NEVs seen revving up sales this year

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New energy vehicle sector is expected to gain greater momentum in China this year, after many companies in the sector garnered record sales in 2023, experts said.

Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Car Association, expects NEVs, which include both fully electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, will account for 40 percent of new vehicle sales this year.

Cui expects that their total sales this year will reach 11 million units, around 2.3 million more than in 2023, which saw fierce competition but ended satisfactorily for many companies.

Of them is Warren Buffett-backed BYD. The NEV maker sold 3.02 million vehicles in 2023, up 62.3 percent year-on-year. In December alone, its deliveries hit over 340,000 units.

It was thus the best-selling automaker in China and also the most popular NEV maker in the world last year.

SAIC Motor came in second in China. As the Chinese partner of both Volkswagen and GM, the automaker sold 1.12 million NEVs in 2023, featuring marques from Roewe to IM.

Elon Musk's Tesla has not yet released its 2023 sales figures, but its deliveries in the first 11 months in China already hit 527,000 units, more than the electric vehicle maker's global sales in 2020.

Nasdaq-listed Li Auto topped the list of Chinese startups last year, with 376,000 units delivered, up 182.2 percent year-on-year.

Like BYD, Li Auto also saw its highest monthly sales in December, delivering over 50,000 units.

Li Xiang, founder and CEO of Li Auto, said the firm will work to sell over 100,000 units a month this year, with its yearly sales goal standing at 800,000 units.

That is the ballpark sales figure of established giants like BMW and Mercedes in China, their largest market worldwide.

Li Auto was followed by Nio, the only other startup that saw sales exceed 160,000 units in 2023.

The company, known for its battery-swapping technology, expects sales to further grow this year, following deals in December with Geely and Changan, both of which are revving up efforts to launch battery-swapping models.

Zhang Yongwei, secretary-general of China EV100, an industry think tank, said he is sanguine about China's NEV market, and expects sales to reach 2 trillion yuan ($280.6 billion) this year.

But he was quick to add that despite the growing demand for NEVs, competition will be fierce.

"This year will prove a make-or-break year for many as we see an accelerated reshuffling in the NEV sector. For many, it means growth but for many others, it will be harder to even survive," said Zhang.

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