BYD to duel with Tesla in Japan’s growing EV market

Credit: BYD

BYD has officially begun selling EVs in Japan, joining the likes of Tesla and Nissan in selling a lineup of electric vehicles in the country.

While Japan has continually proven a challenging market for EVs to enter, this hasn’t stopped major brands like Tesla from jumping into the mix to attempt to change that. Following Tesla’s success in growing that market, BYD has now also decided to join.

BYD it is entering the Japanese market with its small electric crossover, the Atto 3, with deliveries beginning as soon as next month. Vehicles are available at BYD showrooms, with the first showroom opening in Yokohama and 19 more planned to open throughout the rest of 2023. In total, BYD plans to open 100 showrooms over the next 2 years in an effort to catch the wave of demand for EVs that has yet to reach the island nation.

While many have seen this move as forward-thinking and a great move for BYD, Tesla has shown time and time again that conquering the Japanese market is a near-herculean task.

As pointed out by Nikkei Asia, Japan’s total EV sales in 2022, while nearly triple the previous year, only amounted to just over 59,000 units. And in a country of over 125 million people, this is a drop in the bucket. EVs now total only 1.7% of the car market, and while this is the first time EVs have crossed the 1% mark in Japan, the segment still has significant growth to do.

But BYD itself also faces a set of challenges as it enters the world’s third-largest economy. Perhaps foremost, as an unknown brand in what can be a very insular economy, BYD will likely face a steep climb as it battles with legacy brands. Secondly, while BYD’s first offering, coming in at an affordable 4.4 million yen ($33,800), certainly used to be leading Tesla and even Nissan in pricing, that is no longer the case.

Credit: BYD
Credit: BYD
Credit: BYD
Credit: BYD

Currently, the Japanese government’s incentive of 650,000 yen ($5,029) brings the price of the Tesla Model 3 down to 4.7 million yen ($36,369) and the price of the Tesla Model Y to 5.15 million yen ($39,841), a price that is a stone’s throw away from the BYD offering.

At the same time, Nissan has also made strides in making its EV offerings significantly more affordable. The incredibly popular Nissan Sakura now starts at 2.5 million yen ($19,330), the Nissan Leaf starts at 4.3 million yen ($33,246), and the top-of-the-line Nissan Ariya starts at a fairly competitive 5.4 million yen ($41,750).

It remains unclear if BYD’s venture into Japan will be a successful one, but it is clear that the market there is not as uncompetitive as it used to be. But with plenty of market share still available for EVs to pick up in the meantime, the Chinese brand is at least well positioned to “catch the wave.”

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William Johnson: Will is an auto enthusiast, a gear head, and an EV enthusiast above all. From racing, to industry data, to the most advanced EV tech on earth, he now covers it at Teslarati.
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