The Chinese language auto firm BYD, backed by Warren Buffett, is promoting start-up rivals

The Chinese battery and electric vehicle manufacturer BYD is showing a model of its Han EV series at the 2020 Beijing Motor Show.

Evelyn Cheng | CNBC

BEIJING – Chinese automaker BYD sells far more luxury electric sedans per month than the country’s leading startups, despite total sales declining 11% over the past year.

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

In December, however, sales improved, with battery-powered and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles increasing by more than 150% to 27,594 units compared to the same month of the previous year 2019.

BYD’s “Han” electric car sales have increased every month since it launched in July and exceeded 10,000 units in November. December numbers were not available. This is evident from a transcript of an investor call accessed through the wind information database.

In late September, BYD announced it had shipped 4,000 units of the new luxury electric sedan in August, and orders had exceeded 40,000 by that time. The vehicle is available in both a purely electric and a plug-in hybrid version.

At these sales levels, the “Han” model alone sells just as well as electric vehicles from the Chinese automaker Nio and better than those from the other start-ups Li Auto and Xpeng.

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

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

  • Nio stocks are up more than 1,400% in the past 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’s shares are up more than 160% since the automaker’s IPO in July.
  • Hong Kong-listed BYD shares are up well over 400% in the past 12 months and have hit record highs.
  • Tesla, which joined the benchmark S&P 500 in December, has seen its shares surge more than 40% since a stock split in August.

Those selected numbers for Chinese electric vehicles are still pale when compared to those of Elon Musk’s automaker, which is ramping up production in China. Tesla announced it had shipped 499,550 vehicles worldwide last year, with a new quarterly record of 180,570 vehicles in the last three months of 2020.

China, the world’s largest auto market, began to emerge from a sustained slump in auto sales this summer.

All-electric vehicle sales rose 4.4% year over year from January to November, compared to a 7.6% decline in total car sales over the same period, according to the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

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