Tesla CEO Elon Musk has responded to the comparisons being drawn by various media outlets regarding his company and high-powered Chinese rival BYD, which outpaced Musk’s company in terms of production of electric vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Tesla is widely regarded as the world’s leading electric vehicle company, and while that is true in terms of sales volumes in specific regions, like the United States and Europe, the automaker has had trouble keeping pace in China with domestic car companies.
China is the world’s largest automotive market, and Chinese companies yield the biggest threat to Tesla’s global dominance. Musk has commended companies in the country in the past, recognizing their hard work and dedication. Tesla’s Chinese factory in Shanghai has routinely been the automaker’s biggest producer of EVs and handles a lot of the European market’s sales as it produces the Model 3.
Tesla’s factory in Germany only produces the Model Y.
However, in the fourth quarter of 2023, BYD overtook Tesla as the world’s largest producer of electric vehicles by volume. Tesla was still a larger producer of EVs in terms of the entire calendar year, but it is the first time any company has outpaced Musk’s company on a quarterly basis.
A long-form communication on X from a Tesla fan shows the macro picture when comparing Tesla and BYD. Tesla operates fewer factories, had a larger net profit, and has significantly fewer employees than BYD, but the Q4 narrative is enough for many media outlets to take the story and run with it.
Musk, on the other hand, had a simple response to the comparison between Tesla and BYD:
“Tesla is an AI/robotics company that appears to many to be a car company.”
Tesla is an AI/robotics company that appears to many to be a car company
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 3, 2024
Tesla routinely recognizes itself as much more than a car company. In fact, it operates energy products and builds batteries. It also has an ongoing AI and robotics division, which is what Musk is talking about here. Many people may think of cars when they hear Tesla, but the DNA of the company is much broader than just building cars and putting them on the road.
This is completely evident when discussing anything from the Full Self-Driving suite to the Optimus project that Tesla has been working on for a few years.
Cars might be the biggest and most recognizable part of the Tesla story right now, but Musk believes the company is much bigger and broader than that. He’s definitely right.
It will be something to see in the coming quarters how BYD and Tesla stack up in terms of the production of EVs. While volume is a major contributor to Tesla’s global dominance, it is just part of the picture. Tesla has vehicles that are priced at a much higher premium than competitors, yet it routinely outpaces those companies that have cheaper products. This is likely due to a number of factors, including the company’s expansive charging infrastructure.
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