Tesla Kept EV Sales Crown in 2023, but China’s BYD Is Closing In

Jackson Wheeler
6 Min Read

  • Legacy manufacturers are weary of impending EV horizons but EV-specific startups like Rivian and Tesla are holding onto buyers.
  • Tesla managed to deliver around 1.8 million units to customers globally last year, earning the California-based manufacturer the top spot on the BEV sales podium.
  • With over 3 million BEV and PHEV models sold in 2023, Chinese automaker Build Your Dreams (BYD) was the biggest electrified vehicle seller of 2023.

Mainstream manufacturers have been sounding the alarm about electric-vehicle sales for the past few months, prompting production scale-backs and delayed delivery dates in the US. However, EV startups like Rivian and Tesla are sticking with electrification in every market.

And an analysis of year-end sales figures from startup manufacturers shows a mixed bag of results. From Tesla and China’s BYD to Rivian, 2023 was prosperous for some while exposing deficiencies for others. But there was one clear winner for global battery-electric vehicle sales in 2023: Tesla.

20th shanghai international automobile industry exhibition

BYD’s Seagull on display at the 20th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition.

VCG//Getty Images

Only selling true battery-electric vehicles, Tesla grew significantly in 2023. In an unusual turn of events, Tesla released its full global sales figures for the year, claiming a total of 1,808,581 deliveries in 2023. Of these units, a whopping 1.73 million of them were either Model 3 or Model Y, though the split between these models wasn’t specified.

That represents 38% growth year-over-year for Tesla, while the company says production was up 35% as compared to 2022. With a fourth-quarter output of nearly 500,000 units total, Tesla says it hit its projected production targets for 2023.

Chinese manufacturer BYD exceeded expectations as well, selling 1.6 million battery-electric vehicles and 1.4 million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in 2023, for a total of 3.02 million vehicles. That’s an increase of 62% year-over-year for the Shenzen-based automaker, and it makes the 21-year-old company the biggest seller of electrified vehicles globally.

As compared to Tesla, BYD’s sales are more spread out amongst its lineup. The compact crossover known as the BYD Song topped its December sales, primarily in plug-in hybrid varieties. The micro-sized BYD Seagull EV and BYD Yuan also sold well, with 50,525 units and 41,681 units, respectively, in December.

a white car parked on a road

The Model 3 Performance will retain its $7500 federal tax credit.


Tesla and BYD don’t sit on the same playing field in the US, but updated provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act are set to increase the price of certain Tesla Model 3 units this year, as rear-wheel-drive and Long Range Model 3s no longer qualify due to new battery sourcing requirements, a result of Tesla’s reliance on Chinese materials.

According to Reuters, Tesla’s new Cybertruck won’t qualify for the $7500 tax credit, either. Tesla’s website claims the all-electric pickup will likely qualify for the tax credit, though current US Department of Treasury guidelines disqualify the model.


After delivering around 25,000 units last year, Rivian has more than doubled its production output this year.


However, another all-electric, American-born pickup truck will be eligible for tax credits for US buyers in 2024. It won’t get the full $7500, but Rivian’s dual-motor models for 2024 qualify for $3750 in credits this year. Getting one in a timely manner may be trouble enough, as Rivian failed to hit its projected fourth-quarter delivery tally of 14,430 units.

With 13,972 vehicles delivered, Rivian fell short by about 500 units. That’s 10% down from the third quarter of last year, although Rivian posted growth overall. With a total of 57,232 units produced in 2023, Rivian beat its annual forecast of 54,000 units.

With an Illinois plant capable of producing 150,000 units and a relatively new dual-motor, long-range version of both the R1S and R1T, Rivian expects to continue its growth, although at a slower pace than Tesla and BYD. The Irvine, California-based company wants the sub-$80,000 dual-motor versions to represent over 50% of its sales mix in the coming year.

BYD may not be a real player in the US market, but its rapid expansion into a global EV superpower and its growing relevance in Europe make it worth watching closely. In the meantime, it seems Tesla will continue to keep its EV sales crown globally and the US, especially while legacy manufacturers like General Motors and Ford slow their EV roll.

If federal and state tax credits went away, would you still be inclined to buy domestically built and sourced EVs? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts below.

      Headshot of Emmet White

      A New York transplant hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Emmet White has a passion for anything that goes: cars, bicycles, planes, and motorcycles. After learning to ride at 17, Emmet worked in the motorcycle industry before joining Autoweek in 2022. The woes of alternate side parking have kept his fleet moderate, with a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI and a 2003 Honda Nighthawk 750 street parked in his South Brooklyn community.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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