BYD and beyond
By Li Fangfang  ·  2023-08-21  ·   Source: NO.34 AUGUST 24, 2023
Wang Chuanfu (left), Chairman of BYD Co. Ltd., handed over the keys to the owner of the company's 5 millionth new-energy vehicle on August 9 (XINHUA)

By forging partnerships with other Chinese electric vehicle (EV) brands, BYD is pushing China's auto industry to new heights and transcending its reputation as an affordable car brand.

At an event marking the production of BYD's 5 millionth new-energy vehicle (NEV) on August 9, founder and Chairman Wang Chuanfu's emotional recollection of the company's achievements was combined with a promotional video that highlighted BYD's potential partnerships with rival brands and echoed the Chinese desire for a homemade world-class brand. He unabashedly positioned the brand as a pioneer in the revolution of the entire industry. 

Many brands featured in the promotional video responded positively. Founders of leading Chinese EV brands, such as Li Auto's Li Xiang and Nio's Li Bin, commended the manufacturer's trailblazing spirit and recognized the long-term benefits their collaborations would generate.

The "smart" promo had raked in more than 22 million views on the popular Chinese microblogging platform Weibo at the time of writing, with its top-liked comment reading, "BYD is big in heart and broad in vision."

Thanks to EV producers including BYD, China possesses a prominent position in today's global NEV industry. In 2022, BYD surpassed Tesla as the world's No.1 EV seller, a milestone reported by the South China Morning Post in January.

Fortune magazine reported on August 14 that "Tesla CEO Elon Musk no longer laughs at BYD"—one decade after Musk had doubted the Chinese company's technology. Furthermore, in the first half of this year, BYD has also taken the lead in the plug-in model category, combining battery EVs and plug-in hybrid cars, with over 1.2 million units sold, surpassing Tesla's nearly 890,000 units, InsideEVs.com reported.

However, not all Chinese EV producers embraced the idea of teaming up with BYD and having the company "lead the way," as competition remains fierce. Geely refrained from providing feedback, and GWM's Chief Technology Officer Wang Yuanli refuted the alliance, emphasizing the competitive nature of the industry and the separation between business and moral obligations. 

This divergence of perspectives underlines how BYD cannot speak for all Chinese carmakers at this stage, indicating that the game is far from over. The domestic market distribution is still changing and EV companies never stop vying for bigger market share.

China has created the most favorable market situation for the EV industry: the biggest market in the world, a promising development vision, strong domestic demands driven by environmental protection concerns and a supervision mechanism that encourages carmakers to produce and sell EVs. Plus, a growing network of charging stations across the country all offer more real growth opportunities for the industry. However, intense domestic competition and international uncertainty, including geopolitical factors, regulatory differences and global consumer perceptions, present challenges to its long-term development.

The rivalry in the global EV sector adds another layer of complexity. Ford's President and CEO Jim Farley acknowledged in June that the United States is not yet able to compete with China in the EV sector and emphasized that with tight supplies of batteries and skyrocketing prices for battery raw materials, the American EV industry needs better preparation, Reuters reported. "The shift toward EVs favors Chinese automakers due to their expertise in batteries and new energy technology," the Fortune article read. However, this advantage also increases Chinese EV brands' risks in the international market.

Ancient Chinese philosophy holds that blessings and misfortunes are intertwined. Adopting a balanced perspective and a humble attitude is crucial for continuous progress.

Even if BYD aims to emphasize its own significance, it is important to acknowledge that the auto industry is multifaceted and complex, and there is more to it than meets the eye. Competition is the hotbed of innovation and progress. The success of BYD and the fierce competition among Chinese EV brands should not overshadow the broader picture of the industry's development and the need for collaboration.

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon

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