China’s BYD Expands EV Sales in Southeast Asia through Partnerships

China-based electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer BYD has gained a significant market share in Southeast Asia’s EV market, surpassing competitors such as Tesla. BYD’s success can be attributed to its distribution partnerships with large conglomerates in the region, allowing the company to expand its reach, understand consumer preferences, and navigate complex government regulations.

Unlike Tesla’s go-it-alone approach, BYD’s partnership model is reminiscent of the strategy employed by Japanese automakers in Southeast Asia several decades ago. This collaboration allows BYD to rapidly build market share, although it comes at the expense of profit margins. By offering more lucrative margins to local dealers, BYD can foster trust and loyalty, thereby paving the way for broader expansion.

In the second quarter of 2023, BYD secured over 26% of EV sales in Southeast Asia. Its best-selling model was the Atto 3, priced at $30,000 in Thailand, surpassing Tesla’s starting price of approximately $57,500 for the basic Model 3 in the country. The market share of EVs in Southeast Asia rose to 6.4% in the second quarter, up from 3.8% in the previous quarter, suggesting potential growth for Chinese automakers in the region.

BYD’s regional distributors include divisions of Sime Darby, Bakrie & Brothers, Ayala Corp, and Rever Automotive, which have helped establish the BYD brand in a region where Chinese automakers lack an established track record. These partnerships provide peace of mind to buyers by ensuring established players are involved in sales and providing aftersales support.

To further expand its presence in Southeast Asia, BYD plans to invest nearly $500 million in Thailand to build a new factory that will produce 150,000 EVs annually from 2024 for export to Southeast Asia and European markets.

In contrast, Tesla has a limited presence in the region, with only two stores currently listed on its website in Singapore. BYD’s focus on dealerships and partnerships differentiates its approach from Tesla’s direct-to-consumer model, which is difficult to replicate without the same level of brand recognition and media presence as Tesla.

By embracing partnerships and investing in brand building, BYD is actively capturing the attention of consumers in Southeast Asia and dispelling myths surrounding EVs, such as concerns about range and price. This strategic approach has positioned BYD as a formidable competitor to Tesla in the region.

– EV: Electric Vehicle
– Distributors: Companies that handle the distribution and sales of products on behalf of manufacturers
– Market share: The portion of the market controlled by a particular company or product
– Aftersales support: Services provided to customers after the sale of a product or service

– Reuters (source article)