Tesla's electric vehicle rival BYD set to dominate Australia after 'substantial' shift

Chinese EV giant BYD has overtaken Tesla globally, and could well do so in Australia.

Move over Tesla, there's a new electric vehicle in town that you may well have seen on our roads. And while Elon Musk's empire has more than half of Australia's market share, BYD, or Build Your Dreams to go by its English slogan, is coming in fast.

The Chinese electric car manufacturer grew its sales sixfold in 2023 in Australia and now has 14 per cent of the Australian market. On a global scale, it now sells more vehicles than Tesla, which is no mean feat. So why are they becoming so popular? Well like most things imported from China, they're extremely cheap. Their cheapest car starts at just under $40,000, while its immensely popular SUV, Atto 3, starts at $48,000 – a significant saving on the more upmarket Tesla models.

The exterior of BYD's new service centre in Sydney's Mascot
BYD's new service centre in Sydney's Mascot. Source: Yahoo News Australia

That value is what is now converting Australians into the EV market, according to Bernhard Conoplia at Evie, one of the country's leading charging companies. "Electric vehicles are now approaching price parity and for many drivers they're already at price parity meaning no-one is going to be left behind," he told Yahoo News Australia.

A sign of BYD's ambition is the recent announcement of its plans to have up to 100 dealerships and service centres in Australia by 2025. The head of EVDirect Luke Todd, who is in charge of BYD's Australian distribution, says just five years later, he wants BYD as the country's top selling car brand overall.

A BYD Atto 3 is displayed in Germany.
The widely-popular Atto 3 seen on Australian roads. Source: AP

BYD's founder Wang Chuanfu is as equally confident and saw the potential for his company early on. In 2008, he reportedly said BYD would be the biggest car manufacturer in the world by 2025 – a meteoric rise for the Shenzhen company that began by making mobile phone batteries.

BYD's electric vehicle growth in Australia 'substantial'

EVDirect's new CEO David Smitherman told Reuters that "the opportunity is very clear" in Australia. Todd added BYD's growth in less than two years in the Australian market has been "substantial".

“BYD is demonstrating to be a leader of the EV transition in Australia," the company proudly stated after launching its Service and Support Centre in Sydney's Mascot late last year.

Australians will undoubtedly love BYD's soon-to-arrive ute. Source: BYD via Car Expert
Australians will undoubtedly love BYD's soon-to-arrive ute. Source: BYD via Car Expert

Such ambition may well have influenced Tesla's decision to walk away from an entry-level, cheaper Tesla model as three sources informed Reuters Tesla will instead shift its focus elsewhere amid a competitive market segment. It's a remarkable turn of events after Musk once laughed at BYD's emergence, before later conceding their cars are "highly competitive these days".

General manager of BYD Asia-Pacific, Liu Xueliang, recently told media during a visit to Melbourne that its expansion in Australia was "just the beginning".

And in true Aussie fashion, the company is set to launch its first ute this year, a plug-in hybrid model. According to automotive journalist Jordan Mulach, that will be followed by a fully electrical version at a later date.

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