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BYD considers Tesla 'a partner' in the EV transition

BYD Auto (BYDDY, 1211.HK) unveiled a new supercar that will cost more than $230 thousand. The Yangwang U9 is designed to take on cars from more traditional supercar-makers like Ferrari (RACE) and Lamborghini (VWAGY). BYD is now the world's largest EV maker, officially surpassing Tesla (TSLA) at the end of 2023.

Yahoo Finance Anchor Akiko Fujita sat down with BYD Executive Vice President Stella Li to get her thoughts of Tesla and the EV market.

Li explains: "Without them, I think the global EV market could not run so rapidly. So we respect them a lot. I think they are a partner and also they are like a way together, we can really help the whole world. To educate the market and push the market for transaction."

For more expert insight and the latest market action, click here to watch this full episode of Yahoo Finance Live.

Editor's note: This article was written by Nicholas Jacobino

Video Transcript

BRAD SMITH: The biggest EV maker in the world BYD asserting its pricing dominance in the market, unveiling an ultra low cost version of its Dolphin vehicle, coming in at under $14,000. And its luxury supercar topping $230,000. That's quite a spectrum, all in just a couple of days of each other.

Our very own Akiko Fujita sat down with the executive vice president of BYD, as the company looks to make a bigger push outside of China. Hey, Akiko, tell us what you learned from this conversation.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah. Brad, you talk about the lower end and the high end, that scale that BYD has been able to establish really been key to their success. It was just four years ago, there were concerns about the company survival. Now, it is the top EV maker in the world, surpassing Tesla in 2023. Selling more than three million cars.

Now, some viewers may remember, back in 2011, Elon Musk was asked about competition from BYD. He laughed off the competition, then, saying, that BYD should be more concerned about survival within the Chinese market. So naturally, that's where I started the conversation with the executive vice president Stella Li asking her how she felt about beating Tesla as the top EV maker in the world.

STELLA LI: We feel like we have a high respect for Tesla. They are marketing leader. They give a great education for the market. Without them, I think the global EV market could not run so rapidly. So we will respect them a lot. I think they are a partner. And also, they are like, we, together, we can really help the whole world to educate the market, to push the market for transaction, and pushing the whole auto industry to transact to the future, electric car.

AKIKO FUJITA: What do you tell that driver that's looking at these two cars? You're saying that BYD is a tech company. Elon Musk says Tesla is a tech company as well. What's the value proposition? What is the BYD car in comparison to the biggest competitor out there, which is Tesla?

STELLA LI: That's a very interesting question. I ask our team in China, because Tesla is very successful in China. The overlap for BYD and Tesla customer is less than 15%, less than 15%. So you can see we don't need even to convince them, because we only have an overlap of 15%. All the EV company, we are the partner. Our real competition is ICE car company. ICE car is not an EV.

The more people jumping to produce EV is better for the industry.

AKIKO FUJITA: And now, that BYD has captured the largest EV market in the world, they've got their eyes set on global expansion. They've made a lot of headwinds in Latin America. Mexico, a significant market, they've got their eyes on. We're going to talk to Stella about much more of that in our 11 o'clock hour, including some speculation that BYD is setting up in Mexico for entry into the US.

She's got a lot to say about that speculation. We've got the longer cut of our interview coming up with Stella Li, executive vice president of BYD, coming up at 11:00 AM.

SEANA SMITH: Yeah, Akiko, I'm curious, and not to give too much away about that conversation that you have playing at 11, but in terms of how an American should view this, even if you're an investor or possibly in the market for an EV, if you have a player like BYD, potentially, coming to the US, what kind of pressure is that going to put on the traditional automakers, a name like Tesla, and also some of the other smaller players within the EV space?

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah. Well, BYD and Tesla have been going head-to-head in the Chinese market already. But Stella Li makes it pretty clear, BYD is not looking to play in the US, at least, for now, because, in her words, things are too complicated, including the politics at play.

You've heard a lot of car makers out there, the executives flagging this competition coming in from China. In terms of how investors should be looking at it, we've heard everybody from Ford's Jim Farley to analysts talk about the cost advantage that BYD has. Roughly 30%, when you think about where American carmakers are competing. Of course, BYD would say, look, we're not a cheap car manufacturer anymore. We are competing on tech and innovation head-to-head with Tesla.

But don't expect BYD in the US market just yet. They say, that is not their priority right now.

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