The conventional wisdom is you can’t make money building an electric car. An EV is just an annoying nuisance required by regulators. Build a few to keep the tree huggers happy, then keep pumping out those mammoth SUVs and Stupid Duty trucks. That’s where the money is, right?
China may not be the best place to talk about pure capitalism, since its government is so heavily involved in every aspect of the national economy. But it is the world’s largest automobile market, so what happens there is important. The news is that BYD doubled its electric car sales in the first half of 2016. The big news is that its profits were up nearly 400% for the same period. Apparently there is money to be made from selling electric cars. Who knew?
BYD is far and away the largest seller of cars with plugs in the world. It sold 53,380 of them in the first half of this year. Nissan was second with 34,362 and Tesla followed closely behind with 33,620. Everyone else is just an also ran at this point. And yes, you Tesla supporters are correct. If the statistics were just about pure electric cars, Tesla would be judged the world leader and by a substantial margin.
BYD sells many models of what China calls “new energy vehicles” but its two most popular ones are the Qin sedan and the Tang SUV. While the Qin is somewhat dowdy in design and appearance, the Tang is a thoroughly modern crossover SUV that is proving to be wildly popular.
It is similar to the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, the car that may or may not ever make it to America amid mounting troubles for the Japanese manufacturer. Last week, it was revealed that Mitsubishi deliberately misstated the fuel economy of 8 more models sold in Japan by more than 20% in one instance.
The government of China offers very significant incentives to electric car buyers. That being said, BYD still must compete against dozens of other electric car makers. It is far ahead in the sales race and rapidly pulling away. There are reports that the company, which is partly owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, is making plans to bring one or more models to the US market in the not too distant future.
Source and graphic credit: Inside EVs