Tesla Kept EV Sales Crown in 2023, but Competition Is Closing In

Tesla Kept EV Sales Crown in 2023, but Competition Is Closing In

Legacy manufacturers are wary about impending challenges in the electric car marketplace, but EV-specific startups like Rivian and Tesla are holding on to buyers.
Tesla managed to deliver around 1.8 million units to customers globally last year, earning the California-based manufacturer the top spot on the BEV sales podium.
However, with over 3 million BEV and PHEV models sold in 2023, Chinese automaker Build Your Dreams (BYD) was the biggest electrified-vehicle seller of 2023.

Mainstream manufacturers have been sounding the alarm about electric-vehicle sales for the past few months, prompting production scale-backs and delayed delivery dates in the United States. However, EV startups including Rivian and Tesla are sticking with electrification in every market.

And an analysis of year-end sales figures from startup manufacturers shows a mixed bag of results. From Tesla and China’s BYD to Rivian, 2023 was prosperous for some while exposing deficiencies for others. But there was one clear winner for global battery-electric vehicle sales in 2023: Tesla.

Only selling true battery-electric vehicles, Tesla grew significantly in 2023. In an unusual turn of events, Tesla released its full global sales figures for the year, claiming a total of 1,808,581 deliveries in 2023. Of these units, a whopping 1.74 million of them were either Model 3 or Model Y, though the split between these models wasn’t specified.

That represents 38 percent growth year over year for Tesla, while the company says production was up 35 percent compared with 2022. With a fourth-quarter output of nearly 500,000 units total, Tesla says it hit its projected production targets for 2023.

Chinese manufacturer BYD exceeded expectations as well, selling 1.6 million battery-electric vehicles and 1.4 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in 2023, for a total of 3.02 million vehicles. That’s an increase of 62 percent year over year for the Shenzen-based automaker, and it makes the 21-year-old company the biggest seller of electrified vehicles globally.

As compared to Tesla, BYD’s sales are more spread out among its lineup. The BYD Song compact crossover topped the company’s December sales, primarily in plug-in-hybrid varieties. The micro-size BYD Seagull EV and BYD Yuan also sold well, with 50,525 units and 41,681 units, respectively, in December.

Tesla Prices (and Tax Credits) in Flux

Tesla and BYD don’t sit on the same playing field in the U.S., but updated provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act are set to increase the price of certain Tesla Model 3 units this year, as rear-wheel-drive and Long Range Model 3s no longer qualify due to new battery sourcing requirements, a result of Tesla’s reliance on Chinese materials.

According to Reuters, Tesla’s new Cybertruck won’t qualify for the $7500 tax credit, either. Tesla’s website claims the all-electric pickup will likely qualify for the tax credit, though current U.S. Department of Treasury guidelines disqualify the model.

However, another all-electric, American-born pickup truck will be eligible for tax credits for U.S. buyers in 2024. It won’t get the full $7500, but Rivian’s dual-motor models for 2024 qualify for $3750 in credits this year. Getting one in a timely manner may be trouble enough, as Rivian failed to hit its projected fourth-quarter delivery tally of 14,430 units.

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