BYD has outperformed Volkswagen in the first quarter of 2023, making it the first time a local brand has topped the Chinese auto sales charts in almost 40 years.
According to figures compiled by Bloomberg, BYD sold 440,000 cars in China in the first quarter (January to March) of 2023, overtaking the Volkswagen brand, which relocated 427,247 vehicles in the same period.
In addition, BYD accounted for around 40 percent of the “New Energy Vehicles” — plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles — in China. Since the beginning of 2022, BYD has only produced PHEVs and EVs. In comparison, electric vehicles accounted for just six percent of Volkswagen sales in China.
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Volkswagen has been China’s top-selling brand since at least 2008, when figures from the China Automotive Technology and Research Center became available.
Thanks to its early mover status, the brand has long been one of the most popular in the Chinese automotive landscape. Volkswagen was one of the first companies to enter the Chinese market when the government began to slowly open the automobile sector to foreign investment in the early to mid-1980s, and the Santana quickly became a bestseller. With a series of facelifts and improvements, the first generation car remained in production until 2013.
As China embraced capitalism in the 1990s and more foreign brands came into the country, Volkswagen was able to maintain its position at or near the top of the stack.
It should be noted that the Volkswagen Group also produces Skoda and Audi vehicles locally. Sales from those two brands, plus imports from the automaker’s other high-end brands, should push the German company’s totals ahead of BYD.
If these Bloomberg numbers are accurate, it will mark another major milestone on BYD’s journey to becoming a global automotive powerhouse.
Founded in 1995 by Wang Chuanfu as a private company, BYD started producing cars in 2003 when it bought a small regional automaker based in Xian.
While BYD’s early years were characterized by vehicle designs very similar to those of more established automakers, including Toyota Aygo and Corolla, Mercedes-Benz SL and Renault Megane CC, the company managed to attract investment from Warren Buffet.
In recent years, BYD has invested heavily in plug-in hybrid and pure electric vehicle technology.
As designs have matured and technology has become more advanced, BYD’s sales have increased dramatically. In 2021, the company sold around 600,000 cars worldwide, and that number rose to 1.86 million in 2022. This year it aims to sell at least 3 million.
The company has expanded its presence in Europe and Asia and began selling cars Down Under in 2022. It currently has no plans to start sales in the US.