolfo Urso confirmed contacts with BYD to set up a factory in Italy, while contacts are still ongoing with Dongfeng. Italy is considering a new contribution plan for 2024 and one for 2025. In the current year, it would help the purchase of electric cars for the most deprived classes with major contributions. In 2025, on the other hand, it would like to switch to incentivization only of car production in Italy.

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