The $10,000 BYD Seagull EV is scaring the U.S. auto industry

Credit: BYD

China is the world’s largest automotive market, and understandably so, an important one for electric vehicle (EV) makers like Tesla. Although competitive Chinese automaker BYD isn’t yet slated to enter the U.S. market, the company’s recent release of a city EV with a price tag under $10,000 has some worried for when it and other low-cost companies do.

BYD launched its Seagull, a small hatchback EV with a price tag starting at 69,800 yuan (~$9,773), at the Shanghai Auto Show last year. While BYD said just last month that it has no plans to enter the U.S. auto market anytime soon, some U.S. automotive groups have expressed concerns over the Seagull EV and other affordable mass-market EVs eventually coming to North America.

Credit: BYD

At the same time, many automakers including Tesla are racing to build their next-generation, mass-market EVs, set to first be produced in Texas as soon as 2025, then later at an upcoming factory in Mexico, and eventually at a yet-unannounced third location. However Tesla and other automakers have generally been considered to be targeting a $25,000 price tag, and while affordable, it’s still far greater than $10,000.

While BYD isn’t planning to enter the U.S. at this point, the company has been beginning to deliver its EVs in several markets throughout Europe and Asia. Even despite ongoing political concerns, its entry into North America is considered an eventuality, and other Chinese automakers likely won’t be far behind.

Former General Motors (GM) executive Terry Woychowski, who is now President of engineering consultancy Caresoft Global, called the arrival of the Seagull a “clarion call for the rest of the auto industry,” adding that it’s a “significant event” (via CNBC).

In a report last month from the Alliance for American Manufacturing, similar points were highlighted:

“The introduction of cheap Chinese autos — which are so inexpensive because they are backed with the power and funding of the Chinese government — to the American market could end up being an extinction-level event for the U.S. auto sector,” the organization writes.

BYD last year sold 1.57 million battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), substantially increased from 2020, when the automaker sold just 130,970. The automaker also reached a production milestone of 200,000 Seagull EV units in November.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, while continually encouraging increased competition to help advance sustainable transportation, aired a similar warning during Tesla’s Q4 and FY 2023 earnings call in January.

“The Chinese car companies are the most competitive car companies in the world,” Musk said during the call. “So, I think they will have significant success outside of China depending on what kind of tariffs or trade barriers are established.”

“Frankly, I think, if there are not trade barriers established, they will pretty much demolish most other companies in the world.”

BYD executive says Tesla is a ‘partner’ in electrification

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The $10,000 BYD Seagull EV is scaring the U.S. auto industry
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