Charlie Munger argues Tesla is losing to BYD in China

Credit: Tesla Asia/Twitter

Well-known Berkshire Hathaway fund manager Charlie Munger argues that BYD is beating Tesla in China, but the actual market situation seems more complex.

Besides being incredibly well known for his investment prowess at Berkshire Hathaway alongside Warren Buffet, Charlie Munger is known for his massive investment into BYD. Under his and Buffet’s leadership, Berkshire Hathaway invested in BYD over a decade ago, and since then, its holding has exploded in value. Berkshire has made over 600% gain on that single investment. In an interview with CNBC, Munger argued that the Chinese automaker is dominating its American counterpart, Tesla, in China.

“Tesla last year reduced its prices in China twice. BYD increased its prices. We are direct competitors. BYD is so much ahead of Tesla in China … it’s almost ridiculous,” Munger told CNBC, and he has a point. Thanks to its massive number of affordable offerings, BYD constitutes most of the Chinese EV market. However, other factors show that this competition is far less one-sided than first meets the eye.

First, despite its wide range of offerings, BYD consistently trades with Tesla’s vehicles for the top-selling vehicle month to month. Most recently, this has been seen in markets such as Wuhan, Suzhou, and Nanjing.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these statistics is that Tesla’s far more premium vehicles, a typically less popular segment, are still keeping up with BYD’s more affordable offerings, including the BYD Song+ DMi.

As for the pricing mentioned by Munger, while it is true that Tesla likely lowered prices in order to become more price competitive with brands like BYD, NIO, and Xpeng, it seems as though this has resulted in a swing in popularity towards Tesla in the final quarter of last year.

Globally, BYD has been going toe to toe with Tesla’s sales numbers, which is certainly a remarkable accomplishment considering the brand has only recently begun to escape the Chinese market. In 2022, BYD sold a total of 911,140 pure electric vehicles to Tesla’s 1.31 million sales.

Despite the apparent rivalry between Tesla and BYD, both companies have made it clear who the real competitor is, the gas vehicle. And while Tesla has met its Chinese match with BYD, the remarkable success of rapid electrification in China has undoubtedly been a group effort. Hopefully, this ongoing rivalry will lead to an ever-better set of products and prices for consumers as they transition to electric vehicles in China and around the world.

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Charlie Munger argues Tesla is losing to BYD in China
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